America's 40 Most Powerful in Drink for 2013 Slideshow
When the entrepreneur-turned-reality star Bethenny Frankel sold her signature line of drinks to Beam Inc. in 2011, it was no doubt a smart move on her part. Now, it’s clear that the low-calorie liquor category is booming and Frankel is the leader. In 2012, sales boomed 400 percent; in 2013, it was the top-selling brand in the Beam line of brands with sales growth of 140 percent — only Maker’s Mark came even close to selling as much as Skinnygirl. Now a major player in the market with low-calorie wines and low-calorie vodkas, it looks like Skinnygirl is here to stay.
If there’s a pied piper of craft beer, it’s Julia Herz who's leading the call for Americans to put down the Bud and pick up the Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium brews. As the director of the craft beer program through the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association and the publisher of CraftBeer.com, Herz is the voice sticking up for the craft brewing world. And while the big beer dogs, like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, continue to buy out "craft beers" like Shock Top and Blue Moon to attract new beer drinkers, Herz fights for the craft breweries. Said Herz recently to NPR, "What we've called for is a transparency of parent company ownership, and to put that on the beer label so the beer lover has a chance to know who's behind those brands." She also leads the charge for American Craft Beer Week in May, a nationwide celebration of craft beer and education. As a certified cicerone, a recognized Beer Judge Certification Program judge, and an award-winning home brewer, she’s a force to be reckoned with — watch your back, boys.
The cocktails you drink today have most likely been touched by Gary "Gaz" Regan himself. A veteran in the bartending and mixology world since 1973, Regan has done it all. He’s authored the foremost bibles of the mixology world (his second editions of Gaz Regan’s Annual Manual for Bartenders was published in 2012), wrote cocktail columns for various spirits and food publications, and founded the ultimate bartending school, the Institute for Mindful Bartending. Regan also heads the Worldwide Bartender Database, a collective community of the world’s best bartenders (it’s now 3,000 strong) to connect them with spirits companies and opportunities. Without a doubt, if you’ve visited a top-notch craft cocktail bar within the last 10 years, your mixologists and bartenders have learned the tricks of the trade from Regan.
Kathleen Lewis will be the first to tell you that her organization and the Master Sommeliers it produces wield great power in the industry. Fair enough — the Court is, after all, the pre-eminent internationally recognized examining body for sommeliers. Its weighty influence on the wine service industry can be seen in many of the country’s best wine programs, created by professionals who have taken its courses. Lewis, though not herself a Master, has worked for the organization for the last 14 years and is currently guiding it as its executive director.
Much like Regan and David Wondrich, Ted Haigh has had quite an influence on today’s mixology scene. Thanks to his preservation of the American cocktail through the New Orleans museum and his book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Haigh is the leading cocktail "archaeologist" who's preserving the tradition of American cocktails — and he's helping to bring those classic cocktails we love so much, like the Corpse Reviver, back to the forefront of the bar.
Seventeen years after founding BeerAdvocate, the Alström brothers, Jason and Todd, run the number-one online beer-rating site, complete with a monthly magazine, 2 million monthly unique visitors, extensive rankings of beers, bars, and beer stores, community forums, and a high level of user involvement. This is the go-to reference destination on the Web for beer geeks.
There’s a reason why Starbucks, that all-powerful beverage being, decided to venture into the juice business — it’s an estimated $3.4 billion industry, and easily one of the hottest diet and lifestyle trends on the market today. Early to the game were Zoe Sakoutis and her business partner Erica Huss, founders of BluePrint Cleanse, a New York-based mini-empire that has found success marketing itself as a "less extreme" juicing regimen. Thanks to publicity from big-name publications like InStyle, Allure, The New York Times, Details, Vogue, People, and Elle (among many others) and celebrity fans like Sarah Jessica Parker, the brand has been exposed to masses of on-trend, diet-conscious consumers. That added up to $20 million in sales from BluePrint products in 2012; the company was bought by natural foods group Hain Celestial at the end of 2012 for an undisclosed amount.
