Bridget Albert | Eric Alperin | Jacques Bezuidenhout | Chris Bostick | Stephen Cole | Ron Cooper |Leo DeGroff | Marco Dionysis | Tomas Estes | Steve Fowler | Tommy Klus |Ryan Thomas Magarian | Jim Meehan | Junior Merino | Jeff Morgenthaler | Steve Olson |Patricia Richards | Eric Rubin | Joaquín Simó | Kelley Slagle

Bridget Albert
Member since January 2011
Bridget Albert - Tequila Interchange ProjectBridget Albert developed her techniques and talent tending bar at great establishments most notably the $1.6 billion Las Vegas resort, the Bellagio. She studied under Master Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim and completed his cocktail and spirit program. Bridget is the author of “Market Fresh Mixology” .

Bridget is a champion for uncomplicated recipes, bright flavor, and fresh ingredients. She designs cocktails for the top restaurants, bars, hotels and lounges in the state of Illinois. She has won numerous awards and honorable mentions in U.S.B.G. and Bellagio classic cocktail competitions. This includes 1st place at the Tale of the Cocktail Bar Chef Competition, 2nd place at the Bacardi Martini Grand Prix World Finals in Turin, Italy, 3rd place in the Pitu Cacacha Nationals in Las Vegas, and 1st place in the Bellagio Classic Competition. She has had the pleasure of hosting charity cocktail clinics for a variety of companies, including the Bellagio, Locks of Love ,Sky Blue, Cocktail for a Cure, Make a Wish Foundation, Hadassah, and Taste of the Nation. Bridget was a part of Livio Lauro’s team of curators for the Museum of the American Cocktail at the 2004 U.S.B.G. National Convention, the world’s largest contribution to the cocktail to date. Currently she holds the position as Master Mixologist at Southern Wine and Spirits of IL. Bridget is the Director of the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service, a program for bartenders that covers the history of all spirits and pre-prohibition cocktails. She has been feature in the following publications and TV programs: Bloomberg Wire, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Gourmet Magazine, Bartenders Magazine, Wine Spectator, Cheers Magazine ,Night Club and Bar Magazine, The Balance, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Red-Eye, Joliet Herald News, Time Out Chicago Magazine, Coal City Courant, Chicago Scene, Chicago Social, BBC, CNN, CNBC, Daily Buzz Show, Exploring Joliet, Louisville, Ky. Morning Show, Fox News Chicago, NBC5 Taste, First Look, CBS Morning News Chicago, ABC Morning News Chicago, Roe Con Show WLS, Martha Stewart Radio, CLTV,, and Food Network Iron Chef America.

Bridget’s hopes are to continue inspiring consumers to learn and spread her love for knowledge of liquors and fine spirits. She resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Jamie, and daughter, Paige, where she continues to create new cocktails.

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Eric Alperin
Member since January 2011
Eric Alperin - Tequila Interchange ProjectEric hails from New York City. Having relocated just three years ago to Los Angeles, he feels fortunate to have found a small, passionate, and ever-growing cocktail community. Eric came to The Doheny from Osteria Mozza (owned by Batali, Bastianich & Silverton) for which he created and managed the restaurant’s epicurean liquor and cocktail program. At Mozza, he coupled cocktails with food, managed and trained servers and bartenders, ordered and organized the liquor selection weekly and had his cocktail list praised by “Your LA” (NBC), “After Hours With Daniel” (MOJO), and Vogue. Most recently he was profiled in the Tasting Panal magazine for America’s Best Bar Chefs, The New Cocktailians for LA Weekly and the LA Times.

Eric started serious bartending by making cocktails at breakneck speed while at The Screening Room, a downtown NYC Lounge/Restaurant/Film Venue. Eric’s desire for more crafted cocktailing brought him to Lupa (owned by Batali, Bastianich, Denton & Ladner) where he made and created cocktails with a strong Italian accent. Eric’s experience with Italian liquors, amaros and grappas provide him with a broad base for cocktail creation and modification. From there he moved on to Sasha Petraske’s Milk & Honey and Little Branch, both in NYC. At these two classic cocktail bars, Eric learned the method, precision, style and roots of making classic cocktails. The importance of fresh ingredients and the care that goes into choosing liquors were hallmarks of his time there.

