Beverage alcohol industry podcasts have become an integral form of entertainment, brightening long commutes and bar prep duties alike.
But often, the fascinating stories captured on these shows are more than mere diversions, actually spurring listeners to make impactful business decisions and tap into new sources of energy. Deep in the doldrums of winter, it’s the perfect time to settle in with a helpful new podcast.
SevenFifty Daily asked 13 leaders from the wine and spirits worlds which beverage and hospitality podcasts they frequently turn to and why they are valuable, insightful, and entertaining.
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Dan Petroski, Massican Wines
Go-To Podcast: I’ll Drink to That! Wine Talk
For a jolt of motivation or to celebrate the achievements of his peers, Dan Petroski tunes into Sam Benrubi’s The Grape Nation and MJ Towler’s The Black Wine Guy Experience. But Petroski, the founder and winemaker of Massican in the Napa Valley, also remains loyal to I’ll Drink to That!, deeming it the original wine podcast.
Levi Dalton, a former sommelier who worked with such distinguished New York chefs as Daniel Boulud, Masa Takayama, and Michael White, first unleashed the pioneering podcast in 2012. Petroski remembers early episodes that zeroed in on the New York wine sales scene and telling his Napa friends that although they might not know the names of the guests, the information they imparted was “priceless.”
A decade later, the podcast has grown more internationally diverse (Petroski reckons he has listened to Dalton and writer Ian D’Agata dive into Barolo five times), and it is distinguished, as Petroski notes, by “almost 500 in-depth conversations with global wine professionals.” He even considers Dalton’s series a modern and expansive “continuation of the oral histories in California wine that were conducted by UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library in the early 1970s. It truly is a masterclass of the wine industry.”
Nicholas Jarrett, Peychaud’s Bar
Go-To Podcast: Life Behind Bars
Given the much-anticipated release of David Wondrich and Noah Rothbaum’s The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails last fall, it’s fitting to now listen to the two experts (Rothbaum is editor of The Daily Beast’s Half Full section; Wondrich is a legendary drinks author and historian) plunge into compelling subjects like vintage cocktail book collecting, hyper-local whiskey, and the advent of the Long Island Iced Tea on the podcast Life Behind Bars.
According to Nicholas Jarrett, the head bartender at Peychaud’s Bar in New Orleans, it’s this variety of themes, “touching on everything from dive bars to high cocktails,” that reels him in, as does Wondrich and Rothbaum’s organic repartee: “Their friendship is apparent, and episodes are conversational and approachable—the listener is sitting in on a discussion that both presenters are clearly interested in.” Cultural snippets, Jarrett finds, are also bright spots. “[Life Behind Bars] frequently includes heard-it-there-first historical research that places cocktails into a more proper context, which absolutely informs services and how I formulate cocktails,” he adds.
Rebekah Wineburg, Quintessa
Go-To Podcast: XChateau
Focusing on the “business of wine,” as Rebekah Wineburg, the winemaker at the St. Helena, California, winery Quintessa, puts it, the insider podcast XChateau differentiates itself “because of the depth of the research and analysis provided” by the hosts, wine blogger Robert Vernick and consultant Peter Yeung, coauthor of Luxury Wine Marketing: The Art and Science of Luxury Wine Branding. Climate change initiatives, wine scores, and sales of rare bottles are all in Vernick and Yeung’s wheelhouse, but it was an episode that aired in the summer of 2020, investigating the need for wineries to cultivate an online presence, that most resonated with Wineburg.
“I came away with a better understanding of the spectrum of social media and the importance of it as a platform for communicating with your customer,” she remembers. “Most illuminating to me was that Robert talked about it as ever-changing and evolving.” This helped Wineburg understand why it’s vital to adopt an open-minded stance on social media, and why there is “no one playbook for success in this area.”
Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Bartender and Author
Go-To Podcast: Bartender at Large
“Erick Castro is a real bartender and not just a cocktail fan,” says Jeffrey Morgenthaler, a longtime bartender who most recently helmed the now-shuttered Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon, and author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique and Drinking Distilled: A User’s Manual. That’s one of the reasons that Morgenthaler gravitates to Bartender at Large, the podcast from San Diego-based Castro, cofounder of Polite Provisions and Raised by Wolves, launched in tandem with Castro’s 2016 documentary of the same name.
Bartender at Large is “more about people and experiences, and less about drinks, which is refreshing,” explains Morgenthaler. He singles out one episode, revolving around post-shift drinking rituals, addiction, and stress management as especially impactful: “It’s not often that you hear such vulnerability and honesty in a bartending podcast, and I’m glad they made the decision to open up about that. It was inspirational.” Castro’s thoughtfulness extends to the operational sphere, too, with episodes centered on hospitality legends like Salvatore Calabrese, rolling out mobile craft cocktail services, and adding slushies to a bar’s menu.
Nick Morisi, COJE Management Group
Go-To Podcast: Wine for Normal People
Nick Morisi, the sommelier and general manager at COJE Management Group’s buzzy Boston brasserie Coquette, revels in the technical proficiency emphasized on the podcasts hosted by SOMM TV and GuildSomm. Yet it’s Wine for Normal People (WFNP), he points out, that “translates well into topics I discuss with staff during trainings as well as conversations I have with guests.”
Author and educator Elizabeth Schneider, who penned Wine for Normal People: A Guide for Real People Who Like Wine, but Not the Snobbery That Goes with It and runs a series of online classes to boot, hosts WFNP with her oenophile husband M.C. Ice. In a chilled-out but informative manner, they banter on topics like the Basque Country favorite Txakolina, Croatian wine, and the best pairings for summer barbecues. “As most wine professionals know, the story sells a wine more often than the soil type or barrel regiment or vineyard elevation,” adds Morisi. “With WFNP, I find you get a fuller picture of the wine regions they cover, and it gives me some more universally appreciable stories to tell about each place.”
Julie Rothberg, Medlock Ames
Go-To Podcast: What’s in Your Glass? with Carmelo Anthony
An early adopter of podcasts, Julie Rothberg, the president of the organic Healdsburg, California, winery Medlock Ames, relies on favorites like How I Built This with Guy Raz “to nurture my entrepreneurial mind, or WorkLife with Adam Grant, which pushes me to think differently about my role as a leader,” she says. By contrast, What’s in your Glass?, hosted by NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony, “is a healthy and fun reminder that people have all kinds of perceptions and experiences with not only wine, but cocktails, beers, and spirits.”
On the show, Anthony engages with titans from the sports, music, entertainment, and business realms, including Mary J. Blige, Marlon Wayans, and John Varvatos, using their favorite bottles “to drive the conversation about how people celebrate moments in their lives,” says Rothberg. “Carmelo clearly loves wine and that comes through, but he is totally unpretentious about what he or anyone else is drinking. He genuinely wants to know what’s happening in his guests’ lives and provide a platform for them to share their latest works and passions.”
Jennifer Querbes, Ricou Spirits
Go-To Podcast: The Speakeasy
Last fall, Jennifer Querbes of Ricou Spirits appeared on The Speakeasy, chatting with Sother Teague and Greg Benson about how her New Orleans upbringing and affinity for pre-Prohibition drinks history led her to create the 19th century-style Brandy Sainte Louise. “They greatly helped me articulate my thoughts in an intelligible manner,” recalls the Dallas-based entrepreneur, who worked at the likes of Hine Cognac and Tempus Fugit Spirits prior to unveiling the versatile French brandy beloved by bartenders in 2018.
For Querbes, The Speakeasy, which tackles the plethora of ready-to-drink beverages on the market with as much aplomb as transforming troubled tiki culture and the bewildering debut of Arby’s Curly Fry Vodka, is the podcast that is “most applicable overall to my position in the cocktail and spirits world in terms of guests and topics,” she says, citing that its biggest draw is the “balance of humor and educational content.”