If knowledge is power, then on the subject of American cocktail history, Wondrich has it in spades. And considering that old-school, classic cocktails are the inspiration behind a countless number of today’s coolest and most important bars, it’s a significant field to be an expert in. The James Beard Award-winning author and Esquire’s resident drinks writer is also a founding member of the Beverage Alcohol Resource (the country’s leading mixology and spirits training program) and the definitive authority on the all the lore that today’s top bartenders want to master.
A wine-loving former attorney, Parker launched the wine newsletter that was to become The Wine Advocate in 1978. He slowly built a loyal following for his detailed tasting notes and straightforward opinions, and became a wine-world sensation for his praise of the 1982 vintage in Bordeaux — which most other critics denounced as overripe and "Californian" in style. Before long he had become the most influential wine critic in the world. His impact on international wine prices has been phenomenal, his 100-point scoring system has achieved almost biblical authority, and his preference for intense, extracted "fruit bombs" has changed the way thousands of producers worldwide make wine. But the last year brought some big changes to The Wine Advocate; Parker stepped down from his full-time duties with the newsletter in December 2012. While he still remains on the masthead and is a part-owner, his newsletter has recently gained more attraction from lawsuits involving past employees than the reviews.
Robert Parker Jr.
As is to be expected with someone who is commonly referred to as "the King of Cocktails," DeGroff’s influence on today’s cocktail and bar industry has been in no way insignificant. An award-winning author and cocktail consultant and the founder of The Museum of the American Cocktail, DeGroff is probably best known for his behind-the-bar tenure at New York’s famed Rainbow Room in the late 1980s. For his work there, giving classic cocktails a new life, and in the time since, he has been credited with "reinventing the profession of bartending and setting off the cocktail explosion that continues to transform the industry." But perhaps the best exhibit of his power today is not displayed in his own accomplishments but in those of his protégés — industry power players and big hitters like Julie Reiner and Willy Shine who are setting the standard for what is cool in cocktails right now.
As the head of the third-highest-selling craft brewery in the country and the number seven brewery best-selling (period) in the country, it's clear that Jordan knows what she's doing — and she's using her knowledge and influence to change the course of craft brewing. In 2003 at the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), Jordan "famously predicted that the craft brewing industry would grow from 3 percent to 10 percent," notes Craftbrewingbusiness.com — and as they said, "she wasn't far off." Still, despite the rapid growth of New Belgium, Jordan is looking out for the quality of craft beer. "How do we make sure we are sustainable for the long run? How do we individually and collectively do the coolest, most intellectually interesting and soul satisfying thing we can?" Jordan said during the CBC keynote address. "We need to be vigilant of how our beers ultimately look, smell and taste." Let Jordan continue to set the standards for quality craft beer as the craft beer movement continues to take on big brewers.
New Belgium Brewing Co.
Some might take issue with us putting a fictitious character on this list, but "his" book, Mr. Boston’s Official Bartender’s Guide, is widely known as "the Bible of Booze." The top hat-wearing icon of imbibing was originally created by Old Mr. Boston, a Beantown-based distillery, and made his debut appearance on the guide’s first issue in 1935. In that span of nearly 80 years, this cocktail recipe book has established itself as the definitive resource for home bartenders and budding professionals alike. Recently released in a 75th anniversary edition featuring more than 1,500 recipes, this best-selling volume now includes contributions from such spirits authorities as Jonathan Pogash — but it's still Mr. Boston's book to us.
A one-time investment banker who bought an alcohol trade publication called Impact in 1973, Shanken today presides over a mini-empire of publications concerned with drink, food, and lifestyle. Impact has been joined by another wine and spirits trade magazine, Market Watch, and together they are indispensible to anyone in the business. For the layman, Shanken's Wine Spectator has become the most authoritative wine reviewer this side of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and brings inside-y wine trade stories to a civilian audience. Shanken also publishes Food Arts and Cigar Aficionado, and three years ago purchased Malt Advocate, which publishes the magazine of the same name and stages WhiskyFests around the country.
M. Shanken Communications
As one of the original faces of the hipster coffee-roaster movement, Duane Sorenson certainly deserves a good deal of credit for sparking the popularity of anti-Starbucks artisanal coffee. The Stumptown Coffee Roasters founder of is known for traveling to Africa, Latin America, and Indonesia to scout for the best beans, often paying higher prices than anyone else. Of course, this means Stumptown prices are usually higher than the industry standard, but the roaster is at the forefront of eco-friendly, single-origin coffee, and has helped shift consumer perspective to viewing coffee as a beverage worth appreciating instead of just an early-morning necessity.
