Blind Taste Testing and Methodology - Beverage Testing Institute

Since 1981.


“We believe in reviews based on objective, benchmark-based criteria.

We have a deep commitment to impartiality, open-mindedness, and fairness. All of our tastings, ratings, and evaluations are done by trained panelists using our proprietary blind tasting methodology and custom built software. Beverage Testing Institute will never accept remuneration for a favorable review.



Our industry leading evaluation methodology was co-developed in 1981 with Cornell University.

Decades of refinement have led to proprietary systems and custom software that produce the fairest, most consistent alcohol beverage analyses in the industry.

We have 41 years of data to prove it.

Our obsession with details creates the most professional tasting environment in the industry.

To ensure consistency and accuracy, Beverage Testing Institute uses a dedicated sensory lab located in our offices in Chicago. The room is specially designed to minimize external factors and maximize our panelists’ concentration.

We taste in the morning, under the same ideal conditions in our specially designed lab—yielding far more consistent results than working out of a suitcase, a trade show, or at a producer’s facility.

We limit flighting to 15-30 samples a day. Tasting more than these amounts in a single day, as most other competitions and many magazines do, negatively affects the accuracy, quality, and consistency of alcoholic beverage evaluations.

"The strength of BTI's methodology is the ability for judges to focus on the liquid itself, without getting caught up in strict style guidelines or marketing techniques."


As members of the American Society of Testing and Materials, we have the utmost commitment to removing bias from our laboratory.


The shorter the scale, the easier it is for tasters to repeat their scores — and repeatability is the essence of accuracy.

We use simple scales so that our panelists do not concern themselves with the difference between an 88 and an 86, or a 90 and a 91. This method allows our tasters to consider general quality, without the distraction of adding points. Products breaking the critical gold medal barrier are tasted twice without exception, virtually guaranteeing that they deserve their accolades.

An accurate reflection of the quality of products in today's market.

After panelists have assigned a quality level, the scores are then converted to a modified consumer-friendly 100-point scale. This scale correlates to BTI’s five quality bands of score.

  • 96-100 — Superlative
    Platinum Medal

  • 90-95 — Exceptional
    Gold Medal

  • 85-89 — Highly Recommended
    Silver Medal

  • 80-84 — Recommended
    Bronze Medal

  • 79  — Not Recommended (NR)
    No Medal


To help translate the panels’ scores, we use a different statistical method, relying on the mode (the most frequent score) rather than the mean (the average score). This helps reduce the impact of maverick scores; the mode is much closer to what the panelists are really saying. Controversial permutations are always re-tasted. Those falling in the lowest band (less than 80) are simply listed as “79/NR” (Not Recommended). “Not Recommended” scores and reviews are always kept confidential.

A thoughtful, labor-intensive approach to ensure the fairest, most consistent scores.

Checks and balances.

We maintain an archive of all previously reviewed spirits— over 7,000 samples and counting. When there is a disparity between a current sample’s score and the product’s previous BTI score we compare the two to verify any differences in taste and/or quality. We re-taste any products that seem flawed or that scored at the lowest end of the spectrum, to make sure a bad sample was not at fault.


Highly-trained sensory analysts. Decision makers. Influential tastemakers.

Sensory panels at Beverage Testing Institute are one-of-a-kind research tools that have guided tens of thousands of production and marketing decisions for thousands of brands. We uncover the deepest product, on-trade, consumer, and market insights by combining detail-obsessed test design, meticulous record keeping, exacting environmental standards, and an unprecedented approach to focus group recruitment and execution.

Unparalleled insights that become the building blocks of your brand

Our method is the key to producing products that will be embraced by trade gatekeepers.

BTI panels are comprised of leading buyers and influencers. We recruit beverage directors, sommeliers, top bartenders, retail buyers and educators and train them as sensory analysts. These panelists evaluate products using their extensive professional experience and BTI-trained palates. The panel then discuss their findings as a group, while a BTI moderator records their attitudes, impressions, and conclusions.

Meet the BTI Panelists.

