These 13 People Are Changing the Way You Drink
Conde Nast Traveler
by Sarah Bruning
There’s a new guard rising in the hospitality industry—a legion of bartenders, winemakers, beverage directors, and writers with strong visions and opinions as to what the world should be sipping. Meet the innovators and influencers who are changing your drinking habits and palates for the years to come.
YANA VOLFSON, BEVERAGE DIRECTOR AT COSME, NEW YORK CITY
When a place is dubbed one of the hottest restaurants in Manhattan, not only must the food continually impress the cognoscenti—so must the drinks. It’s a high mark to live up to, but it’s one Volfson surpasses handily. She first gained attention as the head bartender at two popular Manhattan restaurants (Freemans, Peels), where she celebrated the East Village’s colorful history and earned a “Shaker of the Year” award from popular food site Eater. Now, with more than a decade of experience, she looks forward, rather than to the past as she deploys artisanal spirits in the Mexican-inspired tipples she devises to complement and accentuate Enrique Olvera’s nuanced menu.
JARED ROUBEN, HEAD BREWER AT MOODY TONGUE BREWERY, CHICAGO, IL
Rouben first learned how to push the envelope and layer flavors as a restaurant chef—a skill he took one step further as the brewmaster at Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company. There, he garnered a following for his experimental creations and launched a series of collaborations with Chicago chefs like Rick Bayless and Paul Kahan. In 2013, Rouben left to open Moody Tongue, his own venture completely devoted to this “culinary” style of brewing. Over the past two years, he’s been instrumental in pioneering the trend of quirky beers infused with ingredients beyond the typical grains and hops. For instance, he flavors an India pale ale with tart green strawberries and imbues Belgian wit with baby carrots to give the earthy style added sweetness.
BRENDAN COYLE, LEAD DISTILLER AT HIGH WEST DISTILLERY & SALOON, PARK CITY, UT
As the head guru at Utah’s first legal distillery to open since 1870, Coyle is responsible for executing the vision of proprietor Dave Perkins. Trained in Scotland, Coyle uses his technical prowess to innovate on traditional formulas of American whiskey, producing unexpected blends like the appropriately smoky Campfire, which is the only combination of bourbon, rye, and scotch varieties to have been distilled in the U.S. In 2010, just three years after it opened and two after it began public distribution, High West won the American Distilling Institute’s Craft American Whiskey Competition, while its Bourye blend won the top accolade, “Best Craft American Whiskey.”
VANYA CULLEN, HEAD WINEMAKER AT CULLEN WINES, AUSTRALIA
Since she assumed the role of chief winemaker at her family’s Australian vineyard in 1989, Cullen has impressed both peers and critics alike with her ability to bring out the natural complexities of each varietal. What’s more, she’s committed to biodynamic, carbon-neutral practices that make her winery as sustainable as it is successful. At 2014’s inaugural Australian Organic Awards, Cullen took top prize for her efforts. She has raised the profile of Australia’s Margaret River as a wine destination, and she’s proven that it’s possible to cultivate wines as ecologically responsible as they are distinctive and elegant.
CECILIA TORRES SALINAS, HEAD WINEMAKER AT VIÑA SANTA RITA, ALTO JAHUEL, CHILE
After gaining experience during harvests at other industry heavy-hitters (Penfold’s in Australia, Clos Duval in California), this Chilean vintner traveled around the world to study local techniques in a half-dozen other countries before returning home to co-run an award-winning team of eight winemakers. She’s considered an authority on cabernet sauvignon and, through her speaking engagements, she’s helped bring fresh attention to Chilean wines.
PAUL CLARKE, COCKTAIL WRITER AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR AT IMBIBE
Great journalists keep us informed and intrigued while teaching us something new, and when it comes to drinking, few people navigate this trinity better than Clarke. Whether he’s penning a thoughtful longform profile or casually sharing thoughts on his blog, he covers a broad cross-section of the drinking world and writes about trends in a way that appeals to both aficionados and novice tipplers. Plus, he’s helped Imbibebecome one of the top epicurean publications for cocktail trends and know-how. The magazine has gained attention and praise from both food-world insiders (e.g., Eater.com editors) and cocktail hounds alike, and its now-annual Negroni Week turned into a social-media hit, spurring a new wave of popularity for the often divisive cocktail.
SHAUN LEACH AND CHRISTA CARPENTIERE, CREATORS OF BOOZE NERDS BLOG
Walking the line between geek speak and real talk, Leach and Carpentiere are two of the home bartender’s best guides and biggest champions. Named one of the best cocktail blogs by respected food site Serious Eats, Booze Nerds enthusiastically explore trends, test gear, tinker with ingredients, and play with drink styles, explaining both basics and niche topics in the same conversational way that your super-knowledgable best friend would. They strip away much of the pretension that turns people off from cocktails in the first place, and they’re not shy about admitting when one of their experiments goes awry. As they see it, it’s as much a lesson for their readers as it is for them.
ROD MOORE, OWNER OF THE SHAMEFUL TIKI ROOM, VANCOUVER, CANADA
Once maligned, tiki cocktails are now experiencing a renaissance. Bartenders have ditched cloying, kitschy versions for the old-school recipes that favor balanced layers of sweet-sour flavors, and few places in North America are doing it better than this Canadian oasis. Moore has become a captain of the Tiki 3.0 movement, demonstrating that it’s possible to preserve fun bits of the genre’s festive, borderline garish decor while advancing the cause of well-executed drinks that lean on ingredients like cinnamon, orgeat, and fresh fruit juices as much as they do rum.
LUKE WHEARTY, AKI NISHIKURA, AND YIJUN JUAN, BARTENDERS AT OPERATION DAGGER, SINGAPORE
You already know about omakase (the multi-course chef’s-choice tasting menus) at high-end sushi spots, but the format has also taken hold across several bars in Asia. Leading the charge is this nouveau speakeasy, where three pros serve a progression of six cocktails that utilize offbeat ingredient pairings and house-made infusions to break down guest’s preconceptions of classic cocktails and spirits. The drinks are paired with addictive bar bites like seven-chili–spiced puffed wild rice.
TOBY MALONEY, HEAD MIXOLOGIST AT THE VIOLET HOUR, CHICAGO, IL
The guys behind Alchemy Consulting have been responsible for some of the most intriguing, standard-raising cocktail dens across the United States, including New York City’s Pouring Ribbons and Chicago’s The Violet Hour. The latter won this year’s James Beard Award for outstanding bar program in large part thanks to Maloney, who spearheads the seasonal menu and guides his team in creating a world-class experience for every guest.