In May of 2008 Eric finished training at the Beverage Alcohol Resource (B.A.R.) in New York City, where he received his B.A.R. Ready certification. He consults on his own and is also partnered with aka Wine Geek, owned by Steve Olson & Andy Seymour. In early 2009 he opened his own cocktail lounge, which he co-owns and operates (with Sasha Petraske and 213 Inc) in Downtown Los Angeles, THE VARNISH (213.622.9999). He is also the elected Vice President of the So Cal USBG Chapter.
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Jacques Bezuidenhout
Member since June 2011
Jacques Bezuidenhout - Tequila Interchange ProjectJacques began his career as a bartender 16 years ago, working in bars and restaurants in South Africa. It was not until living in London that he grew to appreciate and love the art of bartending, eventually working his way to becoming a graduate of the prestigious BAR program in New York, directed by Paul Pacult, Steve Olsen, Dale De Groff, Dave Wondrich and Doug Frost.

Upon relocating to San Francisco in 1998, Jacques began working at the Irish Bank Bar & Restaurant where he created what many believe to be one of the most extensive Scotch Whiskey selections in the Bay area at the time. Since then, Jacques has been the opening consultant for a number of respected bars and restaurants, has served as a Brand Ambassador for Plymouth Gin, and accepted a position with Partida Tequila as their National Cocktail & Tequila Ambassador.

Under the direction of Jacques and Julio Bermejo, Tres Agaves in San Francisco won the “Spirits Restaurant of the Year” award from Sante magazine in 2006. He has been voted Best Bartender in San Francisco by Anthony Dias Blue and is a judge in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition as well as the Ultimate Spirits Competition run by Paul Pacult. Additionally, his community outreach has been instrumental to the launch of the United States Bartenders Guild chapter in San Francisco.

Most recently, Jacques has taken on the role of Master Mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ nearly 50 restaurants and bars throughout the country. As the chief consultant for Kimpton’s brand-wide beverage program, Jacques oversees the company’s individual and national spirits menus and works closely with newly opened Kimpton restaurants and bars on conceptual projects.

Jacques spends his spare time learning about Spirits, Beers and Wines as well as visiting Distilleries and Wineries to further his knowledge.
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Chris Bostick
Member since June 2011
Chris Bostick - Tequila Interchange ProjectOriginally from Austin Texas, Chris Bostick first began his career slinging margaritas over 15 years ago. He has lived and worked in New York City, honing his craft at such establishments as Mirezi, Blue Water Grill, and Zocalo. After taking an elbow to the face on a crowded subway train, Chris decided he’d had his fill of the Big Apple, and moved back to Austin, where he took charge of the bar program at Fonda San Miguel. In 2007, Chris thought he’d try his hand again at big city life, so he hitched his wagon and headed west. Since moving to LA, Chris has worked at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and is currently the General Manager of the Varnish in downtown Los Angeles. In 2009, Chris earned his Bar Ready status from the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Five Day Seminar in New York City.

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Stephen Cole
Member since June 2011
Stephen Cole - Tequila Interchange ProjectStephen Cole is a Manager and Bartender at The Violet Hour in Chicago, IL. His story began in a small farming town in Missouri where early on he set his sights on the culinary world. After receiving a Culinary Arts Degree from California Culinary Academy, Stephen’s journey led him from coast to coast working many different positions from dishwasher to Sous Chef. He even traveled to Barcelona to work at the famed Michelin Star restaurant…. These experiences taught him the importance of hard work and the humility that in life there is always something more to learn.

A few years back Stephen was offered the position of bartender at the Violet hour after being recognized for his hard work ethic in the kitchen and impeccable palette. Always up for a new challenge, he accepted the offer and has been bartending at the Violet Hour ever since. Now as both Manager and Bartender, Stephen looks after all aspects of the bar Restaurant including menu development, staffing, scheduling, financials but most importantly the overall happiness of his quests and coworkers.

Stephen’s next dream is to use these experiences to build the foundation of his own bar/restaurant where his expertise in cocktails coincides with his passion for the restaurant industry.