While Robert M. Parker has taken a step back from the Wine Advocate, another wine critic has stepped up to fill his formidable shoes. Asimov has held the enviable position of wine critic at The New York Times since 2004, although he’s worked at the publication in the Living, Style, and Dining sections since 1991. And with that post, Asimov holds the key to a wine’s success or downfall. However, with such a job comes great responsibility to not only the wine industry, but the consumer — and Asimov’s most recent book published in 2012, How to Love Wine, gives rest to a consumer weary of tasting notes and unreadable scores. Still, what Asimov says goes. Perhaps only his own words (in an interview with Wine Cellar Insider) can do his role in the wine industry justice: "I’m a wine critic. I wear the title because it indicates that wine is in its own, an expression of culture that deserves critical attention, just as we have a movie, theater, book, restaurant, art, etc. critics. If people outside The New York Times want to debate whether I’m a writer, critic or both, fine. To me it’s a waste of time."
If anyone can be credited for solidifying "third wave" coffee’s role in America, it should be Freeman. The founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, with locations from San Francisco to New York City, is the man that built his coffee empire by fresh-brewing coffee using only the freshest ground coffee beans. Not to mention Freeman’s dedication to using organic, shade-grown, pesticide-free beans. Freeman’s way of making coffee inspired the generations of coffee roasters, growers, and shop owners after him to take on a better way to brew coffee. Now, Freeman’s enterprise is cashing in: in October 2012, Blue Bottle raised $20 million from investors to expand to more locations, a staggering amount from a little "coffee shop that could" turned booming business. Freeman continues to lead the way for coffee shops in the States.
Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
Online wine sales are booming, and Wine.com is paving the way. In 2012, Wine.com shipped to 43 states and sold more than 2.5 million bottles. It’s the number one site online to buy wine, and it’s making a big difference in how people are buying wine — which may be why Amazon followed suit late in 2012 in opening its own wine marketplace. How did Wine.com respond? With its own marketplace to make it easier for consumers to find small-production domestic and imported wines. "Over the past 14 years, we've developed relationships with thousands of wineries of all sizes, all around the world," said Bergsund to CNBC. "Often, these wineries lack partners to help sell and distribute their vintages." By managing the "supply chain" for wineries, Wine.com is helping them save money, while saving you a trip to the store. It’s hard to beat Wine.com’s hold on the online wine market.
The Yelp community may have a yappy vibe, but compared to Google, Facebook, and all the countless apps out there, Yelp is still the go-to source for bar and coffee shop recommendations. The site had more than 102 million monthly unique visitors just in the first quarter of 2013, and on the site there are photos, recommendations, rankings, and everything else you may need to make a judicious decision on where to go to drink.
No one can deny Annette Alvarez-Peter’s buying power, even if you’ve never heard of her. She’s in charge of more than $1 billion in wine sales in more than 300 Costco stores, more wine than any other retailer in the world. Of course, with that kind of power, she’s been made a target of critics who say she doesn’t know enough about wine. While she may have come off as laissez-fair about wines in a highly criticized CNBC video (saying that wine was no different from toilet paper and that it "is just a beverage"), she’s still the woman holding the reins on major wine sales. Whether the bottles are from wineries or the private label under Costco, Kirkland, Alvarez-Peters has brought wine to the masses — and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Why did we put these formidable foes in the same ranking, you might ask? Because the hotly debated, most-talked-about governmental action, the large sugary drink ban in New York City, has yet to reach its final stages. When Mayor Bloomberg proposed the soda ban last year, it was met immediately with criticism and outrage on behalf of consumers — and of course, the soda lobby. It didn’t take long for the American Beverage Association (ABA) to jump into the fight, and eventually sue to have the ban overturned. At the last second in March, when the ban was to go into effect, a judge ruled that the ban would be too hard to enforce and scrapped it. A victory for the ABA, but for how long? Mayor Bloomberg since has vowed to appeal the decision on behalf of the Public Health Board, but so far, nothing noteworthy has come from the Bloomberg administration. So what will happen? Mayor Bloomberg makes our list for taking on one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, and the ABA takes a spot for quickly shutting down the ban. Will the ban eventually go through? Will it continue to spur on other bans or taxes in other towns? Only time will tell who has the most power.
