MEET OUR JUDGES

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.

Amie Ward

HOME: Baltimore, MD
QUAFF: Bamboo
  • Executive Director of Safe Bars, Online Program Director for HEARD, and President of the Baltimore Bartenders’ Guild.
  • ACE Certified Health Coach and FMT Mobility Specialist with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Kinesiology from the University of Maryland College Park
  • Founder of The Healthtender and Beverage Director for Camp Runamok

A decorated bartender with nods from Liquor.com, Wine Enthusiast, Tales of the Cocktail, The United States Bartenders Guild, Baltimore Magazine, and Baltimore Style, Amie has been outspoken on health, equity, and safety in the hospitality industry, and provides training, education, and unrestricted access to wellness resources through these organizations.

While her primary work life revolves around health advocacy for the beverage alcohol community, Amie also enjoys pulling trucks and competing in Strongwoman competitions, and relaxing at home with her two sphynx cats, Nofuratu and Alexander OvechSkin.

Rachel Burkons

HOME: Los Angeles, CA
QUAFF: Not yet disclosed
  • Our Lead Cannabis Beverage Judge, High Spirits Awards
  • Cannabis consultant, content creator, writer, and educator specializing in the hospitality, culinary, and beverage applications of cannabis

After more than a decade working in the wine and spirits industry, Rachel co-founded award-winning culinary cannabis hospitality group Altered Plates in 2016. She is also the founder of Smoke Sip Savor, where she is a cannabis curator, consultant, and bong vivant.

Rachel is the Editor-in-Chief of The Clever Root, a digital publication specializing in all things cannabis food and drink that will be relaunching June 2023.

Rachel lives in Los Angeles with her wife and two young daughters.

Bridget Albert

HOME: Shorewood, IL
QUAFF: Cognac / Bourbon / Tequila
  • Co-Author, Market-Fresh Mixology’s Life, Love, Happiness & Cocktails and Cocktails for Every Season
  • Co-Hostess, Served Up the Podcast
  • Senior Director, External Communications, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

Bridget is an advocate for upbeat education that makes an impact. 

She has been a contributor to 10 cocktail and beverage books and is the recipient of numerous beverage industry awards. These include the Tales of the Cocktail Bar Chef Competition (first place), the Chicago Tribune’s Good Eats Award, and No Kid Hungry’s Share Our Strength Award for Sustaining a Community. Bridget has been repeatedly nominated to Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards list of Best Bar Mentors, most recently in 2023. 

Bridget is the Founder of the National Charity Foundation of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. 

She was the first female mixologist to be featured on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America Battle Mango.

Moe Aljaff

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: 50/50 Martini
  • Influential bartender and bar owner, currently creative director for Schmuck or Die in the U.S.
  • Founder of Two Schmucks, the world-renowned, Barcelona-based “five-star dive bar”
  • Named the Number 10 Most Influential bar industry figure on Drinks International’s Bar World 100 list for 2022
  • Top 3, Global Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition in 2016

Born in the Middle East and raised in Sweden, Moe Aljaff is an award-winning international bar personality. Moe recently moved stateside, hosting a successful cocktail residency pop-up at Moxy South Beach’s Mezcalista Bar to bring his “Schmuck’s five-star dive bar” concept to the Miami bar scene.

Moe is an industry phenomenon. Under his leadership, Two Schmucks and the subsequent Schmucks empire shot to fame, winning Best New International Cocktail Bar by The Spirited Awards and landing the No. 7 spot on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022. 

Karla Alindahao

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Islay Scotch/Cognac
  • Senior Editor, Food & Wine
  • Luxury lifestyle writer powerhouse with more than 20 years experience covering spirits, food, and travel
  • Passionate whiskey expert

Karla has rightly earned worldwide recognition for her spirits-industry journalism. For eight years prior to joining Food & Wine, Karla was senior contributor for ForbesLife, with spirits as her primary beat.

