Judges Panel 2019

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.

Livio Lauro
Senior Director of Sales - Resort Spirits at Southern Wine & Spirits

Juyoung Kang
Lead Bartender, Venetian Resort Cocktail Collective

As the lead bartender at The Dorsey inside The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, Juyoung Kang has become an industry icon by working her way up in the ever-expanding world of bartending.

Kang began her career in her hometown of Philadelphia, shortly before making her way to Los Angeles, where she worked at prestigious luxury resorts including The Peninsula Beverly Hills and Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel.

In 2017, Wine Enthusiast named Kang on its list of "40 Under 40 Tastemakers," and was nominated by Eater Las Vegas as "Bartender of the Year." In 2015, she was the Nevada Restaurant Association's "Bartender of the Year" and, in 2014, won recognition as GQ and Bombay Sapphire's "Most Imaginative Bartender."

Tim McDonald

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

Tim is also the former Director of Wine Judging at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition.

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, and with Heublein Wines as Director of Trade & Public Relations.

Damian Cross

Damian Cross came to Las Vegas more than 12 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 developing 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 whisky 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.

Later in 2017, Damian took 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 helped build and develop the new Palms Beverage programs for Scotch 80, Unknown, and other new venues throughout the Station Casinos Portfolio. In his new role, at RSI as Director of Beverage Innovation, he is tasked with bringing a multi-faceted approach to customers in ideation, consultation, operations, and bar equipment design.

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.

Heather Manley
Owner, 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.

Eduardo Dingler

Eduardo A. Dingler moved to Napa from Mexico in 1999 following his passion for wine. Throughout the years he worked at some of Napa Valley’s iconic restaurants including Tra Vigne and Bistro Don Giovanni.

In 2010 he was part of the Morimoto Napa opening team as Beverage Director. In 2011, he assumed the role of Corporate Beverage Director; overseeing existing and new operations for the Morimoto Group including the opening of Morimoto Mexico, Morimoto Maui, Morimoto Asia Orlando and Momosan New York.

In September 2017 he started a journey in journalism, focused on wine, sake, food and travel. He has also taken on the role of sake and shochu ambassador by consulting for a number of Japanese breweries as well as founding sakedrinker.com, an upcoming educational Sake resource. He has gone through the Court of Master Sommeliers program and he is also a Certified Sake Professional.

Eduardo is a professional Wine, Sake and Spirits Judge for the San Francisco International Wine Competition, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Japan Wine Challenge and Japan Sake Challenge.

Eduardo currently writes for the Napa Valley Register and Decanter Magazine covering wine, sake, and spirits

H. Joseph Ehrmann
Proprietor, Elixir

H. Joseph Ehrmann, better known as H., started his career in 1986 as a cook on the beaches of New Jersey, under New Orleans’ renowned chef Duke Locicero. He went on to cook, serve, manage and bartend in Boston, Orlando, Washington DC, Vail and Phoenix before completing an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird (where he also bartended).

That degree landed him in Geneva, Prague, and Madrid where he spent several years traveling and studying the flavors, agriculture and traditions (as well as the distilleries, wineries and breweries) of Europe.

After the completion of his MBA, he worked in several countries, industries, and positions, building small and medium-sized companies as both an employee and consultant.

In January 2003, he left the corporate consulting world to return to his passion, the bar business. By November he had restored one of the oldest saloons in San Francisco and reopened it as Elixir, having worked at 18 different bars and restaurants around the country prior to that.

H. is widely recognized as a pioneering barman in the resurgence of cocktail culture over the last fifteen years. He and his cocktails have appeared in numerous major media outlets over the years, most recently he won the first ever “2018 Cocktail of the Year” at the San Francisco Wine and Spirits Competition, besting an elite crowd of fellow judges which includes some of the biggest names in the industry.

Education is a key component of his career and current work, founding and running The Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts (2009-2014), with classes for consumers and professionals alike.

In 2014, he became one of the few Certified Cognac Educators in the world, at the invitation of the cognac industry’s central organization, the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac and he was hired by the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) as one of four US Panel Members for the Authentic Caribbean Rums program (www.acr-rum.com). In 2017, he produced and co-presented the first-ever Armagnac Academy on the West Coast for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Armagnac and is poised to become the first-ever West Coast Armagnac Ambassador in 2019.

Craig Schoettler
Executive Director of Beverage and Corporate Mixologist, MGM Resorts International

In his role as Executive Director of Beverage and Corporate Mixologist at MGM Resorts International, Craig Schoettler uses his extensive culinary and beverage knowledge to position the company as a thought leader in the hospitality industry.

Schoettler graduated with a Culinary Arts degree from Johnson & Wales University in 2007 and from there, his hospitality journey began. Although he worked at Tru restaurant in Chicago during his college years, it was his move to the three-star Michelin restaurant Alinea that ignited his passion for exquisite cuisine and cocktails. Using these skills, Schoettler created a series of edible cocktails which spawned a new, simultaneous venture as executive chef at The Aviary, a highly acclaimed cocktail lounge and restaurant.

At Menin Hotels, Schoettler oversaw the Raffaelo Hotel in Chicago and transformed the property bar, Drumbar, into a sophisticated speakeasy concept with a highly refined beverage program that carried a worldly whiskey collection. With great success during his year with Menin Hotels, Schoettler received the attention of the AAA Five Diamond ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, where he accepted a position as the resort’s first property mixologist.

His ability to elevate the resort’s entire beverage program- from implementing a new take on creative classics to acquiring exclusive spirits- allowed ARIA to provide the highest quality of service and experience to its guests. As a result, he became the first Las Vegas F&B professional to win the 2014 Eater National “Young Guns” award, a prestigious honor that recognizes the best culinary and beverage professionals in the country.

Schoettler’s dedication to his craft has led him to win several awards including “Beverage Professional of the Year” from the Chicago Tribune and “National Bartender of the Year” from Eater National. His groundbreaking concepts also have been recognized through titles his bars have received such as Best New Bar from Time-Out Chicago, Ten Best Whiskey Bars in America 2013 from GQ Magazine and Outstanding Bar Program from the James Beard Foundation.

Judging Process

The 2019 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 June 12th, those highest scored spirits will be judged again to crown the Best of the Show categories.

On July 15th, 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.