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here’s what’s shakin’


Inside a Time Machine


Branding Bogart


Madame President


The Brand Whisperer


A Surprise Stunner


Back Story: Bitter Slang


Cover Piece: The Master


Rock ‘n’ Roll Winery


By Mark C. Anderson

By Mark C. Anderson


By Xania V. Woodman

By Scott Brown

By John Sammon

By Dane Corrigan


By Mary Schley

By Liz Jeter and Mark C. Anderson

The Playmaker


By Joey Rappa


Robot Rum and Other BevCon Lessons By Mark C. Anderson



the idea • distilled t0 stir curiosity around a booming industry and the personalities that make it shake.

opening toast

Let’s keep it simple. There are some inspiring people doing inspiring things in the world of hospitality. And they deserve some attention.

Publisher Ryan Sanchez Editor-at-Large Mark C. Anderson Art Director Manny Espinoza Contributing Writers Mark C. Anderson, Scott Brown, Dane Corrigan, Liz Jeter, Joey Rappa, John Sammon, Mary Schley, Xania V. Woodman

Maybe I’m biased, seeing as I grew up in a community grocery store in Carmel, opened liquor stores and other markets with big spirits selections, and have launched an artisan tequila brand. Whatever the case, I love and admire the heart and hustle of people who live and work to make others happy via drinks and eats and kindness. So here comes Shakers, our tribute to the best spirits — of both human and potable form. This magazine will circulate in western hubs like Los Angeles, Napa, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Most importantly, we hope it will circulate in your head.

SHAKERS MAGAZINE 831-277-6013 | www.shakersmag.com P.O. Box 1752 Monterey, CA 93942 Ryan Sanchez, publisher








The Time Machine

The most revered cognac on the planet takes more than a century, and inspired a John Malkovich movie. By Mark C. Anderson | Photos by Manny Espinoza

ast year a unique film served up a whole new selling point: “Not coming soon.”

It came attached to two of the bigger names in film, Oscarnominated actor John Malkovich and director Robert Rodriguez, as they wrapped up production on the most mysterious movie ever created.

When they finished the flick, called 100 Years — before its actors or producers might see the final cut — they promptly hid it in a state-of-the-art time-locked vault that won’t open until the year 2115. Tickets to the November 2115 premiere have been distributed among VIP guests with the idea they can be handed down over generations. Malkovich, Rodriguez and the rest of the cast and crew will not be there for the debut. They won’t see, taste or appreciate the final product.

Ludovic du Plessis, global executive director for Louis XIII Cognac, likes to riff on the relationship between time, liquor and art. “Louis XIII is a testament to the mastery of time, and we sought to create a proactive piece of art that explores the dynamic relationship of the past, the present, and the future,” he said in announcing the film. “Four generations of cellar masters put a lifetime of passion into a bottle, yet they will never taste the resulting masterpiece. “We are thrilled that this talented actor and creative filmmaker were inspired to join us on this artistic endeavor.” In all truth, the process to create cognac takes longer than 100 years.

“When I was first approached I really loved the idea...I mean, in a way, I wish all the films I made wouldn’t have been seen for 100 years,” Malkovich said upon its release. “I don’t know how much that would change the way they are regarded.”

That’s not the case with, say, a whiskey, with which it’s a whole lot simpler: Create a mash, ferment it, distill it, blend if you want, then age it in a barrel of your choosing, likely something easy to find. Recipes are all over the Internet.

The cognac cellar masters of Louis XIII de Remy Martin are familiar with carefully crafting something that they’ll never experience themselves.

Cognac is a whole other species of spirit.

And with creating something designed to age.


promotional messaging around it. Louis XIII produced the movie — and, just as importantly — guards the locked safe that holds the film in its cellars in Cognac, France.

In fact, the 100-year process required to accomplish a Louis XIII de Remy Martin cognac helped inspire the film and the

Its grapes grow in six designated areas, including the two most revered, Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne. Louis XIII’s cellar masters pull exclusively from Grand Champagne — and with dizzying assiduity: For each cognac they review 1,000 different distillates.

“I wish all the films weren’t seen for 100 years.”



“The ladies say, ‘I wish I could have a perfume that smells like this.”


One percent of those distillates — if that — joins the initial blend. Aging commences with brand new French oak barrels. Blending goes hand in hand with aging. Ultimately up to 1,200 distinct eaux de vies (French for “water of life,” the name for the second distillation) go into one bottle. After 40 years of aging, the cognac is transferred into a special tierçon cask that was made 150 years ago with wood that was 150 years old — back then. That means 300 years of stewardship, three centuries of legacy, play in.

He has them hold the stemware low, against the chest, close to the heart. From the glass emerge elements of honeysuckle, jasmine, iris. “You get all these floral aromas,” Namer says. “The ladies say, ‘I wish I could have a perfume that smells like this.” Then, he guides guests to place the glass under the chin, when further layers unfold: cooked fruit, dried prune, fig, passionfruit, date, vanilla. Now closer it goes: Tasters plunge noses completely into glass, and suddenly all that fruit rises higher — along with spices, nutmeg, cigar box, cinnamon, leather and tobacco too. “It just keeps on giving and giving and giving,” he says.

In those tierçon barrels, the cognac can age another 100 years.

That’s true in the nose and on the tongue: With a small sip, all that absurdly diligent sourcing, aging and alchemy pay off with deepening waves of complexity.

Like one cognac expert told Shakers, “It’s a century in the bottle.” As cellar masters will taste and select young cognacs but never taste the final product, methods and mindset are passed down across decades, oftentimes four generations. With all that patience, attention and sheer time investment, drinking it quickly doesn’t make a lot of sense. Which is where Louis XIII Ambassador Christophe Namer comes in. He hosts what he calls “experiences,” aimed at people with the palate and the pocketbook to appreciate a crystal bottle that can run $3,400. The Louis goes into cognac glasses. At this point, a pause serves for a look against the light, revealing deep and brilliant amber colors. “The fact it can age so long develops flavors — and colors — like no other,” Namer says. He asks each taster to then smell the spirit, but not like they’d anticipate.

David Fong (pictured, right) has worked in restaurants and wine for upwards of a decade and has sat in on several tastings with Namer. “When you first taste it, has an amazing mouthfeel — it’s hard to match that — and the taste will last over an hour if you don’t try anything else,” he says. “The things you comprehend — tropical fruit, lychee, apples — there are so many notes, and a complexity that doesn’t occur with other spirits.” “Sheer opulence,” Namer calls it. “You have have to give respect it deserves.” History certainly has. As his tasting exercise unspools at private dinners across the West, including Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Namer loves to cite the moments Louis XII rode aside major world events and world-famous figures. SHAKERS > INSPIRING SPIRITS



The legendary and luxurious Orient Express train served it. In 1945, after the liberation of Paris, one of first things General Charles de Gaulle did was order an older decanter of Louis to celebrate with his team. In 1948, as Winston Churchill was retiring in France, he found perfect muse for his favorite cigar. “Namer takes people on a journey through time,” Fong says. There’s no small amount of history bound up in the bottle itself. In fact, the decanter is the most time-honored aspect of the production, its unique shape inspired by a general’s metallic flask found on the French fields that hosted The Battle of Jarnac in 1569 between Protestants and Catholics. It wasn’t until three centuries later that a farmer unearthed the vessel. Today individually numbered crystal Louis XIII bottles are hand blown by the jewelers at Baccarat into that same shape — only it’s pure crystal. Each is bestowed with a 24-carat gold on the neck and a fleur-de-lys stopper and tucked into a plush custom red box that looks like it could be a cradle for a museum-grade jewel. So Louis XIII remains completely old-school, while modern pop stars like Kid Rock and Rihanna name check it in their music. There’s a uncanny timelessness there, one coveted by its admirers. “That’s the power of time,” Namer says. > More at louisxiii-cognac.com.