We conduct daily, invite-only judging panels that include highly-experienced, professional tasters. Our panelists are industry buyers and experts such as beverage directors, educators, retailers, restaurateurs or prominent writers. Many of them have completed certifications of their own such as SWE, CSW, CSS, MS, Cicerone or others from credible institutions. Extensively trained in our proprietary methodology, they follow strict protocols for maintaining the tasting lab environment and priming their palate prior to an analytical tasting session.



Originally from Los Angeles, Damian has spent close to 20 years in the hospitality industry. He has been with Marriott International for 13 years, and has led the bar program at the JW Marriott Chicago for the last 10. Damian has excelled in multiple cocktail competitions, even having a drink featured in the 2017 Aspen Food and Wine Festival, and passed the Barsmarts Advanced Certification with a top score.



Liz's curiosity about wine led her to a job leading to PR and corporate communications for Terlato Wines in 2012. Eager to amplify her knowledge, she drank from a fire hose, learning everything she could. Liz passed the Society of Wine Education's "Certified Specialist of Wine" exam in 2015. After five years managing PR and events spanning from Napa Valley to New York, she started her own communications and writing business specializing in wine, spirits, food, and lifestyle clients. Liz is an enthusiastic wine educator and believes that blind tasting is the best way to truly judge a wine.



For almost 20 years, Elliott has worked in the beverage/hospitality industry in various roles ranging from cooking in kitchens to bartending and managing front of house. He was among the first 43 people to become a Certified Cicerone® and has achieved the title of Advanced Cicerone®. Elliott was the Beer Director of the popular Owen and Engine in Chicago for 8 years and is now the General Manager of BiXi Beer. He has served as a beer-focused panelist with BTI since 2012. Elliott’s beer evaluations are centered on style, applying his depth of knowledge of the category before considering his personal preferences. He believes Beverage Testing Institute’s truly blind tasting methodology leads to more accurate scoring, concluding that “The scores are always true to the liquid.”



Patrick began his career in the hospitality industry over 30 years ago as a dishwasher at age 14. He has since risen through the ranks, and has been credited for transforming Paddy Long’s from a little dive bar to one that draws guests from all over the world. Patrick has served as a beer-focused BTI panelist for over 5 years, and in that time has encountered many surprising and enjoyable beers, the most memorable among them so far being a Tripel from a small brewpub in Michigan that he could have sworn came straight from Belgium. Patrick believes the strength of BTI’s methodology is the environment for judges to focus exclusively on the liquid without getting caught up in strict style guidelines or marketing techniques.



Ambrosia first fell in love with cider almost 10 years ago while drinking scrumpy out of dusty old kegs in English pubs. Since that first taste, she has been on the hunt for unique and tasty ciders, ultimately finding her home at The Northman, Chicago’s first cider bar. Passionate about education through inebriation, she teaches spirit courses in the city and loves to hold class at the bar. She is well-traveled across a unique booze landscape, combining an inventive mind and adventurous spirit. Away from The Northman, Ambrosia can be found foraging apples around the city, making cider at home, and traveling by bicycle.

Patrick Brophy

Director of Spirits Sales and Education

Pat Brophy is the Director of Spirits Sales and Education at Binny’s Beverage Depot, where he has worked for 14 years in a variety of roles, including Beer Buyer. He was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago with a brief stint in beer-rich Seattle in the late 90’s. It was there his passion and obsession for great beers and whiskies was sparked. After studying economics at Loyola University of Chicago he realized graphing economic data wasn’t nearly as rewarding as drinking and making great beer and spirits. He currently works extensively on The Whiskey Hotline, an all-encompassing specialty spirits buying, training, marketing and sales team where he hand selects several hundred single cask spirits every year. In his spare time he can be found doting upon his wife and two young daughters, curating his collection of vintage video games, and enjoying a variety of encased meats.

