Here’s some of the rotating cast of judges we’ll have to regulate this Thuderdome:
A.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertaining writer and poet and would like to have a drink with you. Yes, you. He’s the author of Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz, Good Spirits (winner of an IACP Cookbook award), Dark Spirits, Wine Cocktails, Luscious Liqueurs, Party Snacks!, Party Drinks!, Double Take (coauthored with Jeremy Holt), Champagne Cocktails, as well as the editor of In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems About Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers, and author of the poetry collection Want, a ZYZZYVA first book. He is a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program from Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio, and is a contributor to culinary and entertaining magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Eating Well, Seattle Magazine, and Wine Enthusiast, among many others, . His favorite comic book character is Dr. Strange, his favorite TV show is the Mighty Boosh
Jason Stratton began his career at the age of 16 at Seattle’s classic Le Gourmand restaurant under Chef Bruce Naftaly. From 2002-2007, Jason worked for Chef/Owner Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita. During his time at Cafe Juanita, Jason traveled to Europe to explore and eat in France, Spain and Italy. In early 2008, Jason left Cafe Juanita for a 6 month sabbatical in Spain. Upon his August 2008 return, he was hired to serve as co-chef at Chef Jerry Traunfeld’s restaurant, Poppy.
Jason assumed the lead kitchen role at Spinasse in July of 2009. Since his arrival, public and media accolades acknowledging his talent grow. Named one of Seattle’s Best Restaurants in 2009 by Seattle Metropolitan magazine, Jason’s creates simple, refined dishes grounded in techniques from Piedmont, while celebrating the products of artisans and small farmers from the Pacific Northwest.
Neil Kopplin has been tending bar for 10 years in Portland, Oregon. Most recently managing the bar at Bluehour, Carlyle, and Clyde Common. Neil has a passion for family, community, and the addiction of making people happy.
Neil Currently sits on the board of the Oregon Bartenders Guild, and is a partner in Imbue Cellars, the Northwest’s first vermouth. He is thrilled to be spending a week in New Orleans working with the best bartenders and culinary professionals in the world.
Have a good drink, good meal, a good time, and be safe!!!
Robin Leventhal formerly owned and operated Crave, a popular Seattle bistro serving up comfort food on Capitol Hill. Before becoming a chef, Robin was an artist. While pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Michigan, she took a job in the catering department. This was only intended to be a summer job, but it quickly became clear she had a passion for food. Robin’s Pacific Northwest roots are the foundation of her cooking, accented by the flavors of her world travels.
In 2009 she had a life changing experience to be a cheftestant on season 6 of Top Chef where she finished in 5th. Since then, she has found an ideal balance in life spending time in the studio making art, teaching and cooking. She keeps her knives sharp in kitchens for causes like Bristol Bay, winemaker dinners, catering and restaurant consulting.
With a commitment to community, she sits on the Slow Food Seattle board raising awareness of the value of food and knowing where it comes from. Additionally, she finds time to make the Premier Chefs Advisory Board a priority where she uses her culinary connections to raise money for Lymphoma research with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. This mission began in 2004 with Copper Cure after being diagnosed with 2 kinds of Lymphoma. Now a licensed auctioneer, Robin is able to further her passion for philanthropy by raising money for mission driven benefit auctions.
Robin also raises a little flock of chickens in her Ballard yard. They bring tremendous pleasure with their humorous antics; the delicious eggs are the bonus!
The Cocktail Chronicles is updated somewhat regularly by Paul Clarke, a Seattle-based cocktail enthusiast whose brief experience working behind a bar entailed nothing more challenging than pouring pitchers of Coors Lite for college students with fake IDs. I had my mixological satori in the Summer of 2003, and since then I’ve taken the “roll your own” ethic of David Embury to heart, spending countless hours reading about, mixing and studying an array of cocktails, with a special emphasis on early- and mid-20th century classics.