Planning and delivering a new craft liquor label built around a Hollywood legend. By Mark C. Anderson

ohn Paul Dejoria of Los Angeles-based Rok Drinks has developed an impressive list of smash-hit businesses, including Patrón Tequila and the Paul Mitchell haircare dynasty, thanks in large part to a gift for marketing. Now his company is introducing a dynamic botanical-style gin and a seven-times-distilled vodka with a brand that represents another promotional coup: the name Humphrey Bogart. The president of the drinks division, Allison Kennedy, and its chief operating officer, Jeff Moses, took Shakers through the primary steps to build the brand, and tipped off a sister brand’s debut — which will be among the biggest spirits premieres of the next five years.


Develop a concept and lock in the name. In Bogart, Rok recognized an international icon the American Film Institute named the greatest male screen presence in history. To sweeten his crossover appeal, he lived out a storied romance with his wife, screen star Lauren Bacall, and was famed for his fashion sense and — harmoniously enough — love of cocktails. A partnership with Humphrey Bogart Estate led to the development of spirits with immediate name recognition, a luxury for a brand-new concept. “Bogart’s is a brand that would make the man himself proud,” Kennedy says. Construct interesting flavor profiles that reflects the brand. Bogart was a huge gin martini fan, which helped inspire a classic gin with a modern spark. Rok et al spent a year in research and development on recipes and now sources juniper from Italy for fragrant aromas, then adds fresh citrus zest, vineripened cucumber, lightly roasted and crushed macadamia, English lavender and cilantro to the still. The vodka goes through seven rounds in a column distillery, as it’s filtered down to 1-micron precision, giving it smoothness and clarity with a silky and dry finish that enjoys fruity and peppery elements. Both work well, appropriately enough, in a martini.




“The whole world is three drinks behind”

“Never trust a man that doesn’t drink.”


Source a quality distillery. Rok partnered with a California producer in Jackson, an hour south of Sacramento, who agreed to do Bogart’s spirits exclusively under the name Rok Distillery. Jonathan Kendrick, CEO of Rok’s parent company, elaborates. “The demand we saw internationally, combined with the U.S. pre-orders, made it clear that we needed our own dedicated distillery to guarantee supply,” he says. “And since we’re building a brand dedicated to an American film icon, it seemed only right that our distillery should be in California.” Maximize branding. “We just wanted to stay true to the man’s image,” Kennedy says. “No second rate performances,” Bogart’s son Stephen Bogart, who she calls “a living historian,” has been central to that effort. “My father loved this country,” Stephen says, “and the fact that we are lucky enough to be able grow our company and create jobs in America is a wonderful thing.” The fact the endeavor is a partnership and not a licensing relationship means access to images and personal stories that bring Bogart back. Each bottle features a liquor-friendly Bogart saying like, “The whole world is three drinks behind” and “Never trust a man that doesn’t drink.” Take aim at the next big thing. What Dejoria accomplished with Patrón is industry legend: He not only revised the image of a muchmaligned, even feared, spirit (tequila), but developed a concept that drew major pop attention and premium prices. Now he’s working on an organic tequila made in Jalisco, Mexico — not far from the Patrón facility — called Bandero. Arriving in a leather satchel to provide some shelf panache, odds are more than good this will make a big splash. Bogart’s Gin and Vodka ($22-$25) is available in highend liquor stores including Total Wines in California and several southern states. > More at bogartspirits.com.



when developing your beverage brand, don’t forget the key ingredient.

personality 21








“They always told me, ‘Be the leader who always gets down and does the pushups with your troops—no matter what.’”



Madame President

Las Vegas icon and pioneering Bartenders’ Guild president Kristen Schaefer makes a career out of cocktails and charisma. By Xania V. Woodman


rowing up in a military family is not a prerequisite for leading the Las Vegas chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild to its largest membership year on record. Still, says chapter president and self-proclaimed military brat Kristen Schaefer, it helps.

“Both of my parents were extraordinary leaders,” she says. “They always told me, ‘Be the leader who always gets down and does the pushups with your troops — no matter what.’ Never think that you’re above them. That’s how I approach this.” That attitude that has carried Schaefer, 33, through her two-year term as president, and now, as winter’s elections draw near, she’s compelled to look at what has made her tenure unique among those since the chapter was founded in 2001, besides the fact she was its first female chief. Today, nearly 450 Las Vegans rely on the Guild for spirits education, professional enrichment and industry networking. Members are beverage professionals ranging from bartenders and beverage managers to suppliers and brand ambassadors like Schaefer, who is a representative for Absolut Elyx in Las Vegas. A single week of activity might include an indepth category tasting of luxury cognac, a brand immersion with an exciting new vodka, a new-member mixer and fundraiser for a charitable cause, bartending technique class, making wine as group at Grape Expectations and — because Vegas — a pool party. No two weeks are ever the same. Such education and mentorship create a better and more consistent guest experience at bars and restaurants through the city. A member since 2009, Schaefer has benefitted from the organization’s stewardship along the way as she worked her way up from lead bartender at Rhumbar in The Mirage to general manager of three bars in the Cosmopolitan when it opened in 2010.



When Schaefer took the chapter reins in January 2015, the group comprised 251 members. Thanks to a laser-focus on growth that included the appointment of social media and recruitment chairs, membership swelled to 436 by year’s end, eclipsing New York City and making Las Vegas the largest chapter within the national organization that began in California in 1948 as an offshoot of the International Bartenders Association. But this is no math problem for Schaefer. “The numbers don’t really matter of the people aren’t engaged,” she says. “I wanted to be the largest chapter that’s actually active; that was my main goal.” Attendance at events continue to be the envy of other chapters as engagement and visibility are at an all-time high. Other goals Schaefer met during her term have included the creation of a monthly membership roundtable; a yearlong charitable initiative to support the Shade Tree women’s shelter; chapter website launch; and, soon, a partnership with rideshare app Uber to encourage responsible drinking among the members. In September, the Las Vegas chapter will celebrate its 15th anniversary with the reveal of a new logo, and the installment of a time capsule at a local restaurant that won’t be opened again until 2032, when USBGLV turns 30. While she is honored to be the chapter’s first female president (she also served two years as secretary from 2013-14), and will soon preside over officer elections at the same time as the U.S. considers its first female nominee for president, Schaefer doesn’t linger on that detail. “I’m just trying to be the best president I can be for our chapter — whether I’m female or not,” she says. In a city where hiring notices for bartenders routinely exclude men in favor of female “model/bartenders,” Schaefer vies to keep the focus on the work done, not the gender of the person who did it. In her time, Schaefers has seen barbacks become bartenders, bartenders promoted to property mixologists and sales reps step into entrepreneurship. Schaefer adds some practical advice for her successor. “This is going to take a little bit more work that you probably imagined,” she says. “But when you think that you are at your wit’s end, and you want to scream, think about all of the people you’re helping. Think about the community you’re building. Think about why you ran for president in the first place. Pick one member in your mind, the one who walked up to you one random day and said, ‘Thank you for doing this’ — that’s what should drive you. At the end of the day, if you can change one bartender’s life by doing this, then it was all worth it.” > More at usbg.org.