To contact Stephen, please email at or just call him on his cell at 773-208-3592.

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Ron Cooper
Member since July 2012
Ron Cooper - Tequila Interchange ProjectRon Cooper, Founder of DEL MAGUEY, Single Village Mezcal and an internationally recognized Artist, has resided and worked in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico for the last thirty years and spent much of his time in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca for the last eighteen years. In 1990 living and making art in the state of Oaxaca he traveled far into the countryside following rumors of great pure mezcals made by Zapotec farmers, hours out dirt roads far from the capitol. He met many Palenqueros (makers), studied their production techniques handed down from father to son or daughter for generations, tasted, collected, and vowed to make this unknown elixir available outside the villages where they are made. This more than 500 year old spiritual beverage is untainted by commercial demands. One of the few spirits in the world alive in the mythical past, they retain the mysteries and embrace the notion of alcohol as a gift from the gods.

DM supports the amazing biodiversity and rich, cultural heritage of Oaxaca. Having developed meaningful relationships with it’s Zapotec, Mixe and Mixtec Mexican Indian producers, DM has organized and improved communications, implemented greatly increased stable and planned annual incomes and sanitary conditions for the palenqueros and their extended families, emergency medical support, ecologically beneficial agricultural educational programs to achieve sustainable, certified organic production.

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Leo DeGroff
Member since June 2011
Leo DeGroff - Tequila Interchange ProjectLeo DeGroff started his career behind bars long before he was able to order a drink at one. The son of cocktail legend Dale DeGroff, Leo began his career at the age of eighteen assisting his father at all types of cocktail functions. Learning at the right –hand of King Cocktail himself, Leo quickly found that he too had a passion for the ‘craft of the cocktail’. This passion drove him in his earliest days in the industry, when, along side Dale, he was producing handcrafted cocktails in volume at events all over the world. Together they created cocktails and conducted bar trainings from Russia to the Carribean, aboard cruise ships and at countless restaurants and events, making drinks for everyone from Bobby Flay to Oprah Winfrey.

Leo has produced cocktails and help run events at many top culinary and beverage festivals, a list that includes: The Food and Wine Aspen Classic, South Beach Food and Wine Festival, Las Vegas Nightclub and Bar Show, New York Bar Show, The Telluride Wine Festival, The James Beard Awards, Tales of the Cocktail and The Manhattan Cocktail Classic. He has been a major part of running events for The Museum of the American Cocktail since its’ inception.Leo’s experience has included several important stages. After stints at groundbreaking New York restaurant, nightclub and cocktail destination, BED, and working for Audrey Saunders at cocktail Mecca, Pegu Club, Leo has focused his time on running events and working with some of the top people in the beverage industry, to broaden his knowledge on spirits and cocktails.

From his days at BED, Leo formed a relationship with Willy Shine and Aisha Sharpe and has worked with them and their company, Contemporary Cocktails, to produce countless events. In 2006, Leo was part of the team that ran the first 5-day class for Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR), becoming an integral part of the BAR team. Leo is a graduate of BAR at the highest (BAR Ready) level, and is currently working on his BAR Masters certificate.In 2008, Leo began working full time with Steve Olson and Andy Seymour at aka wine geek. As a key member of the team, Leo helps aka wine geek execute high profile cocktail events, implement beverage programs and teach beverage professionals all over the world about spirits and cocktails.

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Marco Dionysis
Member since September 2010
Marco Dionysis - Tequila Interchange ProjectMarco Dionysos has spent over a decade at the forefront of the San Francisco cocktail scene. He created the celebrated cocktail program at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in 1997, featuring classic & vintage cocktails from his library of over 300 cocktail books. Since then, Marco has worked in many of the city’s finest watering holes including Stars, Bourbon & Branch, Tres Agaves, Smugglers’ Cove, and Harry Denton’s Starlight Room. He created the beverage program for the Michael Mina Clock Bar in the historic Westin St. Francis, and recently started a specialty cocktail catering service with Scott Beattie & H. Joseph Ehrmann (HMS Cocktails). Marco’s cocktails have been featured in many publications, including Playboy, GQ, Cheers, Wine Spectator, 7 X 7, Nation’s Restaurant News, Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine, Angelinos Magazine, MarketWatch, Where Magazine, & Nightclub & Bar. Marco Dionysos was one of the founding members of the San Francisco Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, and has competed as the American delegate at the Beefeater International Bartenders Competition in Barcelona and the PanAmerican Cocktail Competitions in Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

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Tomas Estes
Tomas Estes - Tequila Interchange ProjectGrew up in the east side of Los Angeles, California, The second largest Mexican settlement after Mexico City. Went to Amsterdam Holland to start the first Mexican restaurant and bar in Europe of its kind in 1976. This was literally prehistory in the world of tequila.

