The Coolest People in Drink Slideshow
March 15, 2012
Dave Arnold, Director of Culinary Technology at The International Culinary Center, Bar Owner
In a cocktail culture where everyone is going old-school, Arnold is going old-school in the style of a modern-day chemistry geek. At the newly launched New York City bar Booker and Dax, he is the visionary behind a bloody mary riff that calls for horseradish essential oil, tomato juice clarified by centrifuge, and a glass chilled by liquid nitrogen. But enough beating around the bush: Arnold is cool because he literally custom-built a red-hot poker to heat cocktails with; cooler still is that it's more than a gimmick — the poker caramelizes the sugars in the alcohol and enhances the flavor of the cocktail.
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." Better than what a search of your own name returns, right? 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 frosty as the Mai Tai he’d teach you how to make (properly).
Tito Beveridge, Distiller
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, eventually launching Tito's Homemade Vodka. The bottles are plain, the labels straightforward, and the vodka is really good and smooth and cool as a Texas drawl.
Jim Clendenen, Winemaker
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; his chardonnays and pinot noirs are particularly noteworthy. He's also known as one of the best cooks in the winemaking community. The fact that he looks like the drummer of a Southern jam band and has made wines inspired by Mexican wrestlers and Italian porn stars is just frosting on the cask.
Ron Cooper, Artist, Mezcal Merchant
Cooper is well-known in art circles for his light sculptures and other environmental installations, 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. Cooper's Del Maguey bottlings are produced absolutely by hand, from agave hearts roasted in stone pits and ground in horse-powered mills; some are trucked out to market on muleback. Much more varied in flavor than tequilas, these are superior spirits, and the intense but affable Cooper proselytizes for them with charm and serene savvy.
James Freeman, Coffee Roaster
The founder and CEO of cult favorite Blue Bottle Coffee, Freeman is a self-professed "slightly disaffected musician [he played clarinet professionally] and coffee lunatic, weary of the grande eggnog latte…" He launched Blue Bottle (that was the name of the first coffee house in Europe, in Vienna) out of a coffee cart and now oversees a mini-empire all over the San Francisco Bay Area, with recent first incursions into New York City. He does coffee so well, with the help of a single small-scale roasting machine, that his customers have learned to only order it the way he says it should be. (Hint: Don’t ask for milk, cream, or sugar in your Kyoto coffee.) He is also probably one of the major reasons why everyone will, again, be obsessed with cold-brewed iced coffee this summer.
Randall Grahm, Winemaker
Or, as he likes to call himself, "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 southern French varieties — with his Santa Cruz-based Bonny Doon winery, 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.") Grahm gave us Big House Wines (since sold off) and continues to produce lots of very good stuff, much of it Rhône-inspired, usually under engagingly silly names.
Paul Grieco, Wine Bar Owner
Much of what makes Paul Grieco so damn cool can be surmised from the tagline of his growing empire of New York City-based wine bars: "Terroir, the elitist wine bar for EVERYONE." If you don’t read that and think, now that’s a place I’d like to grab a glass of wine, then consider his mammoth list of impeccable and frequently rotating selections, organized in a binder that looks like it was assembled by a doodle-happy wine bozo. Consider Grieco the recruiter for the "Wine Is Not for Snobs" army — thirsty citizens who drink what they like and like what they drink.
Jeff Kloster, Soft Drink Bottler
The Dublin [Texas] Bottling Works was dealt a nasty blow when their leading soft drink, so-called Dublin Dr Pepper — sweetened with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup — was essentially forced into early retirement through a settlement with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. The public outcry was significant, and the hoarding of the overnight-collector’s item bottles was fast and furious. Impressively, the person who has reacted best to this loss is the one individual who should be the most upset: Jeff Kloster, co-owner and vice president of Dublin Bottling Works. Instead of sulking over the loss of what was his best-selling product, Kloster stayed cool, and has taken the opportunity to revamp the company’s line of sodas, becoming something of an icon in the craft soda industry in the process.
Says Kloster, "I'm having the most fun I've ever had going out and marketing our beverages because the Dublin name has such a great, positive customer identification. It's just phenomenal to wear that Dublin shirt."
Chris Lohring, Brewer
Low-alcohol, "sessionable" beers may have everyone in the craft beer community buzzing right now, but back when Lohring started Notch Brewing that was certainly not the case. Frustrated by the oversaturation of high-alcohol craft beers on the market at the time, he went against the grain, developing a balanced, flavorful line of brews that check in at less than 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. An ahead-of-his-time guy who strove to make a better-tasting beer that you can drink more of without getting sloppy drunk? Definitely cool.