The S Brand Whisperer

an Francisco’s North Beach is drenched in the past. The neighborhood is also known as Little Italy, with a history that dates back to the late 1800s, when thousands of Italians stepped onto the North Point docks and made the area their home. Today that history is evident in the area’s intimate cafes, artisan delis, check-clothed ristorantes, There is also wine — lots and lots of wine. Some say that wine rescued North Beach when fire tore through San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. They say inhabitants broke open their cellar barrels and saved their homes and businesses by covering them with wine-soaked sheets.

How a wine pro flipped the script and anticipated an industry shift. By Scott Brown | Photos by Manny Espinoza

John Hanson understands that history. On this day he emerges from an intimate office on the second floor of an appropriately historic Columbus Street walkup. He is tall and impeccably dressed, with a turquoise agave plant inlaid in his belt buckle. Of Norwegian descent, with flame-blue eyes and curly, dirty blonde hair, he is an anachronism in these parts. This is fitting, because while North Beach and wine will always be a part of his history, Hanson has always had a special gift: the ability to see where things are going before anyone else. Hanson used this talent when he pivoted from wine to tequila, gaining firstmover status on the rest of his peers. He’s now using the same gift to identify brands that he think hold particular promise and propel them to new heights. The Tequila Prince has a new role: king maker.


anson was born with his entrepreneurial fire lit bright.

“In high school, I was the guy organizing the ski trips,” he said. “I was the guy going to the liquor store, buying the kegs, selling cups for $5 apiece. I was the guy screen-printing the t-shirts and selling for big events. I was the guy who’d say, ‘Someone ought to do that,’ and find a way to monetize it.”



The spirited Hanson, 46, has been in the food and beverage business since he was 15, when he was fired from his first job as a bag boy when he refused to retrieve any more carts in the 115-degree Phoenix heat. He continued his education at a pair of corporate restaurants, The Pointe Resort and Chili’s. “I learned the clock doesn’t stop in the restaurant business,” Hanson said. Hanson then moved to Tempe, where he attended Arizona State University. He took a full course-load and pair his own way by working 50-60 hours a week in a high-volume Italian restaurant called The Spaghetti Company and a campus pizza place known as Gus’s. Both were small businesses that he helped grow at a preternaturally young age.

“I was the guy going to the liquor store, buying the kegs, selling cups for $5 apiece.” “It taught me the possibility of being a small business owner,” said Hanson, who also joked that these restaurants began his “assimilation into the Italian community.” “You always hear about success stories where they go from rags to riches, but rarely do you see the steps in between. I got to see the steps.” After college, Hanson moved to Los Angeles where he worked in the fine-dining restaurant at Hollywood Bowl. After starting as a server, he was soon managing the place, which included making wine lists. At the same time he was learning brewing science in Hermosa Beach, where he discovered he had a great palate. “That’s where things started to come together,” Hanson said. “My love for food and wine, my entrepreneurial spirit, the discovery I had this palate — everything came into focus.”





Hanson moved to San Francisco in 1994, where he began work with Southern Wine & Spirits, primarily selling wine to hotels, restaurants, and bars. This was when he started developing the muscles that he would use 10 years later when he carved out a new price point in — of all things — tequila.


hen Hanson first considered getting into the space around 2004, tequila had a nasty reputation for inducing bad behavior.

By this point, Hanson had two decades of formal training in the food and beverage industry and his intuition was well-honed. He saw a few things others didn’t. In general, the drinking population was consuming less but sipping more, and moving toward high-end spirits. Hanson sensed that tequila could be the next big thing.

“I learned the clock doesn’t stop in the restaurant business.” Hanson also knew that if he wanted to sell a top-end tequila — the category for which did not yet exist — he would have to do it at his old stomping grounds: luxury restaurants or fashionable hotels, where bartenders held dominion and a $16 shot could be savored as an extravagance. Hanson forged ahead by starting Tequilas Premium, which had a relationship that allowed it to be the exclusive U.S. importer of a premium line of tequila called Clase Azul. Produced near Guadalajara, it is made by one of Hanson’s co-founders, master distiller Arturo Lomeli, who uses organic agave. It is produced in small batches using regional recipes, with Lomeli as the secret ingredient.




Lomeli is well-known for mixing innovation with tradition. He is also patient — very, very patient. He waits for at least nine years before he will harvest agave, because it is only then that he feels the plant reaches the apex of its maturation and the plant is at its fullest flavor. He then steams the agave in brick ovens, which brings juices to the fore and evokes a profound flavor. Lomeli also uses a proprietary yeast for fermentation. He then filters the product not once, but three times, after distilling it in copper stills. The product of his patience is quite simply a superior tequila. They launched U.S. distribution in Hanson’s native Arizona and California, as well as New Mexico, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest. Within a year they were in 24 states nationwide. The strategy worked, with retail pricing ranging from $39.99 to $2,000 for Clase Azul Ultra, a collector’s item produced in batches of 100, aged five years, and bottled in a hand-painted decanter with a label using 24-karat gold. Tequila Premium grew its revenues year after year, including 30-to-40 percent annually during the Great Recession. “The price became an advantage because the public was becoming so savvy bartenders were looking for an alternative and an upsell,” Hanson said. “If someone said they’d tried all the tequilas in the $10 and $12 range, the bartender could say, ‘Hey try this Clase Azul. It’s $16 but it’s very unique. You sip it instead of shoot it.’” Ten years later, Hanson and Lomeli employed about 85 percent of the residents of a small community where the distillery is located, about a 4.5-hour drive from Guadalajara. Artisans paint the bottles at a local ceramic facility, which they also partly owned. After an incredible decade, Hanson sold his shares of Tequilas Premium to Lomeli. He had a new vision. The company is Hanson Imports, and it is designed to take advantage of Hanson’s ability to sense the next big thing. It is a vertical business model through which Hanson will do everything from consulting on everything from go-to-market strategy, pricing, and label design, on down to distribution if need be, on products like those that appear here (previous page). “For example, I can discover an Italian wine, import it into the United States, and sell it to a distributor, or I can deliver it myself,” Hanson said. “It used to be that distributors were courting brands when I got into the industry. Now it’s the opposite. Fortunately I have the distribution relationships that are really prized in today’s market. It’s a big leap — kind of a crazy jump — but the plan is to capitalize on all I’ve learned over 30 years. “There’s a 75-year-old guy who is the patron of the distillery where we produce our tequila. I was thinking out loud and said to him, ‘It’s crazy what I’m doing, leaving a successful business behind to start a new one. I must be crazy.’ He said, ‘Crazy men run the world.’ “That’s so damn true. So long as it’s a good crazy, I’ll be alright.” >







A Surprise Stunner

Brand-new Bar Sebastian in Monterey reveals a stylish spot that takes advantage of historic riches. By John Sammon | Photos by Manny Espinoza



arly explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed into the Monterey Bay on Dec. 13, 1602, and gave the city — and its adjacent blue waters — their present-day name.

