America's 30 Most Powerful People in Drink

For these influential men and women, the power is in the glass

It’s been said here before that "power is the ability to make things happen. It’s authority, strength, muscle, swack, juice." And in the last two years we have identified food industry players — big names and otherwise — who met that description in terms of their ability to affect what and how and where we eat.

But if it’s "juice" we’re talking about here, doesn't the conversation seem incomplete without mention of those individuals who influence what, how, and where we drink?

For example, the people whose weighty opinions can be the deciding factor in why you choose to drink one bottle of wine rather than another. Or those venerable authorities that have helped instill in you (and every bartender in the country) a passion for seeking out and mixing quality classic cocktails. Or even simply the folks who have given consumers the platform to be judges and advisors on where and what one should drink. All such types of people — from wine critic Robert Parker, Jr. (#17) to master mixologist Dale DeGroff (#24) to Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman (#9) — have made the list.

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Included too, quite expectedly, are the heavily influential government officials and the mega-company CEOs across the wine, spirits, beer, and non-alcoholic beverage spectrum, whose ability to influence stems from market dominance and purchasing power. And while the Coca-Cola (#6), PepsiCo (#4), Southern Wine and Spirits (#8), and Anheuser-Busch InBev (#7) bigwigs cannot be ignored, there are also some lesser-known and not quite as obviously influential personalities mentioned. Say, Debbie Weir (#25), CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also known as the organization responsible for setting the legal drinking age to 21 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

As with any such ranking of so-called powerful people — and by extension, the companies they represent — there is an inherent pour of subjectivity in the mix. But, again, that does not mean the ranking is arbitrary. Our editors researched the subjects, canvassed experts in the field, and endlessly discussed positioning. Also, please remember this is not a popularity contest. Consider, for example, our #1 choice.

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