Cory Fitzsimmons, Method Spirits
Go-To Podcast: Hospitality Forward
Beyond handling public relations for a number of hospitality and liquor brands, NYC-based agency Hanna Lee Communications (named for its namesake founder Hanna Lee) published its first book, The Japanese Art of the Cocktail by Michael Anstendig and Masahiro Urushido of the Greenwich Village bar Katana Kitten in 2021. Lee and Anstendig also host Hospitality Forward, a podcast starring members of the media across spirits, food, travel, and business that Cory Fitzsimmons regards as a true service to the industry.
A former head bartender at Union Square Café, and cofounder of vermouth company Method Spirits, Fitzsimmons credits Hospitality Forward with helping him think of his new brand in broader terms and demystifying the process of garnering press. “The podcast provides the opportunity to get into journalists’ heads and see how they think, which is both fascinating and practical,” he says. “Listening to these enlightening conversations showcases the human side of these important media guests and makes them that much more approachable.” Case in point: Fitzsimmons contacted Florence Fabricant at the New York Times and successfully landed coverage on Method Spirits in the prominent daily.
Lydia Richards, Vino Concierge, Hispanics in Wine, Taub Family Companies
Go-To Podcast: The Swirl Suite
The four friends who launched the podcast The Swirl Suite—Sarita Cheaves, Tanisha Townsend, Glynis Hill, and Leslie Frelow—did so “to spread wine knowledge and take up space in the wine world in an approachable and inclusive way, with a particular focus on how wine brands can better market to Black wine consumers,” explains Lydia Richards, the New York-based founder of the wine education, tastings, and events company Vino Concierge, who also started Hispanics in Wine with Maria Calvert and is the public relations manager for Palm Bay International and Taub Family Selections.
“It’s fascinating how they turned their love of wine into fulfilling careers,” she continues. “For anyone learning about wine or in the industry, the podcast provides in-depth knowledge on how wine is produced, the people behind it, and discovering new projects.” Among those talents who have been featured on The Swirl Suite are Donae Burston, creator of the made-in-St. Tropez wine brand La Fête du Rosé; Burnie Williams, co-owner of Chat’s Liquors in Washington, D.C.; and Derrick Westbrook, known for the experiential wine and music series Samples & Samples.
Sother Teague, Overthrow Hospitality
Go-To Podcast: Agave Road Trip
Veteran New York bartender Sother Teague, author of I’m Just Here for the Drinks: A Guide to Spirits, Drinking and More Than 100 Extraordinary Cocktails, is constantly busy, running the show at Overthrow Hospitality’s Amor y Amargo in the East Village, for instance, and cohosting The Speakeasy on the Heritage Radio Network with Damon Boelte and Greg Benson. Despite the demands of his own podcast, Teague makes time to listen to a slew of others, including what he describes as the “fun and fast-paced” Agave Road Trip (another Heritage Radio Network hit).
The episodes unite the voices of Lou Banks, founder of S.A.C.R.E.D., a nonprofit supporting rural Mexican communities that produce heritage agave spirits, and Sombra’s former head distiller, Chava Peribán, a S.A.C.R.E.D. project manager. The two dialogue on such matters as under-the-radar bacanora, the intersection between wine and mezcal, and zero-proof Mexican libations, revealing “a passion for the category that is palpable and infectious,” says Teague. Agave Road Trip even propelled Teague to open Etérea, his all-mezcal and tequila cocktail bar and restaurant two minutes from Amor y Amargo, as well as pushed him to carry bottles from makers who are using “best practices to keep the heritage of agave spirits intact,” he promises.
