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On Dec 1, 2020 an Industry panel will decide the Best Whiskey in the Old Fashioned. The blind tasting spirit competition will be live-streamed from legendary New York Bar Dutch Kills, which has been nominated to represent the iconic cocktail, for their highly respected & revered Old Fashioned make. It's all part of New York Cocktail Expo Online Week. Seven days of cocktail focused Webinars & cocktail competitions for drink enthusiasts and the bartending Industry alike.


"This year marks the centennial anniversary of the prohibition of 1920," says NY Cocktail Expo Founder, Matt Kourie. "We're commemorating this landmark occasion with the "Best Spirits in Cocktails Awards." This means the return of the region's  Best Cocktail of the Year Competition & The fan favorite "TiKi Throw Down", tropical cocktail competition. This year dubbed the "TiKi 'TO-GO' Down" dawning the trend of "to-go" cocktails. NYC bars like Death & Co. & Leyenda Brooklyn have all competed in the past for top honors.


Classic photo of Dutch Kills Bar, Long Island City, NY

Matty Clark, Head Bartender at Dutch Kills will be making their authentic Old Fashioned recipe for the panel. The only difference will be which Whiskey expression is used in each round of Old Fashioneds. Seasoned Bar Industry vets like Best Selling Author Sother Teague (I'm Just Here For The Drinks, Owner, Amor Y Amargo) and Nick Bennett (Porchlight) former Bar Captain of the acclaimed Booker and Dax, have joined the tasting panel. They'll be joined by heavy hitters like Samantha Casuga, Co-Head Bartender of the Infamous Dead Rabbit, Eamon Rockey Creator of Rockey's Botanical Liqueur and Alice Tang (UES).


The live-stream may be viewed by whiskey / bourbon enthusiasts & bartending industry. Whiskey brands may participate by submitting their expressions to be mixed into the Old Fashioned, while Bartenders should register for webinars and cocktail competitions. Take a minute to meet our Judges panel of 2020 below and see you during NYCE Online Week 2020!


Executive Judge: Eamon Rockey

Panel: Best Cocktail of the Year / Best Whiskey in the Old Fashioned


Eamon Rockey is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (BPS ’06). He has worked in service, management, or partnership at some of NYC’s most highly regarded restaurants including Eleven Madison Park, Atera, Aska, and Betony, and regularly speaks around the world on hospitality, management, and bartending. He has spearheaded numerous critically acclaimed cocktail programs and is renowned for his international reintroduction of milk punches. In 2018, he launched Rockey’s, which introduced the world to the first widely available milk punch in over 150 years. He is also working on his first book, The Cocktail Bible, a definitive resource for professionals and enthusiasts alike. Eamon’s work behind the bar has been featured in multiple books as well as The New York Times, Edible Manhattan, Eater, The New York Daily News, Cooks Science, and The New Yorker.

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Judge: Samantha Casuga

Panel: Best Cocktail of the Year / Best Whiskey in the Old Fashioned


Samantha Casuga is the co-Head Bartender at The Dead Rabbit in New York City, and the New York Brand Ambassador for Chareau Spirits. She has competed in multiple competitions, and was named New York’s Most Imaginative Bartender with Bombay Sapphire in 2018. She has completed her Certified Specialist of Spirits, WSET Level 3 Award, and is Bar-5 Ready. She has represented The Dead Rabbit team at National and International events, and has led educational trainings for both staff, and the public.  Samantha cares deeply about strong leadership, education, and an all-encompassing emphasis on wellness. Through the pandemic she started an online cocktail class platform with her counterpart Ian Alexander called Make It a Double, held charity/fundraising events for Black Lives Matter with her and Channing Centeno’s initiative Purple Pineapple Project, and completed her yoga teacher training. 

Judge: Alice Tang

Panel: Best Cocktail of the Year / Best Whiskey in the Old Fashioned


Alice Tang decided to change her life and crossed the border from Canada to the US and found a home in NYC in 2007. She came to New York to pursue a career in graphic and fashion design and graduated from the Parsons School of Design in 2012. Along the way, like most students do, Alice discovered hospitality and fell in love. Hospitality changed her life for the better and she decided to take her career in a new direction. She now combines both her passions of design and mixology and creates cocktail art not only on paper but in the glass as well. When she is not managing at her home bar UES, she is consulting and creating menus for other bars, cocktail competing and organizing pop-ups around the city. She is constantly seeking the knowledge of her peers and those in the industry to better her craft and push boundaries and hopes to pay forward her journey and experience to those who find themselves in love with the hospitality industry as well.

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Executive Judge: Shannon Mustipher

Panel: "TiKi "TO-GO" Down


Shannon Mustipher is the Best Selling Author of "TIKI Modern Tropical Cocktails", a seasoned spirits educator and has been featured in IMBIBE Magazine, & Punch Magazine. Previously the Beverage Director of the Former Glady’s Caribbean in Brooklyn, the founder of Women Who Tiki  and the Instructor of New York Cocktail Expo's Rum Academy & Escape To The Tropics Webinar.  Her passion & knowledge of Rum is Industry acclaimed and as an instructor, she delivers the spirit of this exciting category with clarity, grace and expertise.

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Judge: St. John Frizell

Panel: TiKi "TO-GO" Down


St. John Frizell is an award-winning writer, bartender, and restaurateur. He is the co-founder of Gage & Tollner, the landmark chop house in Downtown Brooklyn, and the owner of Fort Defiance, the critically-acclaimed cafe-bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn that he recently converted to a "general store." Frizell's writing on food, travel, and cocktails has appeared in many publications, including Bon Appétit, Bloomberg, Saveur, Imbibe, PUNCH, Gourmet, and Oxford American, and his work has been collected in the Best Food Writing series.

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Judge: Jelani Jah Johnson

Panel: TiKi "TO-GO" Down


Jelani Jah Johnson was born and raised in Brooklyn NY, where he has worked with some of the biggest names in the bar industry. From being a part of the team that threw Tiki Mondays with Miller to working as an assistant distiller at The Noble Experiment in Brooklyn, Jelani has had his hands in the world of Rum and Tiki for years. Jelani is best known for his ongoing seven year tenor at the award-winning Clover Club in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Most recently, Jelani has been working on creating the cocktail menu for the upcoming Great Jones Distillery, as well as recreating the classic cocktail program for the upcoming reopening of the famous Gage & Tollner restaurant in downtown Brooklyn as head bartender. 


Sother Teague was named Mixologist of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine and is the author of the cocktail books  “I’m Just Here for the Drinks” and “Let’s Get Blitzen”. He’s the beverage director of New York City’s bitter-centric bar Amor y Amargo and the host of the weekly radio broadcast and podcast The Speakeasy on Heritage Radio Network. ​

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Judge: Nicholas Bennett

Panel: Best Whiskey in the Old Fashioned


Nicholas Bennett is the Beverage Director of Union Square Hospitality Group’s (USHG) Porchlight, Cedric’s at The Shed, and (the upcoming) LoBall. Nicholas has applied his 18+ years of craft cocktail and advanced mixology skills to curate inventive cocktail menus for some of New York City’s most celebrated bars. Prior to joining the USHG team, Nicholas was Head Bartender/Bar Captain at Booker and Dax. He also worked on the opening team at Amor y
Amargo. In his free time, Nicholas enjoys making and aging eggnog and recording puppet/bartending videos as an out-of-work passion project.

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