Judges Panel

Steve Beal

Award Winner,
Spirits Judge & Brand Ambassador

Steve Beal is a very familiar figure to both the consumers who enjoy them and those in the trade who make and spirits. He has earned the respect of everyone he meets with his endless energy and passion for all things distilled and whisky in particular.

Before his retirement from corporate life, he served as fulltime official brand ambassador for some of the world’s iconic whisky brands. Many have come to consider him the unofficial brand ambassador for the category of whisky as a whole.

He is regarded as one of the top distilled spirits experts in America. For most of his whisky career, Steve was one of the spirits giant Diageo’s original Masters of Whisky and Sr. Master of Whisky for DIAGEO Spirits on the US West Coast at the time of his official retirement in 2015.

2017 – Became Chairing Judge for the International Wine & Spirits Competition, UK, the world’s oldest and largest blind tasting competition where has served as a panel judge for seven years.

2016 – He was honored with Life Membership – Lifetime Achievement Award by US Bartenders Guild at the Spirited Awards at Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans.

2015 – Became Chair the Judging for the World Whiskies Awards for the Americas for Whisky Magazine. He also judges the World Whiskies Awards in the UK

2015 – He was inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame together with Al Young of Four Roses Bourbon and Bill Samuels of Makers Mark.

2010 – He was created "Keeper of the Quaich", an honor bestowed only upon the elite of the Scotch Whisky industry. Fifty-two individuals from around the world were welcomed at Blair Castle in the heart of the Scottish Highlands for induction into the Keepers of the Quaich.

2000 – He became a founding judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a position he continues in to this day.

In addition to his former role as Master of Whisky, Steve is also known as a writer, chef, and broadcast personality. He judges for the American Distilling Institute, the American Craft Spirits Association, and the Ambrosia Spirits Awards in Mumbai.

He currently serves on the management committee of the US Bartenders Guild Master Mixologist program and is one of its founders.

Steve makes his home in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. He is a graduate of Oxford University and the University of Arizona. He holds a Master of Divinity Degree from The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California and is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church where he also serves in a voluntary capacity as assisting priest at San Francisco’s nearby Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill. He also volunteers his time working with the City’s homeless.

Mia Mastroianni

With over fifteen years of experience in the service industry from Boston to Miami, Mia Mastroianni became one of the founding bartenders of Soho House West Hollywood – the private members-only club where she remains a well respected and oft-requested mixologist for the who’s who of Hollywood.

Known for her tall figure and sassy fun attitude, “Tall Mia” has also opened Soho House locations in Miami Beach, FL and in Toronto, Canada – training their respective bar staffs on giving the highest quality of service, implementing proper technique, and executing incredible cocktails. A familiar face in competitions of the bartender elite, in 2012 she won the Speed Rack competition for fastest bartender for all of Southern California, has competed for the national title among the top contenders in New York twice, and recently moved to the judges table in Las Vegas 2015.

Her expertise led her to be cast as an expert mixologist on Spike Network’s highly rated TV show “Bar Rescue” for the last three seasons. She also frequently gives her thoughts on “Bar Rescue” episodes on the popular podcast “AfterBuzz TV”, produced by Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro. Her television presence also includes cocktail segments on “Morning Buzz Live with Nick Lachey” for the VH1 Network and The FABlife with Chrissy Teigen on ABC.

Mia stays current with industry and consumer trends by attending and speaking at various seminars and conferences, and continues her education in distillation by traveling to various distilleries. Mia’s also been a bar consultant on various feature films and regularly consults on new bar programs.

Follow her on Twitter @Tall_Mia and Instagram @TALLMIA

Damian Cross

Damian Cross came to Las Vegas more than 10 years ago from Upstate New York, looking to become a true beverage professional. In 2007 he landed his first job at Border Grill in Mandalay Bay where he helped to develop one of Las Vegas’ first fully seasonal and all fresh bar programs offered in the city. From there he oversaw the bar at Yolo’s Mexican Grill as Lead Bartender where he was responsible for developing menus, training, and managing the staff. In 2012, he joined Wolfgang Puck as the Head Bartender at CUT inside the Venetian Las Vegas. While at the helm at CUT, Damian was able to develop one of the top whiskey and craft cocktail menus in the city and spearheaded its beverage training program.

In 2015, Damian joined Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Las Vegas as Property Mixologist where he was instrumental in reviving the cocktail programs while driving standardization of policies and procedures within the properties’ 20+ bars. In 2017, he was instrumental in the successful reopening of Wynn Las Vegas’ anchor bars, Parasol Up and Parasol Down, crafting uniquely modern beverage programs for each venue.