Went on to start 17 Mexican restaurants with bars in 6 countries. Currently owns and runs restaurants and bars in London, Paris and Sydney. Have been serving tequila and tequila based drinks, notably the margarita since 1976. To date have served over 8 million margaritas.

Have written numerous articles in trade journals and consumer press in the U.K., France, Australia and Mexico. Recently finishing a book on tequila, ‘’The Tequila Ambassador’’.

Was recognized by the Mexican National Tequila Chamber , -the C.N.I.T.- as official Ambassador in 2003 due to extensive promotional work on tequila around the world.

Speaks regularly at trade shows , the latest having been in Moscow where Tomas organized the entire tequila pavilion bringing 6 participants from Mexico to help with the presentation. Busy with various presentations on tequila around the world to large and small groups.

Started the brand Tequila OCHO in 2008.

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Steve Fowler
Member Since September 2010
Steven Fowler - Tequila Interchange ProjectSteve Fowler is the General Manager of Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, José Andrés’ award‐winning Mexican restaurant in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC. Fowler was brought on in the spring of 2006 and helped oversee the restaurant’s successful move from Crystal City to Penn Quarter. A natural teacher, Fowler developed employee training programs that improved staff retention as well as mentored and trained two employees who went on to become general managers at other ThinkFoodGroup outlets. He also developed Oyamel’s widely respected tequila program that earned the restaurant the coveted Agave De Oro award from the Tequila Regulatory Counsel. While working at John Harvards Brewhouse, a brew‐pub in Philadelphia, Fowler became fascinated with the beverage side of the restaurant business especially the brewing of beer. Over the course of the five years he worked for John Harvards, Fowler learned about the art of brewing and worked his way up from bartender to manager. After John Harvards, Fowler went to work for Capital City Brewing Company which owns several brew‐pubs in Washington, DC and northern Virginia. Over the 18 months he was employed with Capital City, Fowler worked at different locations as manager and later general manager. Among his responsibilities, Fowler was responsible for brewery operations. Fowler holds an Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and has completed the Court of Master Sommeliers certificate. He also completed the BarSmarts Advanced certification in the spring of 2010. After graduating from the University of Dayton with a degree in sociology, Fowler briefly worked doing post‐production on the television series “The Apprentice” before deciding on a career in the restaurant business. A gifted soccer player, Fowler was part of the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program in his teens. Originally from Philadelphia, Fowler now lives in the Penn Quarter section of Washington.

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Tommy Klus
Member Since July 2012
Tommy Klus - Tequila Interchange ProjectTommy Klus is a Portland, OR native and an enthusiastic driver of the spirits culture in his hometown. Was beverage director at Bluehour, helped to open St Jack, and former barman of Teardrop Lounge. He’s long been committed to both education and cocktail technique. He’s also appreciative of the history of the bar, always willing to partner with the terrific bartenders of the Northwest, and eager to learn as much as he can. 
Formerly a board member of the Oregon Bartenders Guild, Tommy has had the opportunity to advocate for the community while planning ever-off beat but always successful industry events. His passion is to learn and his love to travel has taken him to Tokyo to study Japanese bartending technique, Louisville for bourbon, to Oaxaca for an immersion in mezcal with Del Maguey, and more recently he’s just returned on an awarded scholarship from the Tales of the Cocktail Trustees to Islay Scotland, studying under Master Distiller Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich. Additionally he is now a three time returning senior apprentice at Tales of the Cocktail.  While he still runs off to Scotland every chance he gets, Tommy can usually be found at KASK cocktail bar where he currently is the bar program director. 