In addition to documenting these endeavors on The Cocktail Chronicles, I’m a contributing editor at Imbibe magazine and I’ve written articles on spirits and cocktails for the San Francisco Chronicle, Wine & Spirits, Entrepreneur, Edible Seattle, Seattle Met and Seattle magazine, and a series of essays on the culture of drink for the New York Times‘ Proof blog.* I’ve also contributed two spirits-and-cocktails-related posts per week to the excellent group food blog Serious Eats since July 2007, and written a chapter on the history and character of the gimlet to the first edition of Mixologist: The Journal of theAmerican Cocktail.
Casey Robison has been working in the bar and spirits industry for nearly a decade. Anywhere from dive bars, volume clubs, higher end dining restaurants, illegal after hours bars, and craft cocktail bars.
About 4 years ago he was hired on as bar manager for Barrio Restaurant in Seattle. Since then, Casey have opened several bars for Heavy Restaurant Group, having since been promoted to Spirits Director for the Company. But he is till a bartender.
Over the last four years that Casey gained an appreciation not just for Tequila, but for all spirits from central and South America:
Rhum from the West Indies, Cuban Rum, Barbados Rum, Venezuelan Rum, Brazilian Cachaca, Peruvian or Chilean Pisco, Panamanian Seco, Columbian Aguardiente… all of these spirits have found themselves a place in my passion for quality potables. Not just for flavor, but for history, and culture.
But Casey Robison’s real obsession, passion, and intrigue lies predominantly with one spirit over all else. Mezcal.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler has been tending bar since 1996, in everything from neighborhood taverns and college nightclubs to fine restaurants and upscale lounges. He currently manages the bar at celebrated restaurant Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon.Jeffrey has been writing about bartending and mixology for several years at his website, jeffreymorgenthaler.com. The website features original cocktail recipes, product reviews, and discussions of bartending technique. His recipes and wisdom have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wine Enthusiast, Playboy, Wired, and Imbibe magazines. Forbes Traveler called him one of the “Cocktail Movers and Shakers” of 2007, Playboy.com named him one of the top ten mixologists in the United States in 2009, and Tasting Panel Magazine awarded him as a “New Leader” in 2009.
Praised for his chemist-like precision, inventive twists and intriguing libations, award-winning mixologist David Wolowidnyk has amassed over two decades of professional service experience from leading bars and restaurants throughout Vancouver and the Grand Cayman Islands.
At West, Wolowidnyk attributes diversity of skills, attention to detail and extensive product knowledge to running a successful bar. In addition, he says, it must be immaculately maintained and always well stocked. He leads his staff to provide guests with personalized attention by seeking out their preferences and offering suggestions from a tempting range of contemporary and classic cocktails, premium sprits, thoughtfully chosen wines, and a selection of bottled beers. Energized by the challenge of exceeding the expectations of both his colleagues and guests, Wolowidnyk takes pleasure from seeing guests leave with memorable experiences. He enjoys working with a team of like-minded professionals that inspire creativity and share his passion for food, wine and cocktails.
Kathy Casey is celebrated as a frontrunner chef—paving the
way for the emergence of women chefs on a national level—and
as an early trendsetter in creative cocktails and the bar-chef
movement. She was hailed as an “inventor of dishes that dazzle
the eye and the palate” by the New York Times and named as one of 25 “hot new American Chefs” by Food & Wine magazine. Kathy’s passion for food and cocktails—from the simple to exotic—is contagious. She loves what she does and wants to share her knowledge and know-how with the world.
When not in the kitchen cooking or at the bar creating cocktails, Kathy is busy running her Seattlebased food, beverage and concept development consulting agency, Kathy Casey Food Studios,and its beverage arm, Liquid Kitchen. Her business acumen is considered a commodity among national restaurant corporations and spirit brands who regularly consult her.An accomplished food writer, she penned a monthly feature column, “Dishing,” for The Seattle Times for twelve years. Kathy has authored seven cookbooks, including Kathy Casey Cooks Favorites, Dishing with Kathy Casey, and Pacific Northwest: The Beautiful Cookbook, a Julia Child Cookbook Awards nominee. Her most recent volume is the James Beard Award-nominated Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table. Currently she is developing a national cooking show with PBS and working on a new book, which will feature creative cocktails.