So there’s some poetic symmetry that the brand new bar/tapas spot at the freshly reinvented Tides Hotel, Bar Sebastian, takes on his name and benefits so mightily from the bay view. The 400-year gap in name-changing harmonizes with the timelessness of the look out over the water. A broad and seemingly endless beach extends in both directions, looking north toward Moss Landing, and to the south a stunning view of Monterey’s waterfront and sunset over Point Pinos. Whitecaps whip in the wind and waves pound the shore, as they have for eons. At a recent sunset, pelicans glided by just inches over the waves, followed by dolphins undulating in pods doing the same search for dinner.



The elements contribute to a buzz that defies the fact Bar Sebastian has only been open two months.


Because of its rare location — there’s no other hotel on the sand in the county, which enjoys more coastline than any in California — there’s no better spot on the bay for more direct enjoyment of the sea’s sweeping majesty. But Tides often goes overlooked in favor of far more famous, and more swanky, Cannery Row venues. Given its history as funky/ghetto-fabulous Best Western, it is understandable. But that, therefore, makes it quite a discovery itself. Located in the lobby of the Monterey Tides Hotel at 2600 Sand Dunes Drive in Monterey, Bar Sebastian has been reinterpreted by Joie d’ Vive, a boutique hotel, spa and restaurant company based in San Francisco. Now that the company — the same luxury house behind more than two dozen destinations like Ventana Inn and Spa in Big Sur, The Phoenix in San Francisco and 50 Bowery in New York City — has taken the reins, it’s no longer rough-around-the-edges, suddenly transformed into a destination for all the area events, including weddings on the remade patios or the wide beach itself. So don’t expect it to be an undercover gem for long. Vizcaino also gave California its first taste of tapas. Translated in Spanish meaning “to cover,” tapas served hot or cold were intended to provide cover the table with culinary samplings and generate fellowship and conversation as guests were not so focused on consuming a single item, but on a combination of tastes that could equal a full meal. As diners grow more sophisticated and adventurous, eager to try more dishes in smaller portions, tapas have grown into a hot modern trend with old-school, circa-1300s roots. Long communal tables with high-backed chairs help encourage convivial shared dining, as do easy chairs and sofas with low tables for those who wish a more deep-seated, softer space. The large picture windows extend along the entire length of the space, floor to ceiling, maximizing the magnetism of the Pacific. A fireplace occupies one end of the room and a bar with eight stools anchors the other. While tapas have been around for a long time, new Executive Chef Jose Velasquez gives them a fresh perspective with pop on the palate to match. Originally from a village in Jalisco, Mexico, Velasquez taps into atypical nuances that honor the creativity of the tapas tradition while channeling recipes he inherited from his family. SHAKERS > INSPIRING SPIRITS



“I learned to make mole [sauces] from my grandmother,” he says. “We would butcher our own pigs and chickens and… just the aroma of the food cooking — I miss it all.” Standout dishes include the Spanish-style seared scallops, beer-battered tempura-style broccoli on a crispy slice of jicama that works as a taco shell and the 12-hour-braised pork belly. Other highlights: the rustic guacamole, papas bravas and the mole chicken wings. Diners can also assemble their own tacos using a variety of fillings on a stylish tabletop rack of ingredients, including carne asada, chicken, pork carnitas (crispy on the edges, moist and tender in the middle), shrimp, chorizo and more. Other servings at Bar Sebastian are authentic recreations of ancient Aztec and Mayan recipes Velasquez learned by studying museum archives before updating them with his

own intuitive twists. Locally sourced farmers market fare and relationships with area farmers help noticeably. “We put our heart and soul into every dish we serve,” he says. Smart mixed cocktails and an ever-changing sangria list (starring the tinta, with sparkling red wine, apples and orange slices) add intrigue; the drinks include the rum-running strawberry basil smash and gin-driven Barcelona Night. Live music happens Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The elements all contribute to a buzz that defies the fact Bar Sebastian has only been open two months, as locals and tourists alike discover it with the same wonder with which Vizcaino did Monterey Bay. > More at www.jdvhotels.com.






“The old fashioned is a whiskey cocktail that has survived prohibition, recipe disputes and pineapples.� 45


BACK STORY: BITTER SLANG A fresh take on the classic old-fashioned, with a peek into its surprising and undertold history. By Dane Corrigan | Photos by Manny Espinoza


he old fashioned. It’s a strange name for a new, hip drink. Well, it’s not new, but it certainly is hip. Busting back on the scene with Don Draper of “Mad Men,” it’s the ultimate capitalist cocktail: strong, sweet, and — when made correctly — a sound investment. The old fashioned is a whiskey cocktail that has survived prohibition, recipe disputes and pineapples. To be frank, Americans love getting wasted. Today whiskey sales are in record numbers. It encompasses culture, having immigrated to our country, pioneering through the generations, getting exploited by capitalists and growing fat on success. Just like a rap hook from a disco chart topper, it’s no wonder bartenders are reinventing the classic.



Back when I was a young suckling tending my first bar at a sporting establishment, I thought the Old Fashioned was for a drunk with a sweet tooth. I’d smother my creations in sugar and never heard a complaint. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the beautiful symphony of flavors of a well-balanced creation: sugar and acid encompassing the spirit in a forceful hug. Traditionally made with a bourbon or rye, its variants can be expressed with any spirit. The old fashioned is built in the time-honored tradition of building from the least expensive ingredient to the most. This way if you’ve made yourself too many you won’t waste any of your whiskey making a mistake. Starting with a sugar cube, a dash of water opens it up, then toss a couple dashes of bitters. The boozy base calls for 2 to 2.5 ounces of spirit, although the first recorded recipe called for a wine’s glass of whiskey, and I’m not sure about the size of the glass. This is a stirred cocktail. Shaking an old fashioned is like putting ketchup on a $200 Tomahawk steak. Best served in a tumbler, poured over a large cube of ice and garnish with your choice citrus rind. The origin story is rumored to have been spawned in a Kentucky plantation club house, Pendennis Club. According to libation lore, the club’s bartender created the first old fashioned in commemoration of a Civil War general. The first recorded recipe appeared in the 1888 Bartender’s Manual written by Theodore Pruxl. An old fashioned’s ingredients create a neat geometric shape, sugar-spirit-bitters. Yet, over the decades since its inception, it’s undergone the identity crisis of a teenager from muddling to garnishes.