Chasity Cooper


Chasity Cooper is a Chicago-based award winning writer, entrepreneur, and wine culture expert. She has articles published in outlets such as Wine Enthusiast, Vinepair, Food & Wine Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and Imbibe Magazine, and has also executed several creative partnerships with notable wine and spirit brands. Ultimately, her goal is to make wine more accessible and relatable to every palate through storytelling, and cultivate spaces for people to enjoy wine and grow their community.



In dedicating his life to raising up the bartending craft, Carlos Enrique Cuarta has tirelessly gone above and beyond as a bartender for countless spirit brands, private clients, catering companies, and more. Throughout his years of involvement in the USBG Illinois Chapter, Carlos has actively shown up for his fellow bartenders, supported various charitable organizations, and taken pride in mentoring other latinx bartenders in their pursuit of the craft. At home Carlos is constantly working on various infusions, syrups, cordials, and recipes--both for his own pleasure and in preparation for the many projects and competitions he has committed himself to.



Alan has been a spirits-specialized panelist with BTI since 1993. His extensive knowledge and experience draw from his role as the president of Allied Beverage Tanks, a manufacturer of craft brewing and distilling equipment with clients spanning the globe from Canada to Japan and everywhere in between. In 2009, Alan refined his wealth of experience in The Art of Distilling, a comprehensive guide to artisan distilling co-authored with Bill Owens, founder of American Distilling Institute.


With a passion for hospitality and a keen eye for detail, David Disney has spent the last 15 years honing his knowledge of the spirits industry. David came to Chicago by way of Indianapolis and he has since worked across Chicago bartending and running beverage programs, ever developing his discerning, in-depth knowledge of the art and science of a perfectly balanced cocktail recipe.



Erin is a Philadelphia-area native who made Chicago home in 2004. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago studying Linguistic and Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on Iberian language and food cultures. In tying her academic and personal interests, she began her wine career in 2007 at Lush Wine & Spirits. Erin moved into fine wine distribution in 2012 with Cream Wine Company where she was a key accounts sales representative as well as Director of Education for nearly 5 years. Her hard work and passion earned her the role of Midwest Market Manager for Olé Imports and Obrigado Vinhos in 2018, where she now proudly represents over 70 winegrowers from every corner of the Iberian peninsula. In addition to her vibrant wine career, Erin is the chair of Next Bites, a nonprofit focused on environmental sustainability in the hospitality industry, as well as a volunteer chef instructor for elementary school students with Pilot Light. 



Martin is an internationally renowned spirits educator and enthusiast. His appreciation of adult libations started during his early years as a bartender and continues on to this very day. Martin has studied distilling with some of the most accomplished distillers, blenders, and craftspeople in Scotland, Ireland, France, Holland, Canada, and the US. He has managed numerous prestigious spirits portfolios and has conducted master classes at Whiskyfests in Chicago and New York, Portland Cocktail Week, Boston Cocktail Summit, Tales of the Cocktail, and many more. In 2014, Chilled Magazine selected Martin as one of their "Top 100 Drink Industry Influencers in the US."



Beau Forbes has been working in craft beer since 2013. He's an Advanced Cicerone, Certified Bourbon Steward, and is a Certified Cider Professional. Beau has judged dozens of competitions as a certified beer judge with the Beer Judge Certification program, and has done stints at Goose Island Beer Co. and Finch Brewery, the latter at which he helped found the QC program. He is a proud BTI panelist and enjoys judging wine, beer, and spirits but has a special focus on craft beer.



Perry grew up in the wine industry, beginning with  selling fine wine in his family’s liquor store while still in high school. Post-university, he became certified by the Master Court of Sommeliers and curated the huge wine and spirits selection at Mainstreet where he was voted “Retail Wine Consultant of the Year” at the Midwest International Wine Exposition. Perry then went on to create The Tasting Room & Randolph Wine Cellars and the Highball Lounge. In addition to his work with Louis Glunz Wines, Perry is Ambassador for C.O.R.E., Children of Restaurant Employees, a national 501(c)(3) supporting food and beverage industry employee by providing immediate micro-grants to families in need.