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Ryan Thomas Magarian
Member since June 2011
Ryan Magarian - Tequila Interchange ProjectFor the past decade, Ryan’s unique “chef like” approach to mixed drinks along with the development of several innovative and efficient Professional Cocktail and Spirit Service Cultures locally, nationally, and internationally, has gained him recognition as one of America’s top mixologists.

Based in Portland, OR., Ryan oversees the day to day operations of Liquid Relations™ and contributes to the ongoing development of Aviation Gin, his partnership with Portland’s own House Spirits™. Always pushing for consistency and innovation, Ryan has a singularly unique and purely recognizable approach to his craft that allows for a balance of creative and richly flavored cocktails, consistent drink production, speed, and well- honed technique. In his years “behind the stick” and on the consulting front, Ryan has worked extensively with world renowned culinary pioneer Kathy Casey at Kathy Casey Food Studios® in Seattle, WA., received a nomination as Best Bartender in the city of Portland (Citysearch; 2000), was named Best Bartender in Seattle (Seattle Magazine; 2002), received a coveted Tastemaker Award (Food and Wine Magazine; 2004) and, most recently, was tapped as Seattle’s Best Mixologist (Seattle Weekly; 2005). Additionally, Ryan’s recipes and Cultures have garnered notice in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Food and Wine Magazine, Bon Appetit, People Magazine, US Weekly, Men’s’ Health, Details, Wallpaper, Food Arts, Fit Pregnancy, The LA Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Gary Regan’s Joy of Mixology, Dave Wondrich’s Imbibe, Robert Hess’s The Essential Cocktail Guide, and have been featured on both the Food Network’s Unwrapped and the Women’s Entertainment Channel’s Young, Sexy, and Cookin’.

Ryan’s style and influence can be experienced, in person, at such celebrated watering holes as The Penthouse @ The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, CA., Westside Tavern in Westwood, CA., Victor Tangos in Dallas, TX., The Jade Bar @ Sanctuary Resort in Paradise Valley, AZ., and, internationally, at the Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore. Additionally, Ryan can be found doing ongoing focused cocktail development, seminars, and bar trainings for a wide range of luxury spirit brands, while indulging his passion for creative writing through contributions to NW Stir Magazine and Mixologist: Journal of the American Cocktail.

Currently, Ryan finds himself successfully growing Aviation Gin, while continuing to develop precise and passionate Cultures of Cocktail and Spirit Service for Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, The Hatch Group, and the Hong Kong based Blue Blazer Hospitality at locations around the globe

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Jim Meehan
Member since January 2011
Jim Meehan - Tequila Interchange ProjectJim Meehan is a New York City based bar operator, consultant and writer whose passion for beverage service has helped him become one of the most celebrated bartenders in the industry.
His career began in 1995 as a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he worked his way through school as a bartender. In 2001, he moved to New York City where he honed his skills in fine dining and developed his palate at Five Points Restaurant and Pace (now closed). Three years later, he got an opportunity to showcase his talent behind the bar at both Gramercy Tavern and The Pegu Club. In 2007, he was recognized as a rising star mixologist by Star Chefs Online Culinary Magazine.
Meehan is currently a managing partner of PDT: a hidden cocktail lounge attached to a legendary East Village hot dog stand where he serves local beer and wine and features classically inspired seasonal cocktails he develops with his bartenders. PDT and it’s staff have received numerous awards and accolades including a 2009 spirit award for “World’s Best Cocktail Bar” at Tales of the Cocktail. The ongoing success of the bar has earned Meehan a second rising star award from Cheers Magazine and a spirit award for “American Bartender of the Year” in 2009
In addition to his work behind the bar, Jim is a contributing editor of Food & Wine Magazine’s annual cocktail book,,, Mr. Boston’s Bartender Guide and Sommelier Journal. He has created cocktails for spirits companies, lectured and mixed drinks at local and international trade shows and works with the acclaimed B.A.R. team as a cocktail and spirits educator. Jim and his cocktails have been featured on television and the radio as well as in books and magazines: both locally and internationally.