Jackie Summers, Sorel Liqueur
Go-to Podcast: Brown and Balanced LIVE
It’s important, asserts Jackie Summers, “for up-and-comers to see people who look like themselves succeeding.” That’s why Summers, creator of Sorel, the recently rebooted liqueur that honors his Caribbean heritage, is such a champion of Brown and Balanced, the organization celebrating Black bar and hospitality professionals originally founded by Josh Davis as an event at Camp Runamok and Portland Cocktail Week, as well as its live series, Brown and Balanced LIVE.
“Brown and Balanced puts Black and non-white bartenders right where they belong: as the center of the focus,” explains Summers. “It highlights the careers of both industry heavyweights and lesser-known figures. It’s raw and unedited and doesn’t ask people of color to be less than themselves to make anyone feel comfortable.”
Although Brown and Balanced LIVE is technically not a podcast, but a live series on Portland Cocktail Week’s Facebook channel in collaboration with Campari Group and Thirsty, it blends the same level of discovery, candor, and expertise via such guests as Bulleit whiskey blender Eboni Major, New Orleans bartender Scott Hicks, and Nikolas Hill of Three Spice Fruit Shrubs. “As someone who now has a significant platform, I look to Brown and Balanced to bring new talent to my attention, so I can extend opportunities to them whenever possible,” says Summers. “It’s only a seat at the table if you can extend a chair to someone else.”
Morgan Weber, Agricole Hospitality and The Marfa Spirit Co.
Go-To Podcast: Whiskey Neat
Kristopher Hart is well-regarded in Texas booze circles. He’s the managing director of the annual Houston Whiskey Social, owner of Gregarious Grump Spirits, and with podcaster Randall Sullivan of Bourbon Real Talk, presides over The Prideful Goat whiskeys from Gulf Coast Distillers. All that spirits savvy is manifested on Hart’s own podcast, Whiskey Neat, broadcast on ESPN 97.5 FM.
Morgan Weber, the beverage director at Houston’s Agricole Hospitality (Revival Market, Coltivare, Eight Row Flint, Indianola, Vinny’s, and Miss Carousel) and the cofounder of the Marfa Spirit Co. distillery, who has been interviewed on Whiskey Neat, respects that Hart is so plugged into the state’s vibrant restaurant and bar culture. Bolstering that know-how, he adds, is Hart’s “personality and approach to the show. He’s super intelligent and not afraid to be controversial, but always with a good reason—even if you don’t agree with him.” Hart brings a sense of familiarity to the episodes, cracking open a bottle of 1964 Old Grand-Dad and talking with actor Ray Fisher and writer and director John Pollono as if those are everyday activities.
Diana Novak, Palm Bay International
Go-To Podcast: Lush Life
New York bartender Lynnette Marrero, The Connaught Bar’s Giorgio Bargiani, and Claire Warner, cofounder of Æcorn Drinks, have all taken the time to share their professional journeys with Susan L. Schwartz of the Lush Life podcast, but Diana Novak, the national director of craft spirits education at Palm Bay International, also enjoys the content that doesn’t put well-known industry figures or big brands in the limelight. “It’s great to learn more about smaller producers or those that I may not actively see throughout the U.S. market,” she says.
Novak also takes note of the wide array of subjects and range of contributors featured in different episodes. “I like hearing about personal pet projects, cocktail menu development, the trajectory of various ambassadors and bartenders, and getting advice from them,” she says. “They offer up best practices and personal experiences to learn and grow from.” Whether the attention is on Compass Distillers in Nova Scotia, Avallen Calvados, or Giuseppe Gallo’s Italicus, Lush Life promises an unpredictable exploration of drinks culture.
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Alia Akkam is a writer who covers food, drink, travel, and design. She is the author of Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktails from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels (Hardie Grant) and her work has appeared in Architecturaldigest.com, Dwell.com, Penta, Vogue.com, BBC, Playboy, and Taste, among others, and she is a former editor at Edible Queens, Hospitality Design, and Beverage Media. A native New Yorker, Alia now calls Budapest home. Follow Alia @behdria.