Judges Panel 2020

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.

Francesco Lafranconi
Beverage Consultant & Bar Design at Barman One LLC

A world-renowned mixologist, spirits industry educator and icon of cocktail culture, Francesco Lafranconi has won some of the world’s most prestigious cocktail competitions.

Along with the Bacardi-Martini Grand Prix World Final and John White Course in Singapore (both involving the I.B.A.); He is the recepient of the Bartender Hall of Fame Award from Bartender’s Magazine, the Raising the Bar Award from Cheers Magazine, Mixologist of the Year Award from Nightclub and Bar Magazine, Spirit Professional of the Year from Santé Magazine, Tales Of The Cocktail’s Golden Spirit Award and Best In Show at the Iron Mixologist Competition sponsored by Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Of America.

He also contributes his mixology expertise to national publications which include the Robb Report's Magazine: Host Guide, as well.

His proudest achievement is founding the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service in 2000. The 12-week education program has trained over 1,000 beverage professionals and imbued them with the same enthusiasm he brings to every cocktail.

He is also the proud inventor of the bar workstation known as The Racetrack, which is poised to revolutionize the beverage industry.

Formerly founder and managing partner of MR. COCO, a visionary cocktail lounge located at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under Francesco’s leadership, MR. COCO provided guests with a modern luxury experience, with consummate classic and signature cocktails, well-paired dishes, intimate world-class musical performances, and unmatched levels of service, raising the bar for cocktail culture in Las Vegas and beyond.

Francesco, previously to MR. COCO, served as Executive Director of Mixology and Spirits Educator for Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits of America.

His extensive knowledge and passion for his craft have made him a hit with his A-list celebrity clientele, world-class corporate clients, world renowned Michelin star chefs, national restaurant chains, international hotel companies and the thousands of people who’ve attended his seminars and live events around the world.

His distinguished career also includes tenures at the helm of some of the world’s leading hotel bars—The Gleneagles in Scotland; The Palace Hotel in Gstaadt, Switzerland; The Intercontinental Hotel in Cologne, Germany; and Harry’s Bar and Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy.

Francesco is a an honorary member of the United States Bartenders Guild (U.S.B.G.) and founding member of the U.S.B.G. Master Accreditation Program.

Since 2010, Francesco has been a member of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. He owns the Level 1 Sake Certification by the Japanese Sake Council and he is also an International Cognac Ambassador appointed with Gold Diploma by the B.N.I.C. (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac).

In March 2015, he also graduated from the Luis Ayala’s Rum University.

As a consummate connoisseur and industry ambassador who is passionate about sharing his knowledge with everyone he meets, Francesco is known worldwide for his catchphrase, “We’re not drinking, we’re learning.” ®

Tobias Gorn
Award Winning Writer and Consultant

Tobias Gorn is an award winning drinks and cigar writer and consultant based in the UK. In 2003, he began his career in the drinks industry and rose to become the sommelier of a Michelin star rewarded establishments and veteran of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Over the last decade, Gorn has dedicated his main attention to fine wine, whisky, gin and Cuban cigars. He enjoys judging for number of competitions and he’s also an enthusiastic clay pigeon shooter, official shooting instructor, coach and referee.

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.

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."

Eric Zandona
Director of Spirits Information,
American Distilling Institute

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Eric Zandona is Director of Spirits Information at the American Distilling Institute, a staff writer for Distiller magazine, and he also runs the website EZdrinking.com.

In addition, Eric has authored, edited and contributed to six books on distilled spirits, including The Bourbon Bible, and The Tequila Dictionary.

Eric serves as a "Tequila Jockey" for Tequila Aficionado's web-series Sipping off the Cuff, and regularly speaks about spirits before consumers, producers, and regulators, both in the US and Internationally.

In 2017, Eric began a year long residency in Oaxaca drinking, and learning about Mexican gin, rum, whiskey, and agave spirits. Today, he and his family live in Vancouver, Washington.

In 2018, Eric was a shortlist nominee for the International Wine and Spirits Competition's Spirits Communicator of the Year Award, and in 2019, the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s 13th Annual Spirited Awards Committee selected The Bourbon Bible as a Top 10 Nominee for Best New Book on Drinks Culture, History or Spirits.

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

Livio Lauro started his beverage career more than 25 years ago in Southern Italy at the famous Club Valentino, and later at the cocktail-centric Dolce Vita; both located on the beautiful island of Ischia in the heart of the Mediterranean.

The recipient of several prestigious awards in international cocktail competitions, Livio was recognized in 2002 for passing the final Capo Barman AIBES exam, the most prestigious testing series sanctioned by the Italian Bartenders Association.

Livio is widely recognized as one of the most instrumental figures in the resurgence of the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) and is the founding President of the Guild’s Master Accreditation program which is the premier national testing body for bartenders in the United States.

His seminars are routinely featured at major beverage trade shows and are recognized as being both innovative and trendsetting.

Since 2001, Livio has been employed by Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits in Las Vegas and works alongside the foremost distillers and beverage importers in the world.