Newswire / Newscom
The craft beer industry's output may be a drop in the bucket relative to that of the overall beer market (it accounts for 6 percent of what's sold), but there’s no denying that the segment is very much on the rise. In 2012, craft beer grew by 17 percent in sales; in fact, 39 of the top selling 50 breweries in the country were craft brewers. The Brewers Association supports and represents craft brewers, and at its heart is founder Charlie Papazian, who in addition to his role as president of the association is responsible for founding the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, and the American Homebrewers Association. And in regards to that latter field in particular, Papazian has been especially influential: his book The Complete Joy of Home Brewing was the first American mass-marketed guide on the subject.
The so-called "granddaddy of the craft breweries," with its Samuel Adams brand, Boston Beer Co. currently ranks as the country’s top-selling American craft brewing company. Founded in 1984, the firm now employs some 840 people, has breweries in Boston, Cincinnati, and the Allentown, Pa., area, and its 50 different styles of Sam Adams beers are sold in every state in the country. That equals about $538 million in sales for Samuel Adams. Under the leadership of founder and chairman (and genuine beer enthusiast) Jim Koch, the company has demonstrated the larger-scale market potential of craft beer. And while some might contend its membership in the "craft beer" category, Koch is nevertheless dedicated to supporting small brewers and other small businesses with his philanthropic program, Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream. Since 2008, Brewing the American Dream has provided $2 million of micro-financing to 230 food, beverage, hospitality, and craft brewing businesses nationwide.
Boston Beer Co.
Dunkin' brags that it fuels America. But now it looks like Dunkin’ is fueling the world. At the end of 2012, there were more than 10,500 stores worldwide, more than 3,000 of those in 30 international countries. From the Bahamas to Lebanon, Dunkin’ is chipping away at the global presence of Starbucks with CEO and Chairman Nigel Travis at the lead. And while the company may have lost the trademark to claim it has the best coffee in America, new polls have shown that consumers trust Dunkin’ for a quality cup of coffee over any other coffee chain.
The French alcoholic beverage company behind Absolut Vodka, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Malibu, Kahlúa, Beefeater, and numerous other spirits is continuing to grow under the helm of new chairwoman Daniele Ricard. After Patrick Ricard, Daniele’s brother, died suddenly last August, Daniele has taken over and seen sales grow. In the first quarter of the 2012/13 fiscal year, Pernod Ricard’s sales grew to €2.203 million ($2.860 million), an increase of 11 percent. Thanks to growing spirits markets in China and India, Pernod Ricard is continuing to dominate the global spirits business.
Gallo produces approximately one quarter of all the wines sold in America, and is the largest winery in the world. That means that they exercise tremendous influence over grape (and glass bottle) prices, that they can spur and react vigorously to wine trends, and that you've almost certainly had their wines more than a few times, whether you realize it or not. (They're by no means all sold under the Gallo label. The company has almost 60 brands, from Carlo Rossi to Barefoot, made in California but also in Italy, France, Spain, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa. White Haven, Alamos, Martín Codax, and Red Bicyclette are among their imported wines, and their domestic portfolio includes such old-line California classics as Louis M. Martini and Mirassou Vineyards.)
Distinguished as the world’s largest premium wine company, Constellation boasts an expansive portfolio of more than 100 brands across the wine, beer, and spirits categories. And these are not insignificant labels, either; they cater to a diverse range of beverage consumers. You could pick up a serious bottle of Robert Mondavi cabernet, a six-pack of Coronas for the beach or a Tsingtao for your takeout dinner, and a bottle of Svedka, all without leaving the Constellation family.