Blair Reynolds is a Portland, OR based bartender, blogger, and tiki drink aficionado. With a focus on tropical libations, Blair has developed drinks and menus for venues and events in the Portland area and beyond for the past several years. His cocktail blog, formerly at TraderTiki.com, was renowned for information on tiki drinks and culture, and has been featured in magazines such as Mutineer Magazine, Bar Kultur, and local papers.
Blair has visited many distilleries, attended conferences, and assisted with lectures on all things cocktail, liquor, and cocktail culture. He has won or placed in many cocktail and mixology competitions, sits on various panels and boards. In 2009, Blair participated in Tales of the Cocktail’s acclaimed Cocktail Apprentice Program, and in 2010 graduated from the prestigious B.A.R. program.
Since 2009, Blair has bottled his passion as B.G.Reynolds’ Hand-Crafted Syrups, a cocktail-focused syrups line featuring classic and tropical cocktail ingredients, such as Orgeat and Passion Fruit. The syrups are featured at such locations as Trader Sam’s at the Disney Resort, and Burgerville in the Pacific Northwest, and are available at liquor and specialty stores nationwide.
Miles Thomas is the sauve man behind Scrappy’s Bitters. His goal: Bold and robust. These are two words that thoroughly define Scrappy’s bitters. But it wasn’t always like that. Scappy’s was on the receiving end of something that plagues many first-timers trying to master the art of bitters: weakness. The bitters tasted great on their own, but they just weren’t strong enough to prove the worth of a great cocktail. After digging deeper into herbs and methods of extraction, Scrappy’s found out how to pair flavors in order to intensify the taste and learned that there were not only many ways to extract flavor from the same source. Scrappy’s Bitters are available in Lavender, Lime, Aromatic, Orange, Grapefruit, Cardamom, Chocolate and Celery. Scrappy’s Botters are distributed internationally.
Tommy Klus, native Oregonian, is considered one of our nation’s top cocktail shakers. And to that end, Klus has been shaking things up. On the board of the Oregon Bartenders Guild and a pilar of the apprentice program at Tales of the Cocktail. Klus was, the bar manager at Bluehour and at Kask. He has been the recipient of research scholarships to study single malt distillation in Scotland. He is currently the national brand ambassador for Combier.
Tan Vinh is a ghost; a ghost with a twitter account: @tanvinhseattle. He is a journalist that has racked up over 1, 200 articles for the Seattle times. His writings on the Last Word cocktail have caused huge spikes in chartreuse sales. From the shadows, Tan can shed light on and elevate tiny cocktail bars or Ma & Pop Chinese restaurants to local legend status. He has the ability to drink like Hemingway and the ability retain the information gained while imbibing. Tan Vinh is of Seattle’s great secret boulevardiers.
Simon recently stepped down from being International Ambassador for Plymouth Gin (and if you’ve heard of one, you’ve most likely heard of the other) and overseas the On-premise portfolio specialist team for Pernod Ricard USA. But that won’t be the last you here of the Ford name being synonymous with gin.Over the past seven years, this role has taken him across the globe training the experts and first-time barkeeps alike as well as directing on-premise strategy for a portfolio of brands in the US; more than fifteen years in the spirits industry has gifted him with experiences relevant to all. From running a wine shop to opening some of England’s most lauded cocktail bars, judging spirits in competition and marketing some of the biggest brands on the planet have made Mr. Ford a highly respected voice in the spirits industry.
Simon received the award for Best Brand Ambassador at New Orleans Tales of the Cocktail 2007 and was named an Industry Visionary in the UK. In addition to this his bar in the UK has won numerous awards including Best New Bar, Theme Magazine2002, Best Bar, Theme Magazine 2003 and Best Cocktail offering, Theme magazine2006 in addition it was named in the Guardian News Paper as one of the top 10 cocktail bars in the UK and as one of the Great Cocktail Bars of the World by theDiffords Guide.