Old Fashioned TOUR of Pacific Coast Highway Bathtub Gin & Co. Seattle Teeny tiny and dark dank classic bar feels like prohibition — and you’ll party like it too. Ask the bartender for a bourbon or rye suggestion, they have some interesting brands. Locanda San Francisco Why try one when you can try three variations? Lift off with an Old Fashioned flight with different whiskeys, sweeteners, and garnishes. Best case studies come from first hand experiments. 83 Proof San Francisco Stick with simple and classic with an Elijah Craig 12 year bourbon. The bartender’s philosophy: “Focus on fundamentals, then you will always have something delicious.” Checks all the boxes. Terry’s Restaurant & Lounge Carmel By The Sea When you want something harder than wine in wine country. Classic Hollywood atmosphere for a classic Hollywood cocktail. The Noble Experiment San Deigo A hidden bar inside a restaurant. If you want to really live like it was 1929, make reservations here. Just pass the stack of kegs and you’ll be taken care of. With classic and old-timer versions you can’t go wrong.



“Here’s a quick education on how to spot a bloodbath.”


For such a simple mixture, it’s an easy murder. Here’s a quick education on how to spot a bloodbath. The biggest offender is an over-icer. Innocence comes in a large chunk, cube or sphere. The more ice floating around the more watered down your spirit. The more watered down your spirit, the sadder your face. You will be a weepy emoji with a scoop of ice from the well. Heaven forbid someone gets “creative” with shaved ice. You want to chill the drink out, not dilute it. Like when talking mental patient off a ledge. Next consider the quality of spirit. You know your starters. Somebody better be injured if your bartender shows preference for a third string bourbon. Stick with your favorites or consider trading up. This is a cocktail that enhances the hard stuff. It does not mask it. For an original experience, skip the muddled fruit. In fact, pass up anything you see with a cherry or pineapple sphere. This variation was born in the ’70s when people were putting fruit in lots of places it doesn’t belong. A citrus peel of either lemon or orange expressed on the rim is all you need. >








The Master Set an international standard for sommeliers. There’s a lot more to him. By Mary Schley | Photos by Manny Espinoza




f his grandfather hadn’t been farming raisins, Fred Dame might have never found his way into the wide and wonderful world of food and wine.

Then again, with a palate, nose and mind like his — and the enthusiasm conveyed by his rapid manner of speaking and encyclopedic knowledge — he might have. By now Dame’s credentials and accomplishments are stunning. He was the first to pass all three sections (theory, service and blind tasting) of the prestigious Master Sommelier examination — widely considered one of the most difficult tests in the world — in a single year, earning the coveted Krug Cup of the British Guild of Sommeliers in 1984. He was the first American to become president of the Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide and founded the American Branch of The Court of Master Sommeliers in 1986. Over the years, he has developed an intense program that has produced 7,000 Level 1 sommeliers, has been a key figure in a multitude of culinary and wine organizations, has developed resources for people wanting to learn the trade, and has sold a lot of wine — first as a waiter, and now as vice president of prestige accounts for American Wines, a division of Southern Wine & Spirits. But it all began with the summer trip to Europe with his cousin following the inheritance and subsequent sale of his grandfather’s raisin business. “We discovered food and wine — that was not part of American culture at the time, and it fascinated me,” he said. The year was 1971, and Dame experienced many aha moments during that journey, from the revelation of how good a bottle of cheap Moselblumchen — which he


described as “one step below Blue Nun” — could taste alongside cheese and sausage on the riverbank in Mosel, Germany, to the transcendent characteristics of a good red Burgundy. “You think, ‘Let’s go get something else and give that a try,’ and then you start moving up and start trying things that are really great,” he said. Back home for summers while attending Washington and Lee University in Virginia — from which he graduated with a degree in journalism and communications — Dame was introduced to restaurant work by way of his mother, who introduced him to a couple of businessmen she knew: Bert Cutino and Ted Balestreri, the powerful duo who transformed Cannery Row from a rundown industrial area to a thriving tourist zone and culinary destination that includes their famous Sardine Factory restaurant. “I had hair down to my shoulders and the whole deal, and they said, ‘The way you look, we won’t hire you, anyway,’” he said. But they did, “and after my first week, it was so fascinating, I went down and had my hair cut.” Dame worked in various roles at the landmark restaurant, and after he gave law school a go and found he hated it, he returned to the Monterey Peninsula, where they put him to work. “They’re like my dads — I don’t make a career decisions unless I speak with both of them,” he said. Cutino and Balestreri are godfathers to his son, because, “If you’re going to have godfathers, you might as well have real ones.” After working as assistant manager for one of their restaurants — and learning more about the business than he ever could have in school — Dame departed for Simpson’s, the restaurant in the Carmel Sands Lodge. “I wanted to work on the wine program,” he explained. “So I left, and that didn’t go over well.” But he returned to his “dads” after they built an extensive wine cellar at The Sardine Factory and asked him to run it. “It was an amazing experience. We did some of the most amazing dinners for some of the most amazing people,” he said, among them the deposed Shah of Iran and Mr. Toyota. “You name it, we did it.” A full Russian Imperial Dinner sticks out in his memory over the dozen years he was there, as does an extensive vertical tasting of Haut-Brion. “The great thing about Ted and Bert is they like talent — that’s what they want around them — so, if you can do the job, you got it,” Dame said. The men needed staff with enough knowledge to sell the high-end wines in their extensive cellar, and Dame learned about the Master Sommelier examination in Britain, as there was no such program in the United States at the time.



“They weren’t keen on Americans at that time, but I passed all three phases in the first year,” he said. Cutino and Balestreri had undoubtedly motivated him, too. “It came with the best going away speech: ‘If you don’t pass, don’t come home.’ And if The Boys tell you to do something, you do it.” Dame might not have known it at the time, but his talent is rare. While many wine experts rely on a lot of practice, he has an intuitive way of taking in the complex aromas of wine, and what those scents mean embed themselves in his memory. His skills and knowledge not only set him apart in the wine world, especially when he obtained the Krug award, but they changed wine education in the United States, too.


“The restaurant really benefited,” he said, and Balestreri asked why a Master Sommelier program couldn’t exist in this country. “I don’t see why not,” Dame had said, and, through a lot of hard work and help from the businessmen and the National Restaurant Association, the American Branch of the Court of Master Sommeliers was born. “After three years, we were self-sufficient, and just grew and grew and grew,” he said. “Last year, we put 7,000 people through Level 1,” the first level of a sommelier’s education and certification. The Master Sommelier level is the fourth, and since the American chapter’s founding, just 147 people have achieved that highest level — 124 men and 23 women. Worldwide, there are 230 Master Sommeliers.

“I wouldn’t open a great bottle of wine with fewer than four people — it just wouldn’t be any fun.” In addition to the American Court, Dame and his colleagues launched an online training program of which he’s chairman (guildsomm.com). It’s become the leading site for wine education, boasting 14,000 members in 90 countries. “When an opportunity comes, you can sit around and think about it, or you can jump in and see if it’s viable,” he said. “It continues to grow because people are engaged.” He also has eight tasting groups in California that have a waitlist of people who want to train for their MS with him. The most recent member to pass is Manresa’s Jim Rollston. When Dame left The Sardine Factory after a dozen years, he went to work on the distribution side of the business, learning more about liquor and spirits than he might have wanted while employed by Seagrams, and then moved on to a series of other companies that changed hands until he ended up at Southern Wine & Spirits. “Southern is a family-held company, very stable, a very good company with very good people,” he said. “In the world of wine, we’re not making widgets. The world of wine is constantly changing.”