For many, Kraft (the world’s second-largest food and beverage company) may naturally bring to mind childhood memories of boxed macaroni and cheese. But the mega-company is also responsible for bringing you big names in the beverage world like Maxwell House, Capri Sun, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid, Tang, and Gevalia. Now, the CEO of spinoff Mondelz International Inc., Irene Rosenfeld, is charged with the task of selling those same brands internationally under the $35 billion snacks company. Rosenfeld ranked number 13 on Forbes' 2012 list of the world’s most powerful women, and it should be no surprise since she’s billed as the alternative Warren Buffet.
Kraft Foods Group
Coors, Miller, Milwaukee's Best… Budweiser aside, MillerCoors controls many of the most popular beers in America (you know: the ones most often found in beer pong games on college campuses and in bars across the country). With the fairly recent merger of the Miller and Coors brands, this is the beer company most likely to give Anheuser-Busch InBev a run for its money. As its CEO, Tom Long, who once ran Coca-Cola's Northwest European operation, will no doubt continue to exercise the decisive management style for which he is known.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
In the world of water, Jeffery holds a lot of weight. As chairman of Nestlé Waters North America, he runs the country's leading bottled water company — brands include Poland Spring, Ozarka, and Arrowhead, to name a few, and the company also distributes imported brands like Perrier and S. Pellegrino. As a beverage industry pioneer, Jeffery boldly believed, when he joined the company in 1978, that then little-known bottled water would take off as a smart, refreshing, calorie-free alternative to other drinks. Today, bottled water is on track to be the leading beverage by the end of this decade. Jeffery also deserves praise for using his position of power to further his commitment to the environment, having joined a coalition called Recycling Reinvented to promote an extended producer responsibility model for consumer packaging recycling. Jeffery stepped down as President and CEO of Nestlé Waters North America at the end of 2012 and handed the reins to the former head of Nestlé Waters Canada, Tim Brown; time will tell whether Brown can continue the legacy of Nestlé’s collection of bottled waters.
Nestlé Waters North America
You and your friends probably can’t spend a night at the bar without drinking something owned by Diageo. With brands like Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Bailey's, Guinness, and Jose Cuervo in its pocket, Diageo controls some of the world’s premier spirits and beers, owning more brands in the top 20 than any other company. Schwartz was made president of the North America division in March 2012; expect him to continue innovating and increasing market share for the company.
If you drink alcohol in America, chances are you drink Southern. Founded in 1968 in Florida by Chaplin and Jay W. Weiss, the firm has become our nation's largest wine and spirits distributor, operating in 34 states and the District of Columbia and representing something like 1,600 wine, spirits, and beer producers or importers. This privately held company (number 32 on Forbes' list of such firms last year) employs more than 11,000 people, all of them dedicated, in various capacities, to making sure that you drink the brands they sell.
The craft beer industry may be on its way up, but in the end, at least for now, it seems there is no beating Budweiser. That "Great American Lager" and its equally famous "light" counterpart are the company’s flagship products, helping make it the world’s largest brewer. And even if you’re not a fan of Budweiser, there’s no denying its hold on the country’s pop culture consciousness, what with it having been the Super Bowl’s exclusive beer advertiser for the last 24 years (a position it will retain through 2014). Even if you’re not guzzling a Bud while watching one of the country’s biggest beer-drinking events, you won't be able to escape it.
Pepsi-Cola, Tropicana, Gatorade — these are just a few of the beverage industry standouts included in PepsiCo’s portfolio (allegedly the world’s largest when it comes to food and drink brands). That portfolio has been reported as "includ[ing] 22 brands that each generate more than $1 billion each in annual retail sales." And at the helm of it all is Nooyi, who, since taking her current position as head of PepsiCo in 2006, was named Fortune’s "most powerful woman in business" four years in a row.
As Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, Muhtar Kent doesn’t just control the world’s most iconic soft drink, he also oversees a range of some 3,500 beverages. That expansive portfolio includes everything from diet and regular carbonated drinks to still beverages such as 100-percent fruit juices and drinks (Minute Maid), bottled water (Dasani), sports and energy drinks (vitaminwater, Powerade), teas and coffees, and milk- and soy-based beverages. In other words, good luck leaving the supermarket without a Coca-Cola beverage product in your basket.
