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Dushan Zaric



June 12, 2014

Tales of the Cocktail 2014 Logo with New Orleans

Coming to you from a webcam in an apartment in NYC Simon Ford and Jacob Briars initiated the inaugural broadcast of the top four finalists in each category of the 2014 Spirited Awards. As Ford notes, “Millions tune in for the Oscars, and we are going the same route for bars. There are more bartenders than actors [out there].”

And speaking of more…Briars explains, “This was the biggest and most comprehensive Tales Awards nominations pool ever.” With over 2,000 individual nominations and over 50 countries being represented with at least one nominee, the 135 judges were hard pressed to whittle it down to a list of four per category. Let’s see who we’ll be cheering on Saturday night at Tales during the Black and White themed 8th Annual Spirited Awards® show (although you know you’re all winners).

American Bartender of the Year
• Jeff Bell (New York)
• Marcovaldo Dionysos (San Francisco)
• Bobby Heugel (Houston)
• Sean Kenyon (Denver)

Best American Brand Ambassador
• Brooke Arthur (House Spirits)
• Chris Patino (Pernod Ricard USA Portfolio)
• Neyah White (Suntory Japanese Whiskies)
• Angus Winchester (Tanqueray Gin)

Best American Cocktail Bar
• canon (Seattle)
• The Dead Rabbit (New York)
• Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco)
• Williams & Graham (Denver)

Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar
• Employees Only (New York)
• Honeycut (Los Angeles)
• Polite Provisions (San Diego)
• Trick Dog (San Francisco)

Best American Restaurant Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• Gramercy Tavern (New York)
• The NoMad (New York)
• nopa (San Francisco)

Best American Hotel Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• The Hawthorne (Boston)
• Sable Kitchen & Bar (Chicago)
• The Spare Room (Los Angeles) Continue Reading…



November 4, 2013

How the 86 Co. Gave Bartenders Just What They Asked For
By Francine Cohen


You may know them for their big win in the best new product category at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, or (depending on whether you gained access or had drinks graciously ferried outside to you while waiting on line before being turned away) love them/hate them for their brand’s Tales debut party, The Bare Knuckle Brawl. But do you really know the 86 Co. and their line of spirits?

Unlike many other brands that start off with a product or a marketing plan, the pros behind the 86 Co. (Malte Barnekow, Simon Ford, Jason Kosmas, Kris Roth, and Dushan Zaric) started with goals and a bunch of questions. Kosmas explains, “You need to be able to get great spirits at an honest price. That’s part of the equation. We don’t want to re-teach people how to make drinks. What we did want to do when creating our spirits was to make them be plug and play and have bartenders use our spirits. We want them to be inspiring, which is why they are spirit driven.”

The focus on being spirit driven, and higher proof than some competitors, was all to make bartenders happy. Despite the reality that they’d be facing higher excise taxes, the 86 Co. team made a conscious decision to satisfy the bartender’s need for an impressive ABV number. Says Kosmas, “They think that people’s experience is based on the spirit straight out of the bottle. But it is not until you mix with it that you get the impression of what the spirit does. So we used mixed drinks as a benchmark and a we ended up with a tequila that is so full of agave, rum that is sugar cane; they are all very stereotypes and exaggerated stereotypes. And all highly viscous. It was about producing a tool for bartenders.
Creating precisely the right tools was the first order of business as Ford explains how they arrived at the profile for each brand, “We started with what we wanted the liquid to be before we went into it [production].”

In part the success of the company’s product line (Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Caña Brava Rum, Ford’s Gin, and Tequila Cabeza) has as much to do with the combined spirit wisdom and bar experience of the brand’s principles, as it does the input and needs of the greater Continue Reading…

Brain Food


August 13, 2013

Give Women What They Want. Not What You Think They Need.
By Francine Cohen

Booze for Babes cover image.jpg

Booze for Babes: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Drinking Spirit Right, and its author Kayleigh Kulp, is ready to be your agent of change if you let it/her be.

This soon to be published tome that will quickly become a must read for the Skinny Girl/whipped cream vodka set is destined to turn things around for female drinkers everywhere; much as it did for Kulp. The author began as an uninformed imbiber who admits, “I really didn’t have any preferences. I was a victim of that marketing – I would drink bottled cocktails and all the flavored vodkas that are the weird candy flavors. It was because I didn’t know enough to care.” Now, like you, she knows plenty. And she cares!

This appreciation began on a DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States – trip to visit whiskey country for a travel story she had been assigned. There, her eyes were opened. It was the first time she’d ever experienced whiskey production and she notes, “There was such an impact being able to see how it was made and see all the products. This was a whole new world of exploration that I had already done with food and wine but never the brown spirits my husband had been drinking for example.”