Now, Damian has taken on a new role as the first ever Corporate Mixologist for Station Casinos, a premiere gaming and entertainment company with 20 casinos throughout Southern Nevada. In this new role, he will continue to drive innovation, build and strengthen teams, programs and overall quality at dozens of bars and restaurants.

Dänny Ronen

When global food and beverage suppliers, distributors and operators seek an educator with an expertise in spirit and cocktail development, sustainability and strategy, they regularly turn to Dänny Ronen. His passion and specialization in product development, operations and environmentally conscious practices has made him a sought-after advocate for forward-thinking movement in the food and beverage industry.

In 2001, Ronen launched DC Spirits, a premier food, wine and spirits educational organization. He is a frequent speaker and has hosted engaging seminars at VIBE, Natural Food Expo, Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Tales of the Cocktail, SF Cocktail Week, Arizona Cocktail Week and Green America, on topics such as sustainability in spirits, combining craft and profitability, fair trade practices and spirits/cocktail history.

Ronen conducts recipe and product development, event planning, staff education, brand-building and runs activations for such companies as Diageo, Moët Hennessy, Pernod Ricard, Campari, Anchor Distilling, Heaven Hill, Brown-Forman, Novo Fogo Cachaça Organica, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals and Fair Trade USA. He is also on the founding board of the United States Bartenders’ Guild National Charity Foundation, a group of hospitality peers dedicated to promoting community service, non-profit advocacy and charitable giving.

As Director of Education at Liquid Kitchen, Dänny is involved in beverage development and concept ideation, product innovation and activation, staff training and education, as well as new bar set up and openings. Under Dänny’s tutelage, national and international properties such as the Fairmont and Raffles Hotels have honed their beverage programs to incorporate workplace efficiencies, including recycling, composting and energy use, which produce both cost savings and better practices for the environment. In addition, many of the properties on which Ronen has revamped the cocktail program have seen immediate success – from the Long Bar at Raffles Makati in Manila, whose cocktail sales are over 80% of total F&B to the famed Tonga Room in San Francisco, whose cocktail sales doubled within the first five days of the new program and tripled soon thereafter.

Dänny’s writing and recipes can be found in featured media such as the New York Times, Vanity Fair, San Francisco Chronicle, Imbibe, Clear Channel’s Green Radio, Sunset and Tasting Panel. He also runs trainings, classes, tastings and presentations on such diverse topics as denomination of origin, production and global impact within spirit categories and has sat on judging panels for the LA Spirits Competition and WSWA. Ronen can be found experimenting and creating new flavors or curating exciting experiences near you. Please keep him away from butane torches, hand blenders and caffeine.

Anthony Alba

Anthony’s been in the food and beverage industry since the age of 14 when he was a dishwasher in a local pizzeria. In 2000 Alba found himself behind the bar for the first time at the Rum Jungle (a restaurant & Nightclub at Mandalay Bay Resort).

From there he went on to become the Property Mixologist for Rio hotel and Casino before taking over the mixology program for Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s Hotels. He currently works as the Training and Events Director for Liquidity Global, a consulting firm based in Vegas.

Over the last two decades Anthony has studied classic and modern cocktail culture, honed skills as a flair bartender and through his mastery of molecular mixology he’s frequently referred to as a Mad Scientist amongst his peers.

The former Vice President for the Nevada Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (U.S.B.G.), along with being involved in their Master Accreditation Program (M.A.) Anthony is one of only a handful of people in the country that were involved at the start.

During the inception of the initial program and through the M.A.’s development Anthony has lent his vision and wrote part of the testing standards for Spanish Brandies and Amari along with a few others categories.

The "M.A." is the bartenders and spirits equivalent to the Court of Master sommeliers accreditation, this certification system consists of three levels, Spirits Professional, Advanced Bartender, and Master Mixologist.


— Grand Champion (as part of team USA West) – 42 Below Cocktail World Cup International Finals, Queenstown, New Zealand 2007

— First Place – U.S.B.G. World Cocktail Competition, National Finals World Cocktail Competition, Long Beach, California 2008

— First Place – Iron Bar Chef – Mixology Matters Convention, West Palm Beach, Florida 2010

— First Place – (In the weeds challenge) "On the Rocks" The Search for Americas Top Bartender – LXTV in association with NBC Universal, Los Angles, California 2010

— Best Seminar – Mixology Matters Convention, West Palm Beach, Florida 2009

— First Place Best Cocktail – Mixology Matters Convention, West Palm Beach, Florida 2009

Heather Manley

Crooked Water Spirits

Heather Manley created Crooked Water Spirits off an infatuation for spirits and love for growing idiosyncratic brands that radiate life, values, quality and passion. Her main passions in life are family, food and spirits and most anything she does focuses around these. She enjoys thinking out of the box when it comes to spirit development and cocktail creation, Heather handles this entire process opting for unique finishings and spirit forward cocktails that are balanced but also allow you to taste the beauty of the spirit.