David Frost has traveled the world looking for the finer beverages to bring into the US; the more historic or cultural the better. His expertise extends from beer to sake, meads, and ciders, and he is an expert panelist in all of those categories. Previously a software engineer, David undoubtedly believes he made the right decision moving into the beverage industry.



Toni has judged BTI's annual Packaging Competition since 2016, and as an esteemed design expert, she leaves no detail unexamined when it comes to finding the best in form and function. Toni spends her days at the Berlin Packaging design division producing eye-catching creations for clients ranging from Walt Disney Studios to the Houston Astros.



Mark Gruber has been a panelist at BTI since its inception in Chicago. Throughout his career, Mark has authored numerous magazine articles on the topic of wine and spirits, most notably the whiskey entry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Mark also served as the consulting mixologist for The Art of Distilling co-authored by fellow panelist Alan Dikty and founder of the American Distilling Institute Bill Owens. Currently, Mark teaches wine and spirits classes at his alma mater, Northwestern University.



Bret officially began his hospitality career at age 16 as a fry cook at I-80's World's Largest Truck Stop in Walcott, Iowa. He continued working in kitchens at various restaurants before moving to the front of house where he found his passion for all things fermented and distilled. Bret's beverage career kicked off with the Goddess Restaurant Group where he served for a decade as Wine Director at Feast, Cru Wine Bar, Teatro Zinzanni, and Goddess and Grocer. From there, Bret joined One Off Hospitality Group as the opening Wine Director for Nico Osteria and Publican Anker. His world travels, working harvests and visiting wineries, distilleries, and breweries throughout Georgia, Slovenia, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and across the US have led to thoughtful curation of his wine programs focusing on lesser-known regions. A lifelong collector, Bret enjoys peppering his wine lists with affordable obscurities he finds at auctions, giving his patrons a chance to enjoy something rare and off the beaten path.

Paul Hletko


In 2011 Paul opened the FEW Distillery and since then has produced award wining spirits that are original, distinctive and playful. His love for the nuances & flavor of whiskey and his flexibility to innovate with gin have made them FEW’s backbone products, but he continues to play around and innovate daily with limited expressions and new collaborations. In the future, Paul aspires to take FEW to an even bigger production facility where he and his team can continue to produce their liquid for enthusiasts around the world, while still remaining true to their craft roots. Recently, Paul was name the 2018 World Distiller of the Year in Gin Magazine’s annual ”Icons of Gin” feature.



Dejorn is a scholar of wine and spirits, ever eager to share her passion and expertise. During her tenure as Spirits Portfolio Manager for Tenzing, she not only helped educate the team but also showcased the company’s extensive artisanal spirits portfolio through cocktail development. Prior to her work current role with Maverick Wine Company, Ms. Huffman was also the Midwest Market Manager for Lucas Bols USA and one of the driving creative forces behind world-renowned cocktail bar, Sable.



With an extensive and ever-growing background of experience, Monique has served as a spirits-specialized panelist with BTI for over 5 years. She spent 10 years curating the world's best whisky collection in her Omaha hometown and has spent countless hours in whisk(e)y distilleries over the years, also making time to visit Spain to cultivate her knowledge of wine and maturation. Despite being in the industry since age 14, Monique knows there's always more to discover, stating that "Five years on the distribution side have taught me that every day I have more to learn." She firmly believes there is a whisky for every individual, and that the right amount of time and conversation is exactly what's needed to find the connection.  Monique comes to every tasting with an open mind, ready to compound every day's food and beverage experience into a tasting note that is honest and helpful to consumers. She believes that "The diversity of the tasters really makes for the best tasting notes."



