Meet our judges

It goes without saying that without respected, expert judges, a spirits competition’s awards have no merit.
L.A. Spirits Awards’ judges are among the most respected and well-known experts and tastemakers in the spirits industry. And as the most inclusive and diverse panel of judges in spirits competitions today our experts uniquely reflect the face of the contemporary spirits industry.
It goes without saying that without respected, expert judges, a spirits competition’s awards have no merit.
L.A. Spirits Awards’ judges are among the most respected and well-known experts and tastemakers in the spirits industry. And as the most inclusive and diverse panel of judges in spirits competitions today our experts uniquely reflect the face of the contemporary spirits industry.

Karla Alindahao

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFFS: Islay Scotch, Cognac
  • Luxury lifestyle writer powerhouse focusing on spirits, food, and travel
  • Passionate whiskey expert
  • Top ForbesLife journalist

Karla has rightly earned worldwide recognition for her spirits-industry journalism. As senior contributor for ForbesLife, spirits are her primary beat.

Prior to ForbesLife, Karla honed her craft during stints at Haute Media Group, The New York ObserverMetropolis Magazine, Lifestyle Mirror, and Tatler Philippines.

Karla is especially passionate about brown liquor, red meat, and green M&Ms.

Karla Alindahao

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFFS: Islay Scotch, Cognac
  • Luxury lifestyle writer powerhouse focusing on spirits, food, and travel
  • Passionate whiskey expert
  • Top ForbesLife journalist
Karla has rightly earned worldwide recognition for her spirits-industry journalism. As senior contributor for ForbesLife, spirits are her primary beat. Prior to ForbesLife, Karla honed her craft during stints at Haute Media Group, The New York ObserverMetropolis Magazine, Lifestyle Mirror, and Tatler Philippines. Karla is especially passionate about brown liquor, red meat, and green M&Ms.

Tiffanie Barriere

HOME: Atlanta, GA
QUAFF: Martinez
  • Leading influencer in the spirits and cocktail education scene, known for combining history, specifically Black history, and the cocktail world
  • Member, Tales of the Cocktail Grants Committee, the James Beard Beverage Advisory Board, and the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier 
  • Named to Imbibe Magazine’s Top 75 for 2020 
  • Helped build the reputation of Atlanta’s One Flew South as the “Best Airport Bar in the World”
Tiffanie Barriere is an influencer and educator who has been awarded with some of the beverage industry’s highest honors. Her reputation as a public historian has opened doors for her to speak on multiple panels, and she has interpreted the cocktails of African American and women firsts in spirits at the James Beard House in New York City.

Tiffanie Barriere

HOME: Atlanta, GA
QUAFF: Martinez
  • Leading influencer in the spirits and cocktail education scene, known for combining history, specifically Black history, and the cocktail world
  • Member, Tales of the Cocktail Grants Committee, the James Beard Beverage Advisory Board, and the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier 
  • Named to Imbibe Magazine’s Top 75 for 2020 
  • Helped build the reputation of Atlanta’s One Flew South as the “Best Airport Bar in the World”
Tiffanie Barriere is an influencer and educator who has been awarded with some of the beverage industry’s highest honors. Her reputation as a public historian has opened doors for her to speak on multiple panels, and she has interpreted the cocktails of African American and women firsts in spirits at the James Beard House in New York City.

Derek Brown

HOME: Washington, DC
QUAFF: Not yet disclosed
  • L.A. Spirits Awards' Lead Low- and No-alcohol Spirits Judge
  • Leading expert on spirits, cocktails, and the history and culture of spirits and drinks
  • Advocate for responsible, mindful drinking and for non-alcoholic cocktail recipes in the non-alcoholic spirits movement
  • Author, Mindful Mixology, on the subject low- and no-alcohol cocktails
  • Director of Education for Spiritless
Derek’s passion for spirits and cocktails has taken him across the globe where he’s studied the integral role that food and drink play in culture, customs, and values of communities worldwide. Derek is also a leading advocate in the bar industry for no- and low-alcohol cocktails and mindful drinking. Until recently, Derek was owner of the renowned Columbia Room bar in Washington, DC.