While his palate and knowledge are highly sought after, Dame no longer judges many competitions and doesn’t do paid speaking gigs, either, but he does train sommeliers for the World Championships and flew to Sidney and Shanghai for competitions this year. The latter was particularly interesting, he said, because the tasting included 26 wines from China. With all his accolades, and having reached the highest echelons in the wine world, Dame is well-positioned to espouse advice and wisdom on any related topic. Above all, he said, “The enjoyment of the great wine is the conversation.” “I wouldn’t open a great bottle of wine with fewer than four people — it just wouldn’t be any fun,” he said. Oh, he added, “The only great truth in wine is that free wine tastes better than wine you paid for.” With all that in mind, the Shakers sat down to a unique Q&A with a master who enjoys a unique perspective on the everevolving world of wine.



Shakers: What’s the key to your success in teaching sommeliers? Dame: I think it’s sensory memory. It’s one of those things I have, but the hard thing has been teaching it to other people, and we’ve been successful. It’s an individual pursuit, it’s not a team sport, and you can’t give people a list of words and ask them to describe wine using that list. If you find your key to identifying something, then that’s what it is for you. What are your thoughts on buying wine? I could go to Costco and watch the wine section all day — it just fascinates me. You see someone go over to white zinfandel, and then they go buy two bottles of Bordeaux. The prices are good, but I love going to independent retailers, because it’s not like that — they’re really into it. My wife doesn’t allow me to go to the Cheese Shop in Carmel by myself anymore, because [owner-operator] Kent Torrey and I get going, and pretty soon, she has to come pick me up. What is the most annoying wine-related question you get? “What do you drink?” “What should I drink?” It’s not a Bible, it’s not a religion; these aren’t the gospels. Don’t read just one thing. Your life changes, your mood changes, and wine changes. Anyone you like to read? I’m a voracious reader, so I just kind of jump around…There is so much information out there. You read things that you like. Jancis Robinson is one of the best wine writers there is today, as is Tom Stevenson, because they’ve done the homework. You’re always learning. What do you do when you’re not engaged in wine-related things? I’m a big hunter — birds are my particular passion. Most of my family are hunters, but we aren’t trophy hunters. If you kill it, you eat it. So I take one deer a year, and one pig a year. And you’re out with the guys, it’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s peaceful. You watch the sun come up. And I always take really nice wines to share with the guys, and they don’t know squat. But wine tastes better out there. I’m also a horseman. I won the Pebble Beach steeplechase in 1983, and I belong to Rancheros Visitadores and do the Charlie Russell ride in Montana. We ride the backside of Yellowstone for a week. That’s one of those real peaceful things. Anytime you’re communing with nature, you always come back refreshed. What do you look for in wine service? We always look for the flaws first — that’s the wild card in all of it. For example, most red wine is served warmer than it should be served. There are all sorts of things like that that make me crazy. But it’s getting better than it ever has been, in terms of restaurant service, knowledge and storage. The consumer has a better opportunity to have a better experience.





What advice would you give a server? One simple thing: You buy wine from people you like. So even if the server is not the most knowledgeable, if they’re nice about it, it makes it a nice experience. People who are nice about sharing their knowledge in a passionate way rather than trying to give you an education. You have a minute, tops, right? Millennials are really changing the game — they’re really adventurous, and they want a bedtime story with every bottle of wine. I enjoy that, and the servers really have to up their game. Where do you like to eat and drink on the Monterey Peninsula? The Sardine Factory — where else am I going to say? And I’m a huge fan of Fandango. When I was first learning, Mark Dirickson was one of my friends, and Pierre [Bain, owner of Fandango] was at Club XIX in Pebble Beach. We’d order wine, and he’d look at us. And we’d order something else, and he’d say, “That’s an excellent choice, young men.” Any hidden gems? The kids are all trying to find things to stump me with. You never stop learning, and there is so much coming on the market today… South Africa had apartheid, and you couldn’t get anything, and now look what they’re doing today. (He recommended Fleur du Cap, which has Sauvignon Blanc for $7 or $8 per bottle, and Chardonnay for $9.) How much does glassware matter? I sat through the first seminar with Georg Riedel 15 or 20 years ago, and it’s amazing what has happened over the years. Fine glassware makes wine taste better, there’s no doubt about it. And one of the great killers of wine is dirty glassware. There’s nothing worse than getting a glass of wine that smells like chlorine.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking wine? I love calvados. After-dinner things, like cognac and armagnac, and maybe a little port. (Due to acid reflux developed from a career in analyzing wine, Dame no longer drinks carbonated drinks and has given up beer, “which I miss terribly.”) What do you bring to a dinner party? I have a really great collection, and I’ll bring some interesting things to drink. And when my students do well, they get to go pick a bottle from my cellar. I actually have no idea what I have in there. But winemakers don’t make wine for you to look at it; they want you to drink it. Do you ever get hangovers? I don’t drink like I used to. You get older, you slow down, you start appreciating things more. I’m 63 and a little smarter than I used to be. Plus, with social media today, God only knows what photo they’re going to take of you. You don’t want people seeing it — you definitely don’t want your kids seeing it. What do you look for in a wine list? I like balance, so there are lots of things to pick from; whether big or small doesn’t really matter to me. The server and the chef are hugely important. Pet peeves? Things that used to really bother me don’t bother me much anymore — you just go with the flow. But I would have to say, people talking about things they really don’t know anything about. We call them, “M&Ms” — hard candy shell and very soft chocolate underneath. If you don’t know, ask. Trust me, in the world of wine, there is no stupid question. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.








t’s a beautiful summer night in Carmel Valley, and Jökull Júlíusson of Iceland finds himself a long, long way from home — 4,270 miles from home, in fact.

He basks in warm orange stage lights on stage at Folktale Vineyards’ massive barrel room, flanked by soaring racks of wine barrels and the members of Kaleo, one of hottest bands on the Atlantic Records label. The group’s gift for live shows has quickly earned placements in lofty projects as Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger’s HBO drama “Vinyl.” The vocalist/guitarist eases into a rich soulful folk-rock song called “Way Down We Go,” plucking chords from his silver-inlaid instrument. “Oh father, tell me/ we get what we deserve,” he sings, “Oh we get what we deserve.” Even though it’s been around a little over a year, Folktale is getting what it deserves — because it’s a long ways from what other wineries are doing. It just claimed California’s Winery of the Year for 2016 from the California Travel Summit. NorCal wineries double as concert venues with tribute bands regularly, but there are very few who coordinate with independent radio to bring in about-to-bust-out pop stars and bankable artists like Brett Dennan and Anderson East. Fewer still allow for a chance to listen in a close-quarters setting and meet the performers. Fewer still offer said artists a chance to stay and incubate more amazing music in the winery’s own storybook River House. Jeff White, program director at adored indy rock radio station KRML, has helped conduct the “Live in the Vines” concert series since its start. “It’s always intimate, always special,” he says, “and artists are encouraged to stick around and cultivate their muse. If you talk to an artist, the worst part is the grind: club, concert, club, concert, club, living in a van. They come here, hang out for a few days, get some rest, maybe do a little writing, record, and it’s more like an artist haven.”