Kermit Lynch, Wine Importer
When Lynch opened his first little wine shop in 1972 in Albany, Calif., next door to Berkeley, practically nobody in America had heard of great southern French producers like Domaine Tempier, Auguste Clape, Domaine du Vieux Télègraphe, Clos Sainte Magdeleine, and Mas de Daumas Gassac. He sold their wines and lots of other good ones to Chez Panisse and to wine lovers all over the place, and helped bring varieties like syrah, grenache, and mourvèdre into the mainstream. He also owns a vineyard in Bandol and a winery in Gigondas, and has released three CDs as a singer, one featuring Boz Scaggs and Alvin Youngblood Hart, and one on which he covers Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart."
Laura Maniec, Sommelier, Wine Bar Owner
At 32, she’s the world’s youngest female master sommelier — and until very recently was the world’s youngest master sommelier, period. (For those unaware of how difficult and grueling an exam must be passed to win this title, consider that there are currently fewer than 200 master sommeliers of any age in the world.) Maniec is also the owner of one New York City’s newest hot spots, Corkbuzz Wine Studio. But even with all that, she’s not too up on herself to hoard all that hard-earned knowledge. On Corkbuzz’s web site you can email her directly for wine and food pairing suggestions or to ask what bottles to serve at your next dinner party. Dial a master sommelier, anyone?
Jim McEwan, Distiller
This gregarious Scot grew up in the whiskey business on the island of Islay, off Scotland's western coast, rising from apprentice barrel maker to international brand ambassador over his 40-year stretch at the estimable Bowmore distillery. In late 2000, he left his longtime employer to take over another Islay property, the long moribund 1881-vintage Bruichladdich. He restored ancient steam-powered stills, revived old-fashioned methods of production, and pioneered a new range of terrific whiskies, including Octomore, said to be the most heavily peated whiskey in creation. He now roams the world spreading the Bruichladdich gospel, and there are few more entertaining and genuinely passionate fellows you'd want to share a dram or three with.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Bartender
If you’re tapped into the cocktail zeitgeist, you’re probably well familiar with barrel-aged cocktails — hell, you might even be a little sick of them by now. Thing is, so is the guy responsible for the trend, renowned bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. In a post about the carbonated cocktail trend on his eponymous blog, he writes, "Believe me, I’m all for innovation in this little business of ours. I mean crap, I’ve made quite a name for myself capitalizing on it. But just as I don’t think we need to run around barrel-aging every goddamn liquid out there, I fail to see the longevity of a glass of carbonated Barolo, and I’ll be damned if I want my Sazerac full of bubbles." You have to be cool to be that big of a trendsetter and not let it go to your head.
The Most Interesting Man in the World, Beverage Spokesperson
He can speak French in Russian. He once challenged himself to a staring contest; on the fourth day, he won. Even his enemies list him as their emergency contact. Every time he goes for a swim, dolphins appear. He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels. He is the Most Interesting Fake Cool Person in Food and Drink in the World. With a little help from the voice of Frontline narrator Will Lyman, the marketing firm Euro RSCG turned an actor named Jonathan Goldsmith into advertising gold for Dos Equis, the Mexican beer, making him one of the coolest personalities in food and drink. According to the company, from 2006 to 2010, U.S. sales increased each year, tripling in Canada in 2008. And TMIMITW is a pitchman who admits he doesn't even always consume his own product, for crying out loud.
Steve Wallace, Wine Merchant
Wallace knows everybody in the wine and food world in California and beyond, and several other worlds as well. He's a low-key guy with an ironic sense of humor and a genuine enthusiasm for what he eats and drinks. Today the proprietor of Los Angeles' (and possibly the nation's) number-one wine and liquor shop, Wally's in West LA, Wallace owned two stores by the time he was 25. He and his business partner, Christian Navarro, survived changing liquor laws and the advent of big-box wine retailers by seeking out uncommon bottles, staging can't-miss events (including regular wine auctions in conjunction with Zachy's in New York State), and above all by forging and maintaining good relationships with his customers.
David Wondrich, Cocktail Historian, Author
The New York Times has called him "a living iPod of drink lore and recipes" and Conan O’Brien has referred to him as a "crazy, bearded Civil War general." Others might simply call him "the number one draft pick for our American cocktail trivia team." Or, "the guy I want to make me a classic drink, and then tell me its entire history (and not in an obnoxious way)." All of the above apply.