Derek Brown

HOME: Washington, DC
QUAFF: Not yet disclosed
  • L.A. Spirits Awards' Lead Low- and No-alcohol Spirits Judge
  • Leading expert on spirits, cocktails, and the history and culture of spirits and drinks
  • Advocate for responsible, mindful drinking and for non-alcoholic cocktail recipes in the non-alcoholic spirits movement
  • Author, Mindful Mixology, on the subject low- and no-alcohol cocktails
  • Director of Education for Spiritless
Derek’s passion for spirits and cocktails has taken him across the globe where he’s studied the integral role that food and drink play in culture, customs, and values of communities worldwide. Derek is also a leading advocate in the bar industry for no- and low-alcohol cocktails and mindful drinking. Until recently, Derek was the bar owner of Columbia Room in Washington, DC.

Erick Castro

HOME: San Diego, CA
QUAFF: Not yet disclosed
  • Host of the award-winning podcast, Bartender at Large
  • Proprietor/bartender of multiple U.S. cocktail bars
  • Co-Founder of Bartender’s Weekend, promoting the bartending profession’s “Spirit of Hospitality”
Erick began his cocktail empire at San Francisco’s Rickhouse and Bourbon & Branch, served as Brand Ambassador for Plymouth and Beefeater, and co-created New York City’s Boilermaker. This bartending behemoth has created unique beverage programs that have earned a place on some of the nation’s most coveted lists, including Esquire's Best Bars in America, Food & Wine’s “World’s Top Bars” and countless nominations at the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards in New Orleans.

Erick Castro

HOME: San Diego, CA
QUAFF: Not yet disclosed
  • Host of the award-winning podcast, Bartender at Large
  • Proprietor/bartender of multiple U.S. cocktail bars
  • Co-Founder of Bartender’s Weekend, promoting the bartending profession’s “Spirit of Hospitality”
Erick began his cocktail empire at San Francisco’s Rickhouse and Bourbon & Branch, served as Brand Ambassador for Plymouth and Beefeater, and co-created New York City’s Boilermaker. This bartending behemoth has created unique beverage programs

Clyde Davis, Jr.

HOME: Washington, DC
QUAFF: Negroni
  • Over 20 years in the spirits industry developing and launching award-winning craft spirit brands
  • Co-founder, Team Spirits Imports Company, one of the leading rum importers in the U.S.
  • Mentor to younger spirits and hospitality professionals
  • Dedicated to making the world a better place for his two sons
Having helped develop and launch numerous successful craft spirits brands throughout his career, Clyde is currently the Vice President of U.S. Sales for Equiano Rum. Clyde owns 75 Proof Beverage Solutions and is a partner in Vergys Capital.

Clyde Davis, Jr.

HOME: Washington, DC
QUAFF: Negroni
  • Over 20 years in the spirits industry developing and launching award-winning craft spirit brands
  • Co-founder, Team Spirits Imports Company, one of the leading rum importers in the U.S.
  • Mentor to younger spirits and hospitality professionals
  • Dedicated to making the world a better place for his two sons
Having helped develop and launch numerous successful craft spirits brands throughout his career, Clyde is currently the Vice President of U.S. Sales for Equiano Rum. Clyde owns 75 Proof Beverage Solutions and is a partner in Vergys Capital.

Samara Davis

HOME: Los Angeles, CA/Atlanta, GA
QUAFF: Not yet disclosed
  • Founder of Black Bourbon Society and Co-Founder of Diversity Distilled
  • CEO, Society Marketing Group – full service experiential multicultural marketing agency and production company
  • Certified Executive Bourbon Steward, WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits
  • Named Imbibe Magazine's Top 75 and Wine Enthusiast's Top 40 Under 40 in 2020

As an influencer within the African American community, Samara consults and advocates for diversity and inclusion in direct consumer marketing standards and the importance of having "a seat at the table" within the spirits industry. Samara also speaks and moderates panel discussions at festivals across the country and hosts private educational whiskey tasting seminars.

John deBary

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Seltzer
  • Bar expert
  • Wine and spirits writer whose work has appeared in GQBon Appétit, PUNCHLiquor.comThrillistFood & Wine, and Wine Enthusiast
  • Cocktail book author
  • Co-founder, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation (RWCF), an advocacy and action nonprofit dedicated to finding structural solutions to quality-of-life issues facing workers in the hospitality industry
  • Wine Enthusiast Magazine 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2020; Thrillist's Local Heroes award winner; and Tales of the Cocktail’s philanthropy award winner.
John is a celebrated mixologist, author, and workers rights advocate with over a decade of experience crafting delicious drinks. John founded Proteau, a line of zero-proof botanical drinks. In March 2020, his nonprofit RWCF established a Covid-19 relief fund and has so far raised over $8 million to fund relief efforts for affected hospitality industry workers.