Charles has been in the spirits world for over 20 years, working in nearly every type of establishment that makes its business selling spirits and cocktails, and receiving numerous awards and recognitions along the way. Charles was named American Bartender of the Year in 2013 at the Spirited Awards during Tales of the cocktail, was crowned the Global Bartending Champion in Diageo's World Class Competition in 2014, was nominated in 2015 and 2016 for the James Beard Award in Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional, was deemed one of Bon Appetit's 10 Most Influential Bartenders as well as one of Wine Enthusiast's Top Spirit and Wine Professionals, and has contributed his talents to numerous high-profile events including: Oprah's 25th Anniversary Party, the 2015 Grammy Awards, the 2016 Academy Awards, and the Kentucky Derby. Charles has served as a spirits panelist with BTI for over 5 years. He brings with him a methodical approach to tasting and takes into consideration all the unique complexities of each spirit. Charles says that he is constantly learning from the people around him and greatly values the time he spends with colleagues and other panelists.



Dave has served as a beer-specialized panelist with BTI since 2010. As a Master Cicerone®, his approach to tasting ensures that he pays careful attention to each product, deeply considering aroma and flavor. Dave also considers the brewing process--from the initial brew to the bottling of the final product—in order to analyze where flaws may have occurred and write informed suggestions for improvement where necessary. In his free time, Dave publishes articles for the Mash Tun Journal. He attributes his curiosity to keeping him in the business for over 30 years and enjoys the constant opportunity to both learn and teach in the industry, "The more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.”



Peter Kim is the beverage director for The Franklin Room, a Chicago restaurant and bar featuring a selection of rare and fine spirits that Kim sources from around the globe. He features weekly whisky picks for Facebook fans and is highly engaged with customers in and out of his bar, lending his strong background in blind tasting and judging spirits to help educate guests.



Jennifer began her beverage industry career at 21 in a French Quarter daiquiri shop. The passion and hard work that she has put into developing her finely-tuned palate has led to multiple recognitions and awards. In addition to receiving her Certified Sommelier designation, Jennifer was named one of the Top 50 Women to Watch in Food and Beverage Magazine and was on the opening team of numerous restaurants, national and international, for the Kimpton group.



Before she arriving in the US via Krakow, Kasia worked for wine importer Terra Galos and quickly realized her passion for wine. She is currently a wine consultant for Binny's and obtained the Sommelier Diploma through the International Sommelier Guild.



Magro began the development of her hospitality career at age 21. She has run bars across Chicago, including the nationally acclaimed Prairie School, much-beloved Sportsman's Club, Estereo, and, most recently, Lone Wolf. While balancing the forward motion of her beverage career, Magro is also focusing her energy on mentorship, her mental health awareness non-profit, and building a community inside and outside of the food and beverage industry.



Mark found his true passion in the world of wine during his last year of law school. He is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and holds the Diploma of Wine and Spirits from the WSET program. Before joining Connoisseur Wines, Mark was the wine director of Benny's Chop House with a wine program that received considerable acclaim from Wine Spectator.



Michael is an Ohio-native-turned-Chicagoan. After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago, his passion for hospitality became profession as he worked his way through the ranks of the industry, landing coveted positions at some of the city's most-renowned outlets like The Violet Hour and The Publican. Michael's hard work and innovation earned him the StarChefs Chicago Rising Star Sommelier award in 2010 and he was recognized in 2013 in Zagat's 30 Under 30 list for Outstanding Industry Excellence. He honed his sales skills as East Coast Sales Manager with Virtue Cider and eventually joined Heisler Hospitality as a corporate beverage director, curating programs at many of Chicago's dearly beloved haunts. Most recently, after cultivating and combining his extensive knowledge and experience, Michael formed a consulting company through which he provides top-notch beverage programming and manages national sales for his clients.



Michael Miller, one of BTI's longest serving and most outspoken panelists, is owner and operator of the 27-year-running Delilah’s Nightclub and the craft beer centric Bottom Lounge music venue in Chicago. Delilah’s is America’s most recognized whiskey bar (2004 Whisky Magazine, Best Whisky Bar Award) and is equally world famous for both its jukebox and its unparalleled selection of beer, wine and spirits. Miller has published dozens of articles concerning all things drinks, music, travel, and nightlife. Miller has one feature film to his credit, a cutting-edge bar in Spain in the works, and a tremendous dedication to offering the best experience possible for his many patrons and friends. Miller always brings considerable sensory skills, product knowledge, and thought-provoking opinions to his BTI panels.