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Junior Merino
Member Since September 2010
Junior Merino - Tequila Interchange ProjectIt is no surprise master mixologist Junior Merino The Liquid Chef has built his career on fusing exotic, unexpected flavors: He grew up in the culinary melting‐pot of Central Mexico. Beginning when Junior was just 10, his food loving parents taught him to cook with local produce ranging from indigenous cocoa beans, to pomegranates native to the Middle East, to cilantro, which has Mediterranean roots. Despite all these foods’ varied origins, Junior saw that in combination, they created harmony‐‐planting in him an early passion for culinary mestizaje or blending diverse flavors. It’s a technique that’s helped Junior rise quickly in his field along with his intense work ethic. After immigrating to the United States at age 16, Junior rapidly progressed from busboy to bartender, and eventually to beverage manager at Roth’s Westside Steakhouse in New York all while attending high school and studying English and graphic design. At Roth’s, the wine list Junior put together‐‐his first ever‐‐won an award of excellence from Wine Spectator. Within months, Junior was initiated into the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Guild of Sommeliers. Experiments with creating his own cocktails while at Roth’s and later at The Modern spurred Junior to enter the International Bar Show’s best cocktail competition in 2005‐‐where he won first prize for his drink, “Coming Up Roses”.Since then, Junior has created signature cocktails for dozens of restaurants and bars across the world, including New York’s Rayuela, Cafe Frida, 42 (located in the Ritz Carlton, White Plains,NY), Rix (located in Coronado Springs Resort, Walt Disney World, FL) and the Modern; Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple show; Tokyo’s ANA Hotel; and Mexico City’s famed Izote restaurant, Crudo by Don Pedro, among many others. He has also created unique cocktails for numerous liquor companies, including Leblon Cachaca, Russian Standard Vodka, Siembra Azul Tequila,Castries, Combier, and Domaine de Canton. Due to his well‐known creativity, Junior has won a”Rising Star” award from Star Chefs and a special recognition from Bartender Magazine in which he was inducted to the 2007 Bartender Hall of Fame and in 2008 received a recognition by LesToques Blanches. 2009 brought the Liquid Chef a year to remember. In just a few short months, Junior Merino launched a cocktail program on board Mexicana Airlines as well as one on Celebrity Cruises Equinox. Also, Junior launced his line of products: foams, syrups, mixers,and salts.In 2006, Junior decided to create a company that would focus nature’s bounty into creative and one of a kind drinkable masterpieces within The Liquid Lab. The Liquid Chef, Inc. was founded to educate , create new experiences, and to show case the artistry and mixability of ingredients and liquors from all over the world. In 2008, Junior Merino added The Liquid Team, Mixologists which he trained to execute his vision, philosophy and his passion. Always eager to share his extensive knowledge of spirits and ingredients, Junior has been featured in Gourmet, MarieClaire, Time Out, Latina, Food & Beverage, the New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, and NewYork Magazine, among many others, and has appeared on BBC Radio, Martha Stewart Radio,Fox & Friends and Televisa. He’s currently working on a book.

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Jeffrey Morgenthaler
Member since January 2011
Jeffrey Morgenthaler - Tequila Interchange ProjectJeffrey Morgenthaler has been tending bar since 1996, in everything from neighborhood taverns and college nightclubs to fine restaurants and upscale lounges. He currently manages the bar at celebrated restaurant Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon. Jeffrey has been writing about bartending and mixology for several years at his website, The website features original cocktail recipes, product reviews, and discussions of bartending technique.

His recipes and wisdom have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wine Enthusiast, Playboy, Wired, and Imbibe magazines. Forbes Traveler called him one of the “Cocktail Movers and Shakers” of 2007, named him one of the top ten mixologists in the United States in 2009, and Tasting Panel Magazine awarded him as a “New Leader” in 2009.

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Steve Olson
Member since July 2012
Steve Olson - Tequila Interchange ProjectSteven Olson is dedicated to the education and consultation of degustation for appreciation and celebration. He teaches, lectures, and writes all over the world about wine, beer, spirits, sake, and virtually any other beverage under the sun, discussing their integral cause-and-effect relationship with food as he preaches the gospel of his mission: making tasting fun by removing the intimidation factor and the pretense.