John deBary

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Seltzer
  • Bar expert
  • Wine and spirits writer whose work has appeared in GQ, Bon Appétit, PUNCHLiquor.comThrillistFood & Wine, and Wine Enthusiast
  • Cocktail book author
  • Co-founder, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation (RWCF), an advocacy and action nonprofit dedicated to finding structural solutions to quality-of-life issues facing workers in the hospitality industry
  • Wine Enthusiast Magazine 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2020; Thrillist's Local Heroes award winner; and Tales of the Cocktail’s philanthropy award winner.

John deBary is a celebrated mixologist, author, and workers rights advocate with over a decade of experience crafting delicious drinks. John founded Proteau, a line of zero-proof botanical drinks. In March 2020, his nonprofit RWCF established a Covid-19 relief fund and has so far raised over $8 million to fund relief efforts for affected hospitality industry workers.

Samara Davis

HOME: Los Angeles, CA/Atlanta, GA
QUAFF: Not yet disclosed
  • Founder of Black Bourbon Society and Co-Founder of Diversity Distilled
  • CEO, Society Marketing Group – full service experiential multicultural marketing agency and production company
  • Certified Executive Bourbon Steward, WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits
  • Named Imbibe Magazine's Top 75 and Wine Enthusiast's Top 40 Under 40 in 2020

As an influencer within the African American community, Samara consults and advocates for diversity and inclusion in direct consumer marketing standards and the importance of having "a seat at the table" within the spirits industry. Samara also speaks and moderates panel discussions at festivals across the country and hosts private educational whiskey tasting seminars.

Kim Haasarud

HOME: Phoenix, AZ
QUAFF: Bee’s Knees
  • Proprietor, Liquid Architecture LLC, a global beverage consultancy working with bars, restaurants, and hotels
  • Founder, Garden Bar PHX and The Cocktail Collaborative, a craft cocktail bar and cocktail club in downtown Phoenix
  • Author of eight cocktail books
  • National President, United States Bartenders Guild
Kim has had a long career in the beverage arena, from her humble beginnings as a bartender in NYC to creating a global beverage consultancy where she’s created and implemented programs around the world—in the U.S., India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, and beyond. Her niche is understanding large scale operations, having her finger on the pulse of current trends, and marrying the two.
 
“I have big ambitions for Garden Bar PHX and The Cocktail Collaborative that includes education, events, and mentorship.”

Kim Haasarud

HOME: Phoenix, AZ
QUAFF: Bee’s Knees
  • Proprietor, Liquid Architecture LLC, a global beverage consultancy working with bars, restaurants, and hotels
  • Founder, Garden Bar PHX and The Cocktail Collaborative, a craft cocktail bar and cocktail club in downtown Phoenix
  • Author of eight cocktail books
  • National President, United States Bartenders Guild

Kim has had a long career in the beverage arena, from her humble beginnings as a bartender in NYC to creating a global beverage consultancy where she’s created and implemented programs around the world—in the U.S., India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, and beyond. Her niche is understanding large scale operations, having her finger on the pulse of current trends, and marrying the two.

“I have big ambitions for Garden Bar PHX and The Cocktail Collaborative that includes education, events, and mentorship.”

Tim McKirdy

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Martini
  • Senior staff writer and spirits reviewer, VinePair
  • Host of the podcast, Cocktail College
  • Former professional chef and graduate of London’s Westminster Kingsway College of Culinary Arts
  • WSET Level 3 Wine

As senior staff writer and reviewer at VinePair, Tim specializes in cocktail culture, wine, and spirits. Before writing about booze, Tim worked as a professional chef in award-winning kitchens in London and Buenos Aires.

Tim McKirdy

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Martini
  • Senior staff writer and spirits reviewer, VinePair
  • Host of the podcast, Cocktail College
  • Former professional chef and graduate of London’s Westminster Kingsway College of Culinary Arts
  • WSET Level 3 Wine

As senior staff writer and reviewer at VinePair, Tim specializes in cocktail culture, wine, and spirits. Before writing about booze, Tim worked as a professional chef in award-winning kitchens in London and Buenos Aires.  