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
  • The bartender’s bartender, an influencer and educator who has been awarded with some of the beverage industry’s highest honors
  • Known for innovative cocktail menus and bar consultancy clients, hosting mixology classes around the nation, and connecting culinary and farm culture with spirits
  • Member of the Tales of the Cocktail Philanthropy & Development Committee, and a member of the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.  

The Louisiana-Texas native is the trustworthy mentor of some of the best bartenders and mixologists in the world and maintains a goal of education, service, and fun with every pour. 

In 2020 Tiffanie was featured on Food Networks’ The Kitchen and receivied the Tales of the Cocktails Dame of the Year award. In 2021 Barriere appeared on the cover of Imbibe Magazine for the Top 75 for Imbibe and was also elected as the Tales of the Cocktail Dame Hall of Fame Co-Chair.  

Tiffanie has taken the stage in Berlin for Bar Convent, shared birthday cocktails with Hoda and Jenna on the Today Show, and was featured as a guest judge on the Netflix show Drink Masters. 

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.

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.

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
  • Author of cocktail books Saved by the Bellini and Drink What You Want
  • 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. 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.

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
  • Managing Editor 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 Managing Editor 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
QUAFF: Martini / Margarita
  • Digital Content Editor, Imbibe magazine
  • A cocktail and spirits writer for nearly 20 years

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
QUAFF: 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

Recently named Beverage Director of the renowned Everson Royce Bar in L.A.’s downtown Arts District, Raul continues to provide 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

Eryn has worked in the service industry for over two decades and has years of experience in the craft of building and managing bar programs. She hails from Portland, Oregon, and after moving to New York worked behind the bar at storied destinations Bar Milano, Mayahuel, and Death and Company. She served as Beverage Director of Freemans Restaurant and helped pioneer the concept of its upstairs speakeasy-style cocktail bar, Banzarbar. 

Eryn has earned the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and holds the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) 5-Day Certification. Eryn has been a long-time mentor in the Cocktail Apprentice Program at Tales of the Cocktail and has judged a variety of cocktail and spirits competitions including Speed Rack, the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge, L.A. Spirits Awards, and the Ultimate Spirits Challenge. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including Imbibe and The New York Times, and Cosmopolitan, with cocktails featured in a wide array of cocktail books. 

Joseph D. Solis

HOME: Los Angeles, CA
QUAFF: 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.

Aqxyl Storms

HOME: Brooklyn, NY
QUAFF: For Bitter For Worse Eva's Spritz; Immorel Feed Your Focus
  • Founder, Owner, Curator, and Sorcerer at Minus Moonshine, an independent online nonalcoholic beverage store and bottle shop in Brooklyn
  • Nonalcoholic Beverage Educator + Event Host
  • Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist, Singer, and Music Producer
  • Always has one to three NA drinks within reach

As the founder of the only trans-owned non-alc bottle shop in the United States, Aqxyl has created a retail shop that is inclusive and welcoming to everybody. The beverage selection at Minus Moonshine is rigorously taste-tested by the former vegan and raw chef before making it to the shelves. They spoke about the nonalcoholic category at Bar Convent Brooklyn in 2022 and continue to educate corporate teams about the magic of nonalcoholic beverages.

Sother Teague

HOME: New York, NY
QUAFF: Gibson
  • Charismatic co-host of award-winning show “The Speakeasy” on Heritage Radio Network
  • Wine Enthusiast’s 2019 Mixologist of the Year
  • Cocktail and cocktail culture author, I’m Just Here for the Drinks and Let’s Get Blitzen

Professional bartender Sother Teague is the partner and Beverage Director of Overthrow Hospitality group, which includes the renowned bitters bar Amor y Amargo and the newly opened tequila and mezcal bar Eterea in New York City. Sother has been featured as a cocktail expert in Esquire, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Time Out, BuzzFeed, and more. His third book is in the works.

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 field of spirits. 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.
Select a portrait for more information about each member of our judging team.

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