She continues, “I came back home and discovered my favorite whiskeys and in talking to my girlfriends about this new passion and drinking whiskey while out with them they were asking, ‘why are you drinking whiskey?’ and so I wondered why do I and my girlfriends have this issue and my husband his friends don’t?” Continue Reading…



August 9, 2013

Win the honey pot at the 4th Annual National Bärenjäger Bartender Competition
By Francine Cohen

Barenjager 1 Christian Saunders in Bar mask for competition

There are A LOT of cocktail competitions out there. One after the other, brand after brand, city after city, country after county, nice cash prize after nice cash prize. But one annual competition that deserves some special attention is the 4th Annual National Bärenjäger Bartender Competition (

Why? Because this was the first of all the cocktail competitions to include an audience participation voting component, setting itself apart from all the rest. And, it just may be the only branded cocktail competition that welcomes amateurs as well as professional bartenders to compete.

To build awareness of the competition salespeople hand out fliers in their regions and press outlets (like this one) mention the competition in hopes of drumming up entrants who will have their recipes blindly judged by the likes of Dushan Zaric (Returning judge and founder of award-winning Employees Only and Macao Trading Co.), Jim Meehan (Managing Partner of PDT in NYC and author of The PDT Cocktail book), Sean Kenyon (Third generation barman and proprietor of Williams & Graham in Denver, CO), and Tricia Alley (Director of Mixology for South California at Southern Wine & Spirits and USBG LA Chapter President).

Kate Laufer, Director of Public Relations for Sidney Frank Importing Company, makes sure the drinks, whether they come from professional bartenders or home enthusiasts, are all presented on a level playing field. She comments, “Wholeheartedly Bärenjäger is completely blind. Judges don’t see submissions in advance. They just see the name and ingredients for the drink – nothing about where the person is. So that results in something like having Brad Farran competing with Continue Reading…

Brain Food


July 15, 2013

Brian Van Flandern’s Sophomore Book – Craft Cocktails – Debuts With Much Fanfare
By Francine Cohen

Photo courtesy of Assouline

Photo courtesy of Assouline

Craft. Think about that term in relation to furniture makers and you conjure up a small workshop with myriad tools; each with their own unique purpose. Each wielded by an artisan who has dedicated many years to mastering the intricate details that go into making his final product a work of art. The craft of the bartender is no different. And nothing illustrates this more beautifully than Brian Van Flandern’s second cocktail book which includes 50 of his own recipes plus 20 from the likes of Jim Meehan, James Menite, Eryn Reece, Julie Reiner, Dushan Zaric and other professionals from Clover Club, Death & Co., Employees Only, and PDT – the stunningly photographed Craft Cocktails.

Van Flandern explains how Craft Cocktails, his second book, came to life, “After the amazing success of Vintage Cocktails I wanted to release a book that would be appreciated by the multitude of fellow mixologist but still be accessible to the masses. Vintage Cocktails was released in late 2009. It won Best Cocktail Book of the Year 2010 from the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris. It is now in its fifth printing and is distributed in dozens of countries throughout the world. Even though the recipes are simple classics, I was thrilled that so many industry professionals really loved the layout and design of the book. When I left Michelin Three Star Restaurant Per Se in 2007, I wanted to write a book showcasing the recipes that Continue Reading…

Rocks Stars


August 19, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things
By David Ransom

Photo by Charles Steadman

Once again this past July in New Orleans, Mrs. And Mr. Cocktail (aka Ann & Paul Tuennerman) put on what those of us in the business have affectionately come to consider the triathlon of liver survival (drink-filled seminars, drink-filled tasting rooms, and drink-filled dinners and parties… not to mention the obligatory night-ending swing through Old Absinthe House on Rue Bourbon every night just to prove you didn’t expire during the course of the day) that is Tales of the Cocktail (

Having just completed its ninth year, Tales has grown from a tiny industry-focused event that brought the nation’s top bartenders together for a few days of camaraderie, events, and parties, into a truly international symposium, complete with a “Spirited Awards” program (like the movie industry’s Oscars) that hands out honors to establishments and industry leaders from around the world, and now brings in professionals and consumers from all over the globe to celebrate the world of cocktails in the city that created them.

Rocks Stars and I feel honored to be given the chance to attend each year, and as always, I’m thrilled to be able to share some of my experiences…now that I have recovered enough to be able to write again…

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things from this year’s Tales, both good and bad, but really all good, as nothing that includes having a well-crafted drink could ever really be bad… and in no particular order:

Best Hosts Under Pressure: Ann & Paul Tuennerman. Nine years into it, Tales could probably have run itself, but Ann and Paul were everywhere. Every event. Every day. Every night. What amazes me about this is that Paul was recovering from a health scare and had just spent time in the hospital. I have to tip my hat to these two intrepid souls for not staying in the background and recuperating at home while “their baby” was staged. Quite to the contrary, they were all over the place from Tuesday’s Media Welcome Party at Arnaud’s French 75 bar (beautifully run by Chris Hannah, one of NOLA’s finest drinks-smiths –,to the final Sunday Brunch with Mr. & Mrs. Cocktail, and everywhere in between. I even ran into Paul solo, visibly tired yet surely on the mend, at the Suntory Suite ( one afternoon where we chatted on the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street while enjoying a glass of Japan’s finest single malt. Continue Reading…

Rocks Stars


July 24, 2011

Five Questions for Dushan Zaric of NYC’s Legendary Employees Only
By David Ransom

And now some words of wisdom from the man behind Employees Only (, winners of “Best Drinks Selection” and “World’s Best Cocktail Bar” at last night’s Tales of the Cocktail ( Spirited Awards presented by Pernod Ricard ( and Beverage Media (…


Q1. How many years have you been coming to Tales of the Cocktail?
A. 3

Q2. Do you wear an armband behind the bar?
A. No.

