Coolest People in Drink for 2013 Slideshow

Dave Arnold, Director of Culinary Technology at The International Culinary Center, Bar Owner

Can tradition and innovation exist comfortably in the same glass? In Arnold's world, sure they can. Arnold is part old-school bartender, part modern-day chemistry geek. At his popular Manhattan bar Booker and Dax, he is the visionary behind drinks that have included a Bloody Mary riff that calls for horseradish essential oil, tomato juice clarified by centrifuge, and a glass chilled by liquid nitrogen. He also invented a red-hot poker with which to heat cocktails — which isn't just a gimmick: the poker caramelizes the sugar in the alcohol and enhances the flavor of the cocktail. Red-hot cool.

Jeff Berry, Bartender, Author

Google Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, and you get things like "rum expert and tiki demi-god" and "leader of a worldwide cult of tiki." As the author of five books on vintage tiki drinks and cuisine and co-founder of the Faux-Tropical Bar School, The Bum is as cool as a languorous "Aloha!" — or maybe as cool as the Mai Tai he’d teach you how to make (properly).

Tito Beveridge, Distiller

Not long ago, the irreverent radio host Elvis Duran was talking about a phone-in guest scheduled for his morning show. We've had all the great stars of music on, he said — Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and the rest — but the person he was really excited about talking to was Tito. Huh? Surely not Tito Jackson? And not, we're guessing, the late dictator of the former Yugoslavia. Then Duran started talking about his favorite vodka, and we got it: Tito Beveridge, producer of Tito's Homemade Vodka. Now that made sense. A tall guy, with wavy gray hair and a pleasantly goofy grin, Beveridge studied geology and geophysics and ran dynamite crews for oil rigs in South America before drifting into the mortgage business. But with a name like Beveridge… well… He started making a little vodka under the counter for friends, gradually taught himself the distiller's art for real, and got the first legal distillery license in Texas in modern times. The bottles are plain, the labels straightforward, and the vodka is really good and smooth as a Texas drawl.

Tom Bulleit, Distiller

Just consider this life story: Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr. grew up working in a distillery, earned a law degree on the GI Bill, went into the military, practiced law for 30 years, and then decided to go into the bourbon business with his great-great-grandfather’s recipe from the 1800s. Then he managed to smooth talk Seagram's into buying Bulleit (it's now under the Diageo umbrella), all while keeping the historical recipe in check, setting up shop in Kentucky while jet-setting across the country to promote his family’s product. Which means a) he’s been everywhere, and b) he knows everyone. He’s basically your favorite charming grandfather who knows all the good stories to tell and says things like, "the Facebook." Except he also knows how to make a kickass batch of bourbon.

Todd Carmichael, Coffee Roaster, Adventurer

Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that he’s the co-founder and CEO of La Colombe coffee roasters, a premium coffee chain founded in Philadelphia and now expanded to New York, Chicago, and Seoul, and think about his other accomplishments: He’s the first American ever to solo-trek the continent of Antarctica, from the coast to the South Pole. He has visited nearly half of the world’s countries. He’s aspiring to cross Death Valley without assistance. He and his wife, singer/songwriter Lauren Hart, have four adopted children from Ethiopia. All of that adds up to a pretty full, bountiful life — and then you stir in his quest for the best possible cup of coffee, with a side of social justice, and your mind is blown. Carmichael's concerns include fair and ethical trade with farm workers, "earth-conscious" coffee farms, and a staggering amount of aid for causes like clean water and orphans in Africa. Oh, and one taste of La Colombe’s roasts and you’ll never be able to go back to your Folgers — or even your Starbucks. Carmichael’s not only an urban rebel-slash-mountain man, he’s a guy who’s lived through enough stories, cool ones at that, for nine lives in his 49 years.  

Jim Clendenen, Winemaker

Clendenen looks like the drummer in a Southern jam band, has made wines inspired by Mexican wrestlers and Italian porn stars, and owns more Hawaiian shirts than Don Ho. More to the point, through his Au Bon Climat winery and related enterprises, Clendenen is as responsible as anyone for earning Santa Barbara County its reputation as the source of some of the best wines in America — and his chardonnays and pinot noirs are good enough to make producers in his beloved Burgundy more than a little nervous. Just to seal the deal, Clendenen is also known as one of the best cooks in the winemaking community

George Clooney, Tequila Producer, Overseas Coffee Pitchman

Helga Stueba/ Shutterstock

The story of Clooney’s tequila goes something like this: After vacationing in Mexico for years with his similarly chiseled friends, Clooney teamed up with Cindy Crawford’s husband Rande Gerber to bottle up Casamigos tequila. And while other celebrities (ahem Drew Barrymore) might put their name on something boozy and disappear, Clooney has manned up and made appearances at Casamigos events and in spot ads, making us feel like he actually drinks his own tequila. He did, after all, cheekily allow himself to be filmed in bed with Gerber for an ad. He’s also the face of Nespresso overseas, making even a shot of espresso tall, dark, and handsome. But you know, when you’re a silver fox, you can sell us anything and we’ll drink it. 