Director of Content and Education

In all of his projects and study, Andrew is deeply passionate about helping promote the heritage and craftsmanship of fine libations. As an avid wine and whisk(e)y connoisseur, he has studied at the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as the WSET in his consistent pursuit of knowledge. Currently working as an independent wine and whisk(e)y consultant, Andrew was formerly an ambassador for Pernod Ricard and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society with an emphasis on luxury brands, and he brings his expertise and excitement to every BTI panel.



Julia was born and raised in Japan where her passion for hospitality took root from a seed planted by her mother. She has headed the programs at multiple award-winning Chicago establishments like The Aviary, The Office, and GreenRiver before landing as a creative partner and beverage director for two Michelin starred Oriole and her newest project, Bar Kumiko, one of Food and Wine's 2019 Best New Restaurants and Time Magazine's World's 100 Greatest Places in 2019.



Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Kristine's culinary career began at home where she learned the basics of cooking with her family. Her passion for food and hospitality took her to the Culinary Institute of America in New York City where she earned degrees in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management. After finding herself in Chicago, she graced the kitchens of Graham Elliot and Morimoto before exploring front-of-house roles and developing an interest in wine during her time at Spiaggia, Swift & Sons, and Somerset. At Galit, she curates a unique wine list with focus on natural and Middle Eastern selections. Kristine is dedicated to creating memorable experiences for guests through the coupling of great wine and her genuine hospitality.



Nick grew up working on the prairie, then in a greenhouse, always relying on his senses in the field and never afraid to use taste and smell when helping to identify plants. Drawing on his extensive background in the natural sciences, he enjoys making connections between the natural world around us and anything fermented. Nick's fervor for fermentation has led to work at West Lakeview Liquors and a cellar director position at Fountainhead, and he brings his field-developed faculties to BTI's beer, cider, and mead panels.


Jason Prah has worked in the Chicago wine scene for over twenty years. He is currently a Portfolio Specialist with Strategic Group representing the Moet Hennessy portfolio. Before his work at Strategic Group, Jason held the position of General Manager and Sommelier at Acadia, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Chicago. He started as Assistant Wine Director at The Italian Village, a Wine Spectator “Grand Award” recipient. Over the years, he has held the title of Wine Director as well as General Manager at several acclaimed restaurants and was Wine Director at Eno Wine Room at the Intercontinental Hotel, where he also consulted for their sister property at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. Jason has also spent time working on the distribution side of the business selling fine wine to some of the best restaurants in the city. Jason has travelled through Italy, France, Napa Valley, Oregon and Washington visiting some of the most prolific wineries and tasting some of the finest wines in these regions. Jason is a Level Two Sommelier in the Guild of the Court of Master Sommeliers, has attained WSET level two certification and received the Jean Banchet Best Sommelier award in 2013.



Samu Rahn is a Certified Cicerone and on-premise key account manager for Louis Glunz Beer, an independent Chicagoland distributor established in 1888. After receiving an MBA from North Park University in 2011, he explored multiple facets of the industry--homebrewing beer, cider, and mead, bartending in Sweden, beer travel journalism in Italy and Germany--before settling into distribution in Chicago. When he's not working or on a BTI beer panel, Samu also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Business of Craft Beer program at the College of DuPage and additionally judges for the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.



Throughout the past 15 years, Alex has built a strong, broad foundation of beverage experience, from bartending at the acclaimed Sable Kitchen and Bar, holding a beverage director position for Menin Hotels, consulting on multiple spirits brands through The Dogma Group, and representing The Macallan as a brand ambassador, to his current position with Edrington. His passion for his career has led to traveling to multiple distilleries world-wide and providing top-notch spirits education around, creating a wealth of knowledge that he brings to every BTI panel.