By Liz Jeter and Mark C. Anderson Photos by Manny Espinoza

“There are very few who bring in about-to-bust-out pop stars and bankable artists like Brett Dennan and Anderson East.” SHAKERS > INSPIRING SPIRITS



There are other factors that differentiate Folktale. Most every wine tasting room does industry discounts. But none of them throw full-on hospitality night parties every month with free small plates from award-winning restaurants like Carmel hotspot Mundaka, complimentary wine tasting from overachieving ally wineries like Joyce Vineyards (and plenty of good Folktale Chardonnay Pinot Noir), plus games like giant Jenga and beer pong paired with vineyard sunsets. A number of Monterey County’s 80 or so tasting rooms manage social schedules, but a tiny fraction stuff their schedules like Folktale does, with regular Girls Nights Out, Taco Tuesdays, a new monthly Chef Duel “Iron Chef”-style cookoff. Last month it anchored a Sobranes Fire Relief Benefit that raised $100,000 (see photo, opposite). Penty of vineyards allow dogs, but this one is planning a dog park (though regional laws may prohibit it). It’s also the rare Monterey County wine house who makes both a sparkling California Brut and a sparkling Rosé. Both are as delicious as they are drinkable. Folktale warned people the fun was coming. As its youthful team consummated a stunning $12 million deal for the former Chateau Julien winery that took a full year to complete, it professed a penchant for taking chances and breaking the traditional winery mold. That team was led by owner Greg Ahn, who teamed with silent partner local grape growers, and also runs national brand Alcohol by Volume. On ABV/VOL’s landing page, a YouTube video features a kid crushing drums and this: “Welcome to ALC/VOL. It it’s too loud, you’re too old.”

On another spot on the website there’s a Kurt Cobain quote reading “Punk is musical freedom. It’s saying, doing and playing what you want.” Background info reveals ALC/VOL is the outgrowth of its founders’ aim to break corporate restraints to construct a company that allowed for more self-determination. In that vein, ALC/VOL used smart label design and industry contacts to build relationships with vendors, adding brands as they went. ALC/VOL continues to buy Monterey and Napa grapes to bottle under labels like Aviary and Bread & Butter, Manifesto, State of Art and Des Amis. A summer ago the group acquired the decorated — and high-market — Le Mistral Rhone-blend brand from based Ventana Vineyards in South Monterey County, which does a Syrah-Grenache red blend and a Viognier-Marsanne white. They also partnered with other area growers and promptly set about reimagining the Folktale grounds. That include ripping out vines and planting more Pinot Noir and coastal-climate-friendly varietals, but — more immediately — a smart reimagining of the property physically and philosophically by Carissa Duncan, who helped style popular regional places like Restaurant 1833, Cannery Row Brewing Company and Affina. One of her specialties is for character-rich details — think charred vintage doors and old barrel racks repurposed as tables. To capitalize on the valley sun and comely grounds, the Folktale crew encourages visitors to taste al fresco in the front yard area they call the “wine garden,” at tables or on pillows under courtyard trees, around the fire pits or on the lawn with picnic blankets.



“We integrated the design with the landscape, the branding, the labels and the retail experience,” Duncan says. “We’re trying to reach an effortless continuity.”

“It came down to storytelling and being a place where discovery is happening.”

Green roof pioneer Fred Ballerini of Pacific Grove, a selfdescribed “biological consultant,” took the lead on nativeheavy landscape design. Ahn was clear about the tone he wanted to set, with things like Friday-Saturday-Sunday “Sip, Sample & Be Social” sessions with live music and lawn games. “Welcoming, eclectic, and warm,” he says. “It came down to storytelling and being a place where discovery is happening.” The 15-acre property had long been a landmark on the Carmel Valley Wine Trail for its iconic French architecture, impressive winemaking machinery and the huge barrel room, which plays host to a number of dinners and other events. Now it’s a multidimensional community hub. It’s the sort of operation that defies stereotypes and expectations alike. When asked what’s next, Ahn describes the new vines they’re raising organically, plus cooking classes, a new food menu, restaurant pop-ups, an increased regional and national presence, and then adds something that would sound like hype — if it were coming from most everyone else. “Anything’s possible” he says. > More at www.folktalewinery.com.









Carlos Grijalva helped invent a Vegas business where there wasn’t one. By Joey Rappa | Photos by Manny Espinoza


e have all been placed in our own high-pressure situations, the kind that makes your throat dry and palms sweat. Whether it be a last minute PowerPoint presentation or the big speech at your best friend’s wedding, nerves can get frazzled. But there is one unenviable task which may top them: having to plan a blowout party weekend in the Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world.




“It was always, ‘You going to Vegas? You gotta call Carlos — he will hook you up.’” There are so many choices when deciding on the right hotel, restaurant, pool party, nightclub etc. The experience can be daunting, especially with your friends’ happiness dependent on your planning skills. Have no fear — enter Carlos Grijalva. His premium hosting company, All-Access VIP, is a one-stop shop that started organically because alleviating party throwing pressures for clients proved to be a highly valued commodity. So much so he’s been providing those services for 17 years running. Upon moving to Las Vegas in the late ’90s from Fresno, Grijalva found a city in transition. A new, family friendly Vegas had emerged. The city’s focus was changing from the Sin City gambling mecca to a resort destination where the kids and grandma were welcomed with open arms. That didn’t last long. By the end of the decade, Las Vegas was headed back to being an outlaw town, where adult nightlife and the birth of the Vegas club scene was beginning to emerge. For Grijalva, it became his opportunity. While serving as a bodyguard for celebrities, such as Sylvester Stallone and NSYNC, Grijalva began to forge relationships with the movers and shakers of Vegas nightlife. He began gaining access to exclusive parties, high-end restaurants and the most elite clubs. Most of these hotspots can be very exclusionary to those who don’t have an “in” or a bankroll (and grace) to grease the right palms. But Grijalva would consistently bring in the awareness clientele and in turn, his presence was always welcome and appreciated. “When I first moved to Vegas, it seemed every weekend I was entertaining guests,” he says. “Friends. Family. Friends of friends. It was always ‘You going to Vegas? You gotta call Carlos — he will hook you up.’” “And not only did I begin to enjoy it, but I realized that I was good at it.”