Caroline Pardilla

HOME: Los Angeles, CA
QUAFFS: Martini, Painkiller
  • Digital Content Editor, Imbibe magazine
  • Winner of three LA Weekly web awards, including “Best Bar Blogger” 
  • Mashable “Foodie Instagram Account to Follow”

One of the first and most prolific cocktail bloggers in Los Angeles, Caroline has gone on to cover liquor and travel for online publications such as Eater LA, LAist, and Liquor, as well as print magazines, including Los Angeles Magazine where she served as drinks editor.  

Caroline Pardilla

HOME: Los Angeles, CA
QUAFFS: Martini, Painkiller
  • Digital Content Editor, Imbibe magazine
  • Winner of three LA Weekly web awards, including “Best Bar Blogger” 
  • Mashable “Foodie Instagram Account to Follow”

One of the first and most prolific cocktail bloggers in Los Angeles, Caroline has gone on to cover liquor and travel for online publications such as Eater LA, LAist, and Liquor, as well as print magazines, including Los Angeles Magazine where she served as drinks editor.  

Raul Pool

HOME: Los Angeles, CA
QUAFFS: Sazerac, Paloma
  • 2016 Winner, William Grant & Sons May Mix-off, and Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year Western Regional Finalist of 2017 and 2019 
  • 15 years in the food and beverage industry, with over a decade behind the bar 
  • Founding GM/Bar Director of the wildly popular Lowboy Bar in Echo Park, Los Angeles

Since  2021 Raul has been GM/Bar Director of The Airliner in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Raul provides his customers with what he has coined an “elevated hospitable experience,” inviting anyone and everyone to pull up a seat, join him at the bar, and sample his creative concoctions. 

As an advocate for the ancestral cultivation of agave based spirits, Raul is at the forefront of a movement supporting brands that celebrate agave’s rich cultural and familial history.

Raul Pool

HOME: Los Angeles, CA
QUAFFS: Sazerac, Paloma
  • 2016 Winner, William Grant & Sons May Mix-off, and Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year Western Regional Finalist of 2017 and 2019 
  • 15 years in the food and beverage industry, with over a decade behind the bar
  • Founding GM/Bar Director of the wildly popular Lowboy Bar in Echo Park, Los Angeles

Since  2021 Raul has been GM/Bar Director of The Airliner in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Raul provides his customers with what he has coined an “elevated hospitable experience,” inviting anyone and everyone to pull up a seat, join him at the bar, and sample his creative concoctions.

As an advocate for the ancestral cultivation of agave based spirits, Raul is at the forefront of a movement supporting brands that celebrate agave’s rich cultural and familial history.

Eryn Reece

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Martini
  • Dame Hall of Fame inductee
  • Founding member and secretary, LUPEC NYC, an organization that champions female bartenders 
  • Speed Rack National champion, featured in numerous publications, including ImbibeNew York Times, and Cosmopolitan
Eryn honed her craft behind the stick at some of the most celebrated bars in New York City including Death & Co. and Mayahuel. She currently serves as Bar Director at New York’s Banzabar and Freemans Restaurant.

Eryn Reece

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Martini
  • Dame Hall of Fame inductee
  • Founding member and secretary, LUPEC NYC, an organization that champions female bartenders 
  • Speed Rack National champion, featured in numerous publications, including ImbibeNew York Times, and Cosmopolitan
Eryn honed her craft behind the stick at some of the most celebrated bars in New York City including Death & Co. and Mayahuel. She currently serves as Bar Director at New York’s Banzabar and Freemans Restaurant.

Joseph D. Solis

HOME: Los Angeles, CA
QUAFFS: Cognac, Sidecar
  • More than 20 years in wine and spirits
  • CEO of Sol Hospitality Group, has worked with brands like D’USSÉ Cognac/Bacardi, Diageo, and Moët Hennessy
  • Expertise in the influencer, urban, and luxury spirits markets
  • Advocate for equality and diversity of BIPOC in the wine and spirits industry
Joseph resides where luxury meets taste and has created cocktail for celebrities and red carpet events including the Grammys, BET Awards, and Rihanna’s Diamond Ball.

