People

Three Questions with Dave Wondrich, Gary Regan and Jeff Berry

Black and white portrait of Dave Wondrich
David Wondrich, cocktail historian and scribe. Photo: Danny Valdez.

It's hard to quantify the combined impact that Gary Regan, Dave Wondrich and Jeff Berry have had on our industry: between the three of them, they've won seven Spirited Awards in the "Best New Cocktail Book" and "Best Cocktail Writer" categories, and each has helped to deepen our industry's understanding of its own roots through their writing. From exploring the depths of tiki culture to bringing cocktail history to life to helping bartenders better understand their craft, these three scribes have been at the forefront of the cocktail and spirits community for years, and have expanded our knowledge and understanding all along the way.

In celebration of ten years of Spirited Awards, we've been asking a few of the past years' winners to share their thoughts on how the industry has changed since their award, and where they think it's going. (Don't miss our conversations with Audrey Saunders, Phillip Duff, Erick Castro, and Charles Joly.) Read on to see what these industry luminaries have to say about the craft bartending world's evolution:


Jeff Berry Few people know tiki quite like Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. Photo: Oliver Konig

Jeff Berry (winner, Best New Cocktail Book for "Potions of the Caribbean" in 2014)

How did things change for you after winning a Spirited Award?

Instead of just "author," now I can say "award-winning author." In my world, it doesn't get much cooler than that.

What are some of the biggest differences between the industry in the year you won, and the industry today?

Brand consolidation and more aggressive mass-marketing.

What are some of the positive changes that have happened in the industry when you won, and some of the negatives?

Negative: see above. Positive: More female-owned and operated bars.


Black and white portrait of Dave Wondrich David Wondrich, cocktail historian and scribe. Photo: Danny Valdez.

Dave Wondrich (winner, Best Cocktail Book for "Imbibe!" in 2008; winner, Best Cocktail Writing in 2009; winner, Best New Book for "Punch" in 2011; winner, Best Cocktail Writing in 2012)

How did things change for you and your career after winning your first Spirited Award?

The award served as acknowledgment that the bartender and spirits communities appreciated my book, something I wasn't sure would happen (a long, geeky book on 19th-century drinks with too many words and not enough points of easy action), and that pressed me to write "Punch" (which also won a Spirited Award!). Basically, it told me that I had found my audience, and I've been trying to serve that audience ever since.

Looking back on the last decade, what have been some of the biggest professional/creative challenges you’ve faced since the year you won?

Without a doubt the most difficult has been maintaining some token sobriety in a world of cocktail bars where the people making the drinks have read my book and know who I am.

What are some of the biggest differences between the industry in the year you won, and the industry today?

The craft wing of the bar world has kept expanding and now craft cocktail bars are everywhere. That's a good thing.


Gary Regan In addition to his 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, Gary Regan has won a number of accolades for his writing about the spirits and bartending worlds. Photo: Jimi Ferrara.

Gary Regan (winner, Best Cocktail Writing 2008; winner, Lifetime Achievement in 2012; winner, Best Cocktail Writing, 2013)

How did things change for you after winning a Spirited Award?

Winning a Spirited Award meant the world to me — just knowing that my peers were behind me, and getting the most coveted and most prestigious awards in our industry catapulted me on to strive for excellence.

What are some of the biggest differences between the industry in the year you won, and the industry today?

Every year bartenders raise the bar, and when I look back at my first award in 2008 I think of that as coming just as the cocktail revolution was beginning.

What are some of the positive changes that have happened in the industry when you won, and some of the negatives?

I believe that bartenders are starting to pay more attention to service within our industry, and that makes my heart glad. Negatives? I don't dwell on negatives.

SPONSORED
From our partners