Olson’s company, aka wine geek, based upon his standing as one of America’s foremost experts and most sought-after lecturers in the business, and his 30+ years of experience in the restaurant business, specializes in beverage and service consulting, and has focused on the professional presentation of beverage education for the trade, consumers, press and the media since 1992, always striving to empower both members of the trade and consumers to make their own decisions, and to trust their own palates.

Over the years, Steve has hosted a few of his own TV series’ and been a guest on many others, and has served as host of several trade education and product information videos, including being the voice of Virtual Bartender kiosks in retail stores nationwide. He was also selected as Santé Magazine’s Spirits Professional of the Year for 2003, awarded CHEERS Magazine’s Beverage Innovator of the Year, a lifetime achievement award in 2005, chosen to judge at the 2012 Diageo Reserve World Class Finals, and honored as Best Bar Mentor at the Spirited Awards at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail.

Olson may be best known to many, however, for his restaurant and bar consulting, having designed the innovative beverage programs and service systems for several nationally acclaimed operations, including the Relais Chateau, Mobil Five Star award-winning Mayflower Inn in Connecticut, New York City’s #1 Zagat-rated restaurant, Gramercy Tavern, the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, and the Adam Tihany-designed Summit at the Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond BROADMOOR in Colorado Springs. Olson designed the beverage programs for OTG Management, which exclusively operates dozens of restaurants and wine bars in airports, and designed the beverage programs for Aqua in Cancun, Mexico, the prize jewel of Grupo Posadas, which opened in 2008. His most recent venture is Isola, a Mediterranean trattoria in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, where Olson and team act as beverage consultant to the Morgan Hotel Group in NYC.

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Patricia Richards
Patricia Richards - Tequila Interchange ProjectAs Mixologist for Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, Patricia Richards oversees the creation of specialty cocktails for the resorts’ food and beverage outlets. Richards took on the position in 2007 and has made a name for herself as the first female in Las Vegas to run a program of comparable size. While inventing seasonal cocktail menus and standardizing recipes, Richards focuses on educating staff with extensive training courses to bring consistency and innovation to the Wynn beverage program.

Richards has worked at Wynn since its April 2005 opening as Lead Bartender at the vibrant, centrally located hot spot, Parasol Up. There, she amassed a large following of loyal patrons who frequented the lounge for her signature and creative cocktails.

Previously, Richards worked as the Specialty Room Bartender at Fiamma Trattoria at the MGM Grand, then moved on to BOA Steakhouse before joining Wynn. Prior to relocating to Las Vegas, Richards worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, first in the Banquet Department and later as the property’s Bartender.

Richards’ love for mixology grew out of an early interest in the culinary arts. Growing up in Vancouver, Canada, she took a strong interest in cooking at an early age. Richards worked her way through a variety of restaurant kitchens, but longed for the front‐of‐house guest interaction.

Richards embraces the evolving world of mixology by staying abreast of the latest trends and ingredients. Her drive for learning and experimenting with flavors has led her to receive accolades that include a silver medal in the 2006 Bacardi Martini Grand Prix in Torino, Italy, third place in the 2006 Canada and United States Tabasco Sauce “Hottest Bartender” competition and second place in the Travel + Leisure Beverage Arts Challenge. Additionally, Richards received the 2008 Cheers Magazine Rising Star Award and in 2009, was named one of Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Hotel Bartenders.” That same year, Richards won the “Iron Bar Chef” competition hosted by Santé Magazine, where six of the country’s top mixology professionals compete against one another to create the best cocktails.

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Eric Rubin
Member since January 2011
Eric Rubin - Tequila Interchange ProjectEric is the founder of Tres Agaves Restaurants, whose original restaurant in San Francisco sells more 100% agave Tequila than any other restaurant in the world. He built a Tequila training program that is widely considered to be the best in the business. And as luck would have it, along the way he accumulated a vast amount of knowledge with over 150 distillery visits under his belt.

In 2010, Eric and 2 partners launched Tres Agaves Products Company; producing 100% agave Tequila as well as agave nectar and margarita mix. They work with one of Mexico’s oldest distilleries, ‘El Llano’, to produce a proprietary Tequila that is very old-school in its’ approach; entirely estate-produced, extremely high-quality, but also affordable. The Añejo was awarded the highest rating for a Tequila in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge for 2010, and the Blanco and Repo took 2 out of 3 Chairmans’ Trophies in the Ultimate Cocktail Challenge. Both mixer products were awarded gold medals from the Beverage Testing Institute.