As many entrepreneurs will tell you, that game-changing idea is often right in front of you. Grijalva distinctly remembers the weekend that changed his path in life. An acquaintance called and had heard about his ability to obtain access all over the strip. Grijalva wasn’t particularly in the mood that weekend and declined. Then he was offered $500 for his time and the light bulb went on. Through word of mouth from satisfied acquaintances, the requests just kept on coming. He decided then he could expand his business and run it legally…and bigger. So he headed to the City of Clark County business licensing office.

crowds. And Grijalva had his business in place and was ready for the demand. After three whirlwind years of navigating clients through Vegas, he decided to open an All-Access VIP in Miami. The full service company is now 17 years old and both city businesses are flourishing. All-Access has full time executive hosts that handle all plans from the minute clients step off plane to the minute they leave town. Some clients, many international, can drop up to $300,000 for a weekend trip. In fact, he says about a third of his business is now generated from the International market. This type of client is certainly welcomed

“They just stared at me. They had no idea what kind of license to issue me.” “They just stared at me. They had no idea what kind of license to issue me. I wasn’t exactly a broker, but I was kind of brokering. Then they suggested travel agent, but I wasn’t really sending people anywhere.We certainly were the very first business of its kind here.” The timing turned out to be just right as the Vegas nightclub scene started to blow up in a way they had not previously. The clubs and pool scenes just got bigger and bigger, and started to become an even more major part of the Las Vegas economy. Mega resorts such as the Wynn and Encore began to shift focus away from chasing the gambling dollar and into their nightlife choices. Millions were spent on new venues up and down the strip. Bottle service, VIP rooms, and pool cabana’s became priorities to the party-going


and will be catered to but Grijalva stresses it’s not only the high-net worth individuals or high rollers who deserve to be treated with importance. “Most people just don’t have the right access,” he says. “We do. And no one likes waiting in these long nightclub lines. It’s frustrating and can ruin a night. Our staff escorts you and your party in personally. It makes a difference.” Grijalva says the bachelor and bachelorette parties tend to be the craziest groups and, in turn, can present quite a challenge to the staff. Understandably, a certain skill is required by staff when dealing with a large, often liquor-fueled group. And while most client requests are met, he says others simply cannot



be. Why? “They’re highly illegal!” he says with a laugh. Navigating Vegas the nightlife scene as a full-time host is certainly not for everyone. The long hours and general lifestyle can be grueling. Their late nights inevitably turn into late mornings before their clients decide to call it quits. Being a single guy with no attachments can certainly have its advantages. For Grijalva, his longtime single status ended recently when an attractive client named Jenny approached All-Access VIP for help with a special birthday party she needed to plan for a friend. He met with her and immediately decided to handle this party personally. The


birthday party held at Caesars Palace went off without a hitch. And now Grijalva and Jenny are engaged to be married early next year. The All-access VIP tag line promises the “Ultimate VIP Experience,” and if you take a look at the numerous testimonials from their website, it seems that Carlos Grijalva and his executive staff certainly seem to have made a lot of people very happy on both coasts. > More at allaccessvip.com.




Robot Rum and Other BevCon Lessons Takeaways from the first ever BevCon cocktail convention in Charleston. (And a peek into the future of rum.) By Mark C. Anderson



t’s 2 in the morning on a September night on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina. Our group is hearing voices—and it’s not the result of all the incredible spirits and concoctions we took down as part of the firstever BevCon conference. We stand in a room that’s completely white, except for an original copy of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine on a lone white pedestal at its center. The voice is cooly robotic, motion-triggered, with a South African accent. “Your host will be with you shortly,” it says. Bryan Davis walks through the door, wearing the Cheshire grin that he does so frequently, particularly when showing off his technology toys.

The voice belongs to his favorite creation, and continues through the tour, all the way to the artifact-laden tasting room. It’s also the one piece among many that has the greatest potential to change the world. He calls her Tessa, and she links all the amazing software machinery in the Lost Spirits brand-new distillery — a distillery so new, in fact, that this is only the second tour outsiders have ever enjoyed. Her software, which they hacked to work with several other operating systems, allows for near-complete automation of the spirits-making process, around the clock. That’s the worldchanging part: Making great products, including rum, with robots doing all the work. Digital sensors trip different parts of the machinery to kick in at any time of day or night; text messages are enough to add yeast. Davis, called “perhaps the most inventive booze maker in all America” by New York City’s The Daily Beast, understands this goes much bigger than liquor. “Wall Street builds value through deal structure, not by making stuff,” he says. “The use of technology from the Second Rise of Machines will break China’s economy, and redefine ours.” The most striking piece of the Lost Spirits process is its patented Targeted Hyper-Esterification Aging (or THEA) reactor, which gives rums and whiskeys the molecular flavor structure of a spirit aged 20 years. One of its recent result is Santeria Rum from partner brand Rational Spirits, a surprisingly smooth 92-proof pot-still dunder-pit-style creation with elements of toffee and charred banana. That was part of BevCon tastiest cocktail (and there were a lot of cocktails) at its closing party, a daiquiri by Nick Derich of New Orleans destination spot Cane and Table. That party, in turn, eventually led to the late-night distillery tour (and a stop by Waffle House). There’s no telling where Lost Spirits’ technology and instincts will lead them, but it will send ripples across an industry. > More at www.lostspirits.net.



We’re approaching peak mezcal. “All I used to do is explain the difference between tequila and mescal,” said Dylan Sloan of cult-hit Mezcal Vago at a packed tasting seminar. “Now we can really geek out about it.” He had fun insights into how it’s stone-ground and baked in earthen ovens, calling the old school manual practices “Oaxacan Crossfit.” He also described his number-one market (San Francisco) thusly: “Those hipsters, God bless them: They drink good coffee, and good booze, and ride their bikes, what’s not to like?” Not so fun: Said popularity, across the country (and demonstrated by the crowded tasting), means mezcal is now being consumed faster than the agave cacti can be planted. Dios mio. Bitters are going big. America was a little slow on the uptake, but now bitters are busting out, boosted by the popularity of negronis and barrel-aged cocktails. Brad Thomas Parsons, the man who wrote the book on bitters (Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All), led a tasting of American amaros (“amaro” is Italian for bitter, and the title of his book that publishes as this goes to press) riffed on the surprising versatility and vibrancy of a category that enjoys ancient history but is only now a widening phenomenon in the U.S. The Bruto Americano from St. George Spirits of Alameda, Calif., ranked among the standouts. “Every bottle has a story,” Parsons said. “They’re so aggressively herbal, they’re like cocktails unto themselves.” Craft spirits are crushing it. A Woody Creek Distillery rep — whose house is making tasty locally grown potato-made gin in Colorado — marveled at how many distilleries are popping up in his own Aspen Valley. No kidding. Artisan-style spirits are, in a word, exploding. This spring’s annual installment of American Distilling Institute’s national conference took a look at the meteoric rise. From 2010-2016 the number of current Distilled Spirits Permits, the federal permit required to operate a distillery, leapt from 560 to 1,825. Last year 400 DSPs were issued, a rate of more than one a day. This year the number of operating craft distilleries cracked 1,000 for the first time ever. Creative gins are gaining momentum. BevCon cofounder Scott Blackwell happened to be at his distillery when I visited the day before it would host BevCon’s opening party. He tasted me through some compelling and creative spirits made in a hand-hammered copper still visible through the tasting room window, like a whiskey made from sorghum grown on a Mennonite farm, a rare cane-juice rum (or rhum agricole) that sells out super fast, and the country’s first regional amaro (see “Bitters,” above). But it was a bottle of the Hat Trick Gin I ended up buying. After he taught himself to make gin with the help of a simple handbook, Blackwell spent weeks macerating ingredients in mason jars to see what combinations to add to his distilled juniper base. The result is a revelation, and High Wire’s flagship, riding a lively balance of lemon and orange peel, lavender, lemongrass, licorice root, cardamom, coriander and angelica root. —Mark C. Anderson







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Profile for Shakers Magazine

SHAKERS > inspiring spirits  

Here comes Shakers, our tribute to the best spirits — of both human and potable form.

SHAKERS > inspiring spirits  

Here comes Shakers, our tribute to the best spirits — of both human and potable form.


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