Sure, the FDA might stand for "Food and Drug Administration," but if you think of any drink-related drama that happened this year, it was probably a result of some serious FDA actions taken on behalf of your health. The raw milk debate? Spurred by FDA-approved messages concerning the dangers of unpasteurized cow-juice. Last year's orange juice debacle? The FDA found carbendazim, an unapproved fungicide, in orange juice imports. And of course, the FDA is reviewing energy drinks, like 5-Hour Energy and Monster Energy Drinks, and related death reports. And after further investigation, the FDA could also nix caffeinated products, like gum and beef jerky, off the shelves. Call it an agent of the nanny state, or call it the safety patrol, but the FDA does oversee a lot of what you drink and how you drink it.
Walmart may have a bad reputation in terms of labor practices, but you can't deny the buying power of beverages at Walmart. A recent Symphony IRI report shows that Walmart is responsible for $800 million of sales energy drinks, $1.5 billion in sales for refrigerated juices, and $2 billion for bottled juices. But to give the mega-chain some credit, it is the world’s largest grocer and America’s largest buyer of organic foods. In terms of purchasing power, Mike Duke is one important person in the drink world, too, purveying staggering quantities of soft drinks, bottled water, beer, wine, and spirits. (Yes, Walmart sells alcohol — at least in the states where they're allowed to.) Since becoming CEO in 2009, Duke has made a commitment to source more locally grown and sustainable produce. Rumor has it Duke is stepping down in June; we can only hope he'll continue to use his remaining time as CEO to further Walmart's commitment to selling organic, healthy drinks.
Call it an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a Liquor Control Board, a Liquor Commission, a Division of Alcohol and Tobacco, or any variation on the theme — every state in the union has an official agency that regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages within its boundaries. That means deciding every detail about the distribution of such substances, from how much alcohol is locally taxed to when and where it can be sold, which means everything from setting opening hours at the brewpub to decreeing what alcohol, if any, may be sold on Sundays or in supermarkets. Like it or not, the man or woman who heads up this agency holds the fate of your sobriety in his or her hands.
Flickr/ George Doyle
They say America runs on Dunkin’, but there are almost twice as many Starbucks units across the country as there are Dunkin' Donuts outlets. That’s no surprise considering that in the 1990s and early 2000s the chain was supposedly opening a new store every workday. Starbucks is now about much more than drip coffee, beans, and frappe-dappa-ding-dongs — it’s also about instant coffee, single-serving coffee, energy drinks, and fresh-pressed juices. Heck, there's even Starbucks ice cream. Beyond that, Starbucks stores have steadily become America’s town squares — office space for a world gone online. It’s also about real estate, and a resistance to franchising, a tact largely attributed to its chairman and CEO Howard Schultz. While it’s unquestionably influential on American’s drinking habits, Starbucks has also been forced to close a number of stores permanently and seen a steady drop off in efficiency behind the counter. But the chain is hoping that its boost from ready-to-drink products, like the new Iced Coffee lineup or the Evolution Juices, as well as an overhaul of supermarket sales, will help it retain its hold on the coffee scene in America.
Trader Joe's sells private-label coffee, juice drinks, and other beverages, but in many states is also a serious player in the purveying of low-price wine, beer, and spirits. What really gives Dan Bane his title of a drink industry power-player is Trader Joe’s jackpot product, "Two-Buck Chuck," which had its 10th birthday in 2012. (Even though it’s no longer just $2.) This company-branded house wine has become emblematic of inexpensive but eminently drinkable vino, and along the way turned the stigma of cheap plonk into something cool and young. According to a report by Forbes.com in 2011, the Chuck — i.e., Charles Shaw — wine program had sold nearly 600 million bottles since its launch.
Wikimedia/ Commons_Sprew USC
If you've asked a friend to drive you home after a good night out, or found yourself drinking much more lightly than you would have back in college because you had to drive yourself home, it's probably because of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD. If you're a bar owner or restaurateur who has seen alcohol sales decline, that might be due to MADD's influence, too, at least indirectly. The organization is based in Irving, Texas, but was founded in California in 1980 by Candice Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, who then received a lenient sentence. Thanks to MADD, the legal drinking age in every state and the District of Columbia is now 21, and the highest legal blood alcohol content in any state is .08 percent.