Eric has been interviewed and quoted frequently and is extremely knowledgeable on anything Tequila and agave related. He has spoken or led classes at the Las Vegas & Phoenix Tequila Festivals, the Spirits of Mexico Festival in San Diego, San Diego Food & Wine Festival, and the SF Chefs Festival in San Francisco. In his past restaurant life he was on the Board of Directors of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and was a founding member of the SF Chefs and A Taste of South Beach events. In 2010 he was invited to join the Tequila Integration Project. This group is composed of top mixologists and Tequila professionals. TIP works with the CRT, Camara, and University of Guadalajara to further Tequila awareness and education.

In his spare time Eric coached Little League baseball for 34 years. The ‘Sharks’ were either SF champions or runners-up 11 out of 12 years. The players were always very appreciative of the agave-based limeade served at practices and games. He also served on the Board for SF Rec & Park Youth Baseball. In 2008 he founded SF Restaurant Softball Days which has grown to include teams from 16 restaurants & bars. He enjoys playing softball, racquetball, and tennis.

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Joaquín Simó
Member Since September 2010
Joaquín Simó - Tequila Interchange ProjectJoaquín Simó, 32, has traveled a long way from his native Ecuador in his search for the perfect daiquiri. Raised amongst Cuban family in Miami, he grew up eating fruits and vegetables fresh from his grandfather’s farm and helping his father at his French bakery. His epicurean roots firmly established, he sought out new seasons in New England, graduating from Boston University with a degree in English and religion. He tended bar in crowded college dives, raucous rock n’ roll bars, neighborhood restaurants and trendy hot spots, all the while furthering his education on food, spirits, flavor combinations and balance. As part of the opening staff at New York’s acclaimed cocktail bar Death & Company, he has finally put that English major to good use as he cheerfully regales customers with the colorful stories and hallowed history of classic spirits and cocktails. Joaquín served as deputy editor for the 2009 and 2010 Food & Wine Cocktail books, contributing front and back matter as well as recipe‐testing both books. He has also worked on several food‐cocktail pairing dinners with underground supper club NY Bite Club. He was awarded BAR Ready status following his completion of the BAR Five Day Intermediate Certificate Program in September 2009 and named one of Playboy’s Top 10 Mixologists in 2009. Joaquín is also currently a partner in Alchemy Consulting, working with such clients a Diageo and Hyatt Andaz Hotels.

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Kelley Slagle
Member since June 2011
Kelley Slagle - Tequila Interchange ProjectKelley Slagle, a native of Southern California, moved to New York City in 2002 to follow her culinary dreams by attending the Institute of Culinary Education. Upon graduation from culinary school her exploration of the bar began and there has been no looking back. While working as a chef and bartending on the side, she continued to train her palate by tasting food and wine as well as attending numerous wine courses and organizing tasting groups. She then went on to complete the Level 3 Advanced Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and did so with Distinction.

The past three years found Kelley as the head bartender and mixologist at Hearth Restaurant in NYC’s East Village, a restaurant highly respected by industry peers for its eclectic wine program, outstanding food and, under Kelley’s direction, the cocktail program. While there she was responsible for the creation of the terroir based Tequila and Mezcal menus as well as creating a cocktail program that could get the attention of the wine enthusiast clientele. During that time she was part of the 2009 Cocktail Apprentice Program at Tales of the Cocktail, worked as brand ambassador for Partida Tequila and traveled to Oaxaca Mexico to further her education on agave spirits. During that time you would often find mention of her cocktails in the New York and national press.

Last year Kelley took her show on the road so to speak. She is currently working as a freelance wine and spirits educator; teaching wine and cocktail classes at the Astor Center for Wine and Food, promoting spirits based cocktail education with Winebow NYC, and cocktail consulting and staff trainings for restaurants and bars. Most recently she joined the team at Cocktail Kingdom and is looking forward to sharing her love of the craft with even more bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts in the U.S. and around the globe.

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