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David Wondrich      

Barroom Historian & Columnist

David Wondrich is widely hailed as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the history of the cocktail and one of the founders of the modern craft cocktail movement. Dr. Wondrich (he has a PhD in Comparative Literature from New York University) is the author of countless newspaper and magazine articles (most significantly, the almost 17 years’ worth he wrote as Esquire’s Drinks Correspondent).

He is the Editor in Chief of the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, winner of the American Library Association’s 2022 Dartmouth Medal for best reference book published in the preceding year, and the author of five books, including the hugely influential "Imbibe!," the first cocktail book to win a James Beard award (2007; an expanded and thoroughly revised edition was published in April, 2015), and "Punch," which came out in late 2010 to broad acclaim and did much to spark the current boom in punch-making.

As a consultant, he has been involved in the creation of several spirits that are found on the backbars of practically every craft cocktail bar on the planet, including Ransom Old Tom gin and the multiple award-winning Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum. He is a founding partner in Beverage Alcohol Resource, America’s leading advanced training program for bartenders and other spirits professionals, and a frequent guest lecturer at venues such as the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of the City of New York and fine bars on five continents and ships at sea.

His writing, lecturing, podcasting and mentoring have earned him a record eight Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Awards and an IACP Trailblazer Award; in 2019, he came in at number three in Drinks International’s inaugural list of 100 most-influential people in the bar world, based on a poll of top industry professionals.

He is a longtime resident of Brooklyn, New York.

Speech Topics


On Beyond Zombie: A New Look at Old Drinks

If from time to time you like to sip a little old bourbon on the rocks or a bracingly cold Dry Martini, you’re likely to have at least a glancing familiarity with the main categories of spirits as we generally conceive them, if only to know what you can tolerate and what you can’t. Brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey; done. If you’ve got a favorite category, you’re likely to know something more than that: some history of distillation, some brand history, something about production, and so on.

As Editor in Chief of the 860-page Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails (winner of the American Library Association’s 2021 Dartmouth Medal for reference work of the year), David Wondrich had the job of going beyond all that; of exploring what the whole world drinks, not just the part of it that takes credit cards. In doing that, he has spent the last decade visiting remote distilleries and digging through archives to try to tie together ancient traditions and track technologies and trade routes as they developed. Please join him for a lively look at some of the more obscure corners of the world of spirits and cocktails, considered from the point of view of what’s in our glasses, or could be.

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