Q3. As a veteran of this industry, what advice do you have for someone just starting out in the business?
A. Find someone who inspires you both as a person and a bartender. Get to know his students, and if you like what you see, then BEG him to teach you everything he (or she) knows. Because, in the end, your styles will be similar, so you need to love your mentor’s style, as well as his knowledge.

Q4. Sponsorships aside, what’s your go-to spirit these days?
A. Tequila and Campari(… at different times, of course…

Q5. Cubed or Crushed ice?
A. Cubed. Large, very cold cubes. It’s really a matter of habit now, although I’ll use crushed when I need to. NEVER Cracked…

Amen to that! Enjoy Tales…

Brain Food


December 31, 2010

Give the gift that keeps on giving (even after you’re gone)

Photo by John Kernick

Let’s just say (for argument’s sake) that you didn’t manage to get away during the holidays because hotels, restaurants, and bars don’t shut down even if everyone else does, and so you didn’t make it home to your family. Once again, like many years past (or at least those since you’ve worked in the hospitality industry) family holiday celebrations and gift giving were postponed until after the new year.

And let’s continue to say (just hypothetically) that you arrive home and either a) discover that your family is, much as you love them, supremely annoying and the only way to cope is with a couple of cocktails or b) you realize how much you love and miss them and want to treat them to the best cocktails they’ve ever had so you whip out your favorite recipes and shake and stir up a couple for them.

But then, the sad part comes…you have to leave and go back to your daily routine. And they are without you and without your delicious cocktails. Not to fear, you can leave behind the gifts that keep on giving… cocktail books.


If you’re looking for the perfect book that suits your family member with a well stocked bar and a few cocktail tricks up his sleeve just as well as it suits your family member who simply likes to drink, then Vintage Cocktails by Brian Van Flandern is the edition for you to gift.

Both elegant when sitting on the coffee table and useful when pulled behind the bar, this book offers a well edited collection of some of the best loved cocktails through the ages. Shot at Bemelmans Bar; the destination watering hole in Manhattan’s posh Carlyle Hotel, each drink is exquisitely presented in Baccarat crystal glassware.

Recipes are easy to follow and enjoy and it’s no wonder; they’re vintage cocktails. Van Flandern explains just what that means as he says, “Vintage cocktails are cocktails that at one point in time, for whatever reason, gained global popularity and are either classics or are destined to become classics. Like Dale DeGroff’s Whiskey smash and Audrey Saunders’ Gin Gin Mule.”

Understandably, Van Flandern is proud of this book. And you’ll be proud to give it. He remarks, “There are stunningly beautiful pictures side by side with easily followable cocktail recipes. It’s a staple for any bar, to see what the drink should look like.”


Next up is a new book that takes a look at both old and new cocktails. Speakeasy, by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric of Employees Only, brings the liquid best of this well-loved NYC industry bar and restaurant into your own home.

We think its one part instruction manual and one part reveling in memories of your late nights at EO. Says Kosmas, “The book is intended to be more than a recipe book of classic and EO cocktails. Its purpose and format is to help the reader understand the mentality behind our process of bringing new cocktails to life. A chef once told me, ‘To break the rules, you first have to know what they are.’ We lay out the classics to show how we reconstruct them. Some cocktails have new ingredients, some are tweaked for the modern palate and some are inspired by the idea or audience of a cocktail. We wanted take our readers on a journey through the evolution of the cocktail.

To keep cocktails alive we need to breathe new life into them constantly. Bastardizing spirits in new way is the essence of cocktail making.

Zaric notes, “This book is an example of how Jay and I evolved our methodology in cocktail creation; by learning from the classic and implementing it for the pallet of the 21st century drinker. A cocktail today is far more exciting then it was ever in the history [of cocktails]. We have at our disposal a huge variety of ingredients, some of which find their way into mixed drinks for the first time. Additionally – and I have to emphasize that point – a cocktail should stay within its gastronomical boundaries and serve as a part of the overall experience.

We encourage the readers and trade in particular to “break conventions” and experiment. Use the classics as a guide line; and when you master the techniques and methods of preparation and service, by all means, play and discover your own “taste.” Remember that the classics became classic when someone “broke conventions” and went down a road “less traveled.” Fortunately, Lady Luck rewards the brave and courageous and today we have a solid foundation from which to build upon. Use the book as a guideline and inspiration and you will for sure have a wonderful time with it.

They conclude, “The Miles Davis quote on Jazz sums up our philosophy of cocktails:
‘I never thought that the music called ‘jazz’ was ever meant to reach just a small group of people, or become a museum thing locked under glass like all other dead things that were once considered artistic.’”