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Ariel Neal, VP of US Bartenders' Guild Takes on Role as Judge in 2024 Bartender Spirits Awards

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02/01/2024 Meet Ariel Neal, Vice President of US Bartenders Guild Chicago, and a dynamic force in cocktails. Owner of Leira Knows Cocktails & Events, and now, as a judge for the 2024 Bartender Spirits Awards, she brings her expertise to the forefront.

Meet Ariel Neal, the Vice President of the United States Bartenders Guild Chicago, and a leading force in today's cocktail culture. A native of Chicago, Ariel started her journey in the hospitality industry as a bartender, where she fell in love with serving delicious drinks. Over time, she transitioned into becoming an entrepreneur and a multicultural hospitality influencer.

Ariel is the owner of Leira Knows Cocktails & Events LLC and Good Vibes Healing Haven. Her businesses focus on designing cocktail, wine, and spirits-driven events with a strong emphasis on education, inclusion, and professionalism. Ariel and her team impress guests with sustainable cocktail events and a lineup of unique drinks.

In response to challenges faced by hospitality professionals of color, Ariel co-founded a nonprofit. Through education, mentoring, leadership training, and immersive travel programs, she strives to open doors for others. Ariel believes in transforming bartenders into hospitality professionals, using a soft skill set to help them exceed expectations.

Her motto, "Connecting people through cocktails," reflects her mission to make wine, spirits, and cocktail education accessible and approachable. As a lifelong South Sider, Ariel understands the power of exposure in fostering economic growth. She actively shapes society by including multicultural perspectives in the food and beverage scene, hosting industry events that explore overlooked neighborhoods.

Ariel Neal is passionate about the hospitality industry and educational travel. You can often find her nerding out with fellow professionals at events nationwide. She's been featured in Ebony Magazine, Food and Wine, Tales of The Cocktail Panels and Seminars, International Cocktail Conferences as a speaker and presenter, Cocktail Swagger, and many more publications.

Now, Ariel is stepping into a new role as a judge for the 2024 Bartender Spirits Awards. Her expertise and dedication to the industry make her a valuable addition to the judging panel.

The 2024 judging panel includes some top names in the US bar industry.

They include:

Renato M. Tonelli - 2023 US Bartender of the Year and Founder at Sustainable Bartender

Charles Joly - World Class Global Bartending Winner and Official Mixologist of the Emmy's and Oscars.

Julieta Campos - Beverage and Bar Operations Director at The Fifty/50 Group, Chicago.

Katie Renshaw - 2019 US World Class Bartender of the Year.

Mike Ryan - Global Beverage Director, Acurio International, Chicago.

Trudy Thomas - Corporate Director of Beverage at Southworth Development, Spirits Educator and Mixologist, Nashville.

Abraham Vucekovich - Beverage Director, Meadowlark Hospitality, Chicago, Meadowlark Hospitality.

Guillermo Bravo - Beverage Director at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Chicago.

Danny Shapiro - Founding Partner in Scofflaw Group, Chicago.

Chris Barna - Bar Manager at Proof, 2022 Top 50 US World Class 2023 Top 30 US World Class, Charleston.

Elliott Ernst - Country's Top 100 World Class Bartenders and Mixologist, Rockford and more.

The judging panel consists of some of the most renowned names in the U.S. bar industry, all of them with extensive expertise within the on-premise industry. The result will be a relevant and practical source of reference for bartenders, bar managers, bar owners, and other industry professionals when making purchasing decisions for their establishments.

If you are a spirits brand anywhere in the world and are looking to grow into the USA’s on-premise channels, Bartender Spirits Awards is the competition that you should enter. Brands are rated by the best in class and real trade buyers with the judging criteria that the bar managers and bartenders use when they buy for their bars.

Brands are encouraged to enter before the early bird deadline of January 31, 2024.


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