Livio also works with many of the most recognizable hospitality corporations by assisting them in the development of successful and profitable Beverage initiatives.

Livio owns some 400 vintage and modern books on mixology, hospitality, alcoholic beverages, and drinking culture, he’s incessently passionate about his research on these topics.

Livio is also the author of the Liquid Legacybook and the co-author of The Twelve Cocktailsand The Beverage Engineer.

Michael Page
Beverage Development Manager, Breakthru Beverage Group - Nevada

Michael Page is a true veteran of the restaurant industry. He grew up working in his family’s restaurant; Page’s Restaurant in Hinsdale, Ill., where he worked next to his father from an early age, building the 48-seat business into one of the most iconic breakfast diners in the state. With food and hospitality being an integral part of his upbringing, Page has a unique perspective into the beverage industry at large.

While he always enjoyed working in the restaurant scene, Page worked as a graphic designer during college, and continued to pursue a career in graphic design until he discovered an interest in bartending. “I wanted to know more about the liquor side of the restaurant business, I always knew my heart was in food and drink!” He began bartending at a friend’s nearby restaurant, Old Barn in Burbank, Ill. There, he learned the basics of bartending while studying classic cocktail recipes, processes and techniques.

After working a few years in service bars, lounges, beer gardens, and banquet halls he had sought to pursue a more a more artistic and creative path to his passion. Page joined the culinary team at Vie Restaurant, led by renowned executive chef and owner Paul Virant, whom he credits as an inspiring force behind his innovative flavor combinations. Page takes a hyper-seasonal approach to his craft, specializing in bringing much of his craft into a kitchen. After an eight year tenure at Vie, Page spent six years working with the almost legendary Chicago restaurant family of Billy Lawless, working at many of his installments including Acanto, The Gage, and the former Henri. Here he perfected the art of hospitality and service, further expanding his knowledge of the intricacies of the restaurant and bar industry.

Currently Page works for BreakThru Beverage in Nevada as the Beverage Development Manager; bringing with him over 15 years of beverage service knowledge, a lifetime of experience in the restaurant/hospitality industry, with certifications in the knowledge/production of fine spirits, beer, and wine.

Page’s work has been featured in several local publications, as well as national publications, most notably; Food & Wine, Imbibe, and in Chef Paul Virant’s cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves and Aigre-doux.

Colin Asare-Appiah
Senior Portfolio Ambassador Bacardi

As one of the spirits industry’s most well-known and liked pioneers and trendsetters, Colin Asare-Appiah, Trade Director Culture and Lifestyle and winner of the 2016 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for “Best American Brand Ambassador”, has been making waves and setting industry standards since he first got his start in the industry over three decades ago.

Born in Ghana and raised in the UK, Colin began on this path as the original cocktail guide for BBC’S “The Good Food Show” with Anthony Worrel Thompson and started consulting on a myriad of spirit brands, truly immersing himself in all things spirit and cocktail right at cusp of the craft cocktail revolution.

From there, at the age 22, Colin co-founded the bar school, London Academy of Bartending along with industry professionals Douglas Ankrah, Richard Hargroves, Alex Turner and Andrew Chan-sing with the goal of teaching everything they had learned to rising bartenders, colleagues in the industry and beverage companies.

Due to its immense success, the business morphed into a bar and was globally recognized as LAB, has become a renowned and benchmark establishment in the industry.

Since then, Colin has worked with numerous spirit brands, celebrity chefs, cocktail bars and industry experts across the globe. He managed the bar at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Babington House and starred in his own show “The Cocktail Kings” on the DISCOVERY Channel where he and a co-presenter travelled around the world creating bespoke cocktails to reflect their destinations. The show is still being aired in Asia and South America.

In his current role, Colin is in charge of fostering brand advocacy for the Bacardi USA Brand Portfolio, building brand loyalty and elevating the bartending community as a whole through brand focused educational programming, events and seminars. His expertise and spirits knowledge has been featured in Imbibe, Complex, WSJ, TIME and Cocktail Lovers Magazine to name a few. Colin currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and sons.

Ziggy Eschliman
“The Wine Gal”

Ziggy Eschliman is among America’s most enthusiastic, authoritative and entertaining libation experts. For more than 25 years, Ziggy, known worldwide as “The Wine Gal” has set and reported trends in wine, spirits and all things to imbibe.

Her wine country lifestyle brand, ZigStyle, embraces the art of life, entertaining, wine, cocktails and gardening. Her award winning radio shows have a long time loyal following and are broadcast on FM stations and stream worldwide.

Her writings are featured in lifestyle and libation based publications. As a wine and spirits expert, Ziggy is a lead judge in both international spirits and wine competitions.

Ziggy is a dynamic guest speaker, educator and presenter. ZigStyle is embraced in all she does and is a welcome, catching, organic approach to our busy lives.

Judging Process

The 2020 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 September 16, those highest scored spirits will be judged again to crown the Best of the Show categories.

On October 12, 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.