Crooked Water Spirits was established in 2013, when there was no available distillery to partner with for contract distilling in Minnesota. Through many conversations with distilleries in the Midwest, we ended up partnering with Yahara Bay Distillery in Madison, WI.

Heather is passionate not only about creating a vibrant spirits company with soul but she is also the sole creator of all of CWS’s recipes. Yahara Bay Distillery not only aligns with our morals and ethics, but with over ten years in the industry, they have the finesse CWS needed to make our recipes and the scalability we desired for growth.

We prefer to keep our attention on our spirits and reinvesting in our barrel program which allows us to focus on innovation, high proofing and pushing boundaries.

Crooked Water Spirits is a 100% woman-owned company has been recognized nationally, receiving numerous awards for our exceptionally tasty innovative products. Let Our Spirits Raise Yours.™


Multi Award Winning Portfolio, Nationally Recognized

First CERTIFIED WBENC women-owned spirits company in US

Recognized as an Innovator in Spirits in Minnesota 10/2016 (Mpls/St. Paul Mag)

Official spirits on Sun Country Airlines

A part of Walmart’s 2018 multi-state rollout of Made In America Initiative.

Robert E. Gonzales Jr.

Robert Gonzales is the San Francisco Spirits Specialist for Wine Warehouse. He has participated in the Beverage Industry since 2000, when he took a job as a bar back at a nightclub while in school. Fast forward to today, he is a well-respected spirits expert and mixology professional.

Robert earned his professional credibility in San Francisco by working closely with top industry names such as; Julio Bermejo, Tequila Ambassador to The Americas, David Nepove, National President of the United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG), Stephen Beal, Senior Master of Whiskey and Keeper of the Quaich, Marcovaldo Dionysus & Jacques Bezuidenhout - two of the world’s most respected and admired bartenders...just to name a few.

He has a large collection of accolades that certify him as an expert in all spirit categories, as well as mixology. Gonzales spent 5 years of his career on the road traveling North America and the Caribbean fulltime, moving from city to city fulfilling demands for spirits education and craft mixology.

Today, after having consulted on hundreds of bars & restaurants, trained thousands of bartenders, leading thousands of consumers in a variety of symposiums, workshops, and seminars around the continent on behalf of both Diageo & Beam Suntory, he is back in San Francisco.

Robert is a proud San Franciscan and is pleased to be working exclusively with Wine Warehouse and shares their dream of introducing California to our vast and growing portfolio.

Tim McDonald

Founder Wine & Spirits Spoken Here Communications Agency.

Tim has 40 years of proven success in the wine industry with positions in public relations, trade relations, marketing and sales, event management and wine education.

His experience includes positions at prominent adult beverage companies; such as E&J Gallo where he served as Marketing Director Fine Wine Communications, Peak Wines as V.P. of Marketing and Communications, Trinchero Family Estates as Director of Trade Relations, with Heublein Wines as Director of Trade & Public Relations, and sales assignments with both Seagram and Heublein Wine & Spirits.

Tim has experience with all types of Media, National Accounts, Wholesale Distributors, Restaurant, and Retail segments.

Tim has served as a Spirits & Wine Judge at over 200 Wine and Spirits Competitions here in North America. He's currently the Director of Wine Judging at the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the Chief Judge at the California Craft Spirits Competition and the Central Coast Wine Competition.

Tim speaks frequently on assembled panels at many spirits & wine industry events, and grows food with his wife Lisa.

Judging Process

The 2018 Global Spirit Awards Judges Panel is a group of highly experienced & decorated men & women, with tremendous and diverse spirits and mixology backgrounds.

The panel we have assembled perfectly fits the high level of quality and visibility that we wanted for our inaugural panel.

The judging process, itself, is conducted as a 100% blind tasting process from the early rounds all the way through the sweepstakes rounds.

As each entry is received, it is catalogued in our system and put into its most appropriate sub-category. During the competition, all the spirits in their respective and specific sub-categories are sampled together as flights, carefully evaluated from color to finish, and scored by each one of our spirits judges on that that flight.

Then, scores for each spirit are tallied. The few spirits that have the distinguished honor of being scored the highest will move on to our sweepstakes rounds.

In the early afternoon of Friday, July 13th, those highest scored spirits will be judged again to crown the Best of the Show categories.

On August 1st a worldwide press release will be sent out announcing all the winners as well as the overall Best of the Show winners. That announcement alone will be viewed by millions of people around the world in the industry as well as consumers in the public.

Each winner will also receive a one of kind medal, and a complete digital media kit including links to press releases, and multiple file format artwork for their use.