Mark Stoddard

HOME: San Francisco, CA
QUAFF: Ice Cold Wet Martini
  • World champion mixologist and Level 3 certified sommelier
  • Cocktail and beverage trends expert for Fox and NBC
  • Recent Gin Guild inductee
Mark is a talented spirits expert and brand ambassador who brought Hendrick’s gin from small craft status to mainstream success.

Joseph D. Solis

HOME:Los Angeles, CA
QUAFFS: Cognac, Sidecar
  • More than 20 years in wine and spirits
  • CEO of Sol Hospitality Group, has worked with brands like D’USSÉ Cognac/Bacardi, Diageo, and Moët Hennessy
  • Expertise in the influencer, urban, and luxury spirits markets
  • Advocate for equality and diversity of BIPOC in the wine and spirits industry
Joseph resides where luxury meets taste and has created cocktail for celebrities and red carpet events including the Grammys, BET Awards, and Rihanna’s Diamond Ball.

Mark Stoddard

HOME: San Francisco, CA
QUAFF: Ice Cold Wet Martini
  • World champion mixologist and Level 3 certified sommelier
  • Cocktail and beverage trends expert for Fox and NBC
  • Recent Gin Guild inductee
Mark is a talented spirits expert and brand ambassador who brought Hendrick’s gin from small craft status to mainstream success.

Masahiro Urushido

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Martini
  • Unofficial Ambassador for Japanese bartending techniques and drinks
  • Winner, StarChefs’ New York City Rising Stars; Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers; and nominated for Tales of the Cocktail’s “American Bartender of the Year”
  • Bars under Masa’s leadership have been named “Best New American Cocktail Bar” by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, “Best New Opening” by the World’s 50 Best Bars made their lists of both “Best American Restaurant Bars” and “World’s Best Restaurant Bars”
Masa is an ace bartender with more than 17 years’ experience in the field. He is currently the Managing Partner, Head Bartender, and Director of Deliciousness at Katana Kitten, an award-winning Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in New York City. Masa's book, The Japanese Art of the Cocktail, was published in June of 2021 to considerable acclaim.

Masahiro Urushido

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Martini
  • Unofficial Ambassador for Japanese bartending techniques and drinks
  • Winner, StarChefs’ New York City Rising Stars; Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers; and nominated for Tales of the Cocktail’s “American Bartender of the Year”
  • Bars under Masa’s leadership have been named “Best New American Cocktail Bar” by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, “Best New Opening” by the World’s 50 Best Bars made their lists of both “Best American Restaurant Bars” and “World’s Best Restaurant Bars”
Masa is an ace bartender with more than 17 years’ experience in the field. He is currently the Managing Partner, Head Bartender, and Director of Deliciousness at Katana Kitten, an award-winning Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in New York City. Masa's book, The Japanese Art of the Cocktail, was published in June of this year to considerable acclaim.

Amie Ward

HOME: Baltimore, MD
QUAFF: Bamboo
  • Decorated bartender and health advocate with nods from Wine Enthusiast, Tales of the Cocktail, The United State Bartenders Guild, Baltimore Magazine, and Baltimore Style
  • Founder, The Healthtender, dedicated to addressing health disparities in the hospitality industry, and providing comprehensive wellness resources for the global bartending community

Amie is known for her love of sustainable bartending methodologies and high volume event batching, and conducts educational seminars and bespoke cocktail classes for guests and bartenders on the topics.

In her spare time, you can find Amie pulling trucks, competing in Strongwoman competitions, and skating roller derby.

Amie Ward

HOME: Baltimore, MD
QUAFF: Bamboo
  • Decorated bartender and health advocate with nods from Wine Enthusiast, Tales of the Cocktail, The United State Bartenders Guild, Baltimore Magazine, and Baltimore Style
  • Founder, The Healthtender, dedicated to addressing health disparities in the hospitality industry, and providing comprehensive wellness resources for the global bartending community

Amie is known for her love of sustainable bartending methodologies and high volume event batching, and conducts educational seminars and bespoke cocktail classes for guests and bartenders on the topics.

In her spare time, you can find Amie pulling trucks, competing in Strongwoman competitions, and skating roller derby.

3108 Glendale Blvd., Suite 563, Los Angeles, CA 90039 USA
Phone +1 (323) 466-5563
Worldwide via WhatsApp voice/chat
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