Ron Cooper, Artist, Mezcal Merchant

New York's Guggenheim Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are but two of the institutions in which Cooper's light sculptures and other environmental installations can be found — but after he discovered true artisanal mezcals in the Oaxaca countryside in 1990, he saw a different kind of light and made it his mission to bring these unique and powerful spirits to an American audience. The label he founded, Del Maguey, doesn't traffic in those mild, anonymous mezcals that are trying to be tequila; these bottlings are produced absolutely by hand, from agave hearts roasted in stone pits and ground in horse-powered mills, and they're full-bodied, often smoky, and as flavorful as hell. To help ensure that this traditional treasure won't be lost, the affable Cooper has even founded a nonprofit organization with a name almost as mouth-filling as Del Maguey's products: the Foundation for the Sustainable Development of the Producing Communities of Maguey and Cultural Rescue of Mezcal.

 

Randall Grahm, Winemaker

"We've been so busy at chez Doon of late," wrote Grahm in a dispatch from his Bonny Doon Vineyard in California's Santa Cruz Mountains, "that we've not sent samples out in essential a counoise' age…[L]et us know which of these wines really picpoule your interest." Counoise and picpoule, of course, are French grape varieties. The wordplay is typical of this self-described "provocateur, punster, philosopher & winemaker." Lanky and long-faced, with an abundant ponytail and owlish glasses, Grahm was one of the original Rhône Rangers — American vintners who specialize in working with southern French grapes — and may well have coined the term. It's his kind of pun. (His book Been Doon So Long includes chapters with titles like "Trotanoy's Complaint," "Howlbariño," and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Rootstock.") It's not all talk, though: Grahm continues to produce lots of very cool wine, much of it Rhône-inspired, usually under engagingly silly names.

Alan Kropf, President and Founder of Mutineer Magazine

He calls himself "shawkward" — shy plus awkward — but we can hardly find anything of either about him. As the founder, publisher, and president of the fine beverages magazine Mutineer, he told us last month that he fell into the beverage world simply by taking a job as a bartender. Once he realized that he loved wine and spirits, he got certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers and ended up as the sommelier at the London Hotel in Los Angeles and other prestigious restaurants. Flash-forward to today, where Mutineer (which by definition means "one who rebels against authority") continues to be a leading voice in drink media. "We all wonder why it’s so hard to connect with wine culture," Kropf said in a recent TEDx Napa Valley talk. "There’s nothing to connect to with. We’ve tried to provide the answer key and… help people not screw up when make their buying decisions." When Kropf isn't geeking out at TED, he’s heading up a new initiative, Drink Careers 101, to get millennials employed in the beverage industry — and right before he hits the big 3-0. 

Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Bartender

Renowned Oregon-based bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler can take a lot of credit for popularizing barrel-aged cocktails. But he's not sure he wants it. In a post on his eponymous blog, he once wrote, "Believe me, I’m all for innovation in this little business of ours…. But…I don’t think we need to run around barrel-aging every god damn liquid out there…"We think it's cool that he doesn't brag about this claim to fame. We also like the fact that he once wrote a veritable rhapsody about the brandy Old Fashioned. Earlier in his career, after studying Hungarian baroque architecture in Budapest, Morgenthaler tended and managed bars in almost every watering hole in Eugene, with a stint as a researcher for a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome study in between; since 2009, he's been the man behind the adult beverages at Portland's Clyde Common. He does the city proud.

David Wondrich, Cocktail Historian, Author

When The New York Times calls you "a living iPod of drink lore and recipes" and Conan O’Brien prefers to think of you as a "crazy, bearded Civil War general," chances are you have something going on. Wondrich is the first guy we'd want on our team for cocktail trivia, and also the one we'd trust most to make us a classic cocktail — then tell us its entire history. Wondrich doesn't just look backward, though. He's a cocktail innovator, too. Consider, for example, the Colbert Bump, created for our favorite political TV pundit, you-know-who. It includes Cherry Heering, "good ol' Republican gin," lemon juice, and soda — a real summer cooler.