Regine fell in love with wine during a college study abroad trip to Besançon, France. Bitten by the wine bug early on, she began her career in the beverage industry as a salesperson for a wine distributor. While in this role, Regine noticed how the barrier of "wine speak" formed a disconnect between wine professionals and consumers. Inspired to bridge the gap, Regine started Shall We Wine: a wine, spirits, and beer tasting company based in Chicago. She received her Level II certification from the International Sommelier Guild and is an Executive Bourbon Steward with the Stave and Thief Society. Regine has traveled around the globe to share her wine and beverage expertise, and has been listed as one of 40 African-American Tastemakers in Black Food & Beverage. Regine was a featured panelist at the Association of Writers & Writing Program conference in 2013, the inaugural Blacks in Wine Symposium in 2017, the Women's Breakfast Business Panel presented by the city of Chicago in 2019, and the SoloCEO Summit that same year. Additionally, Regine has been featured in The New YorkerVinePair, Black Enterprise, and Wine Enthusiast.



Cindy has been writing about wine on her award-winning wine blog, Grape Experiences (one of Feedspot's 2019 Best 100 Wine Blogs and the Lux International Magazine Best Wine Blog US in 2016, 2017, and 2018), since 2011. She completed the WSET Level 3 Wine program with merit in 2021. Cindy is based in Chicago and attends international and national trade tastings and media events, meets and interviews winemakers to share their stories, and writes about tastings, food and wine pairings, wine travels, and more. Cindy has written for a variety of print and digital publications including Crave Local, Wine Tourist Magazine, and the wine club newsletter for Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants. Cindy also writes for Wine Traveler and Drizly on their online sites, and received a Drizly Blogger Award for Best Wine Blog in 2017. A former educator, Cindy understands the value of lifelong learning and strives to share her extensive knowledge of wine through writing and social media.



Benjamin got an unusual start in the food and beverage industry on his family's apiary where he trained his nose and palate on the subtle differences between varieties and vintages of honey. Over the years, he has tirelessly developed a reputation as one of the top bartenders in the nation, and has won numerous competitions and high acclaim in the press for his work in the industry. He brings his sensory precision and discipline to his innovative cocktails as well as to BTI wine and spirits panels.



Nancy began her wine career at a small Michigan winery and tasting bar. After developing an understanding for the chemistry and art of winemaking as a vintner, she began serving at the tasting bar. Nancy has worked in several wine and craft cocktail focused venues in Chicago as both a server and floor sommelier. She most recently focused on wine education, staff training, and service in Coda Di Volpe, one of Chicago's local, chef-driven restaurants. She is a certified beer server through the Cicerone Certification Program, is WSET Level 3 Wine Certified, and is currently pursuing education through the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators.



Vinny came to Chicago in 2017 to study music. As most do, he quickly fell in love with the city, and in turn, the restaurant scene. He decided to pursue a career in hospitality and has worked behind the stick at some of Chicago's most iconic cocktail bars, including Barrelhouse Flat and Queen Mary Tavern. Vinny joined the opening bar team at Bad Hunter in 2016 and during his tenure as bar manager (2017-2020 when the beloved restaurant sadly closed) was responsible for the development of the award-winning, uber-creative, low-ABV cocktail menu--the first of its kind in Chicago. Adding to his resumé, Vinny was a global finalist in the 2017 Lustau Solera Standout competition and the winner of the 2018 Old Forrester Old Fashioned Face Off. Most recently, as a reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, he founded HELLO, cocktails, a ready-to-drink cocktail company with a focus on designing thoughtful, shelf-stable beverages. Vinny enjoys sherry, vermouth, and all thing pink and spritzy, and is passionate about functional sustainability, light flavors, and session-able drinking.



Rebecca graduated from Wells College, nestled in New York's vine-laden Finger Lakes region, with a degree in theatre. While working as a stage manager in Chicago, her college-rooted love of Riesling coupled with a borrowed Jancis Robinson book to set her on the wine and spirits path. Rebecca helped open and eventually managed a boutique wine and spirit store in Lincoln Park, worked as a wine and spirit buyer for Whole Foods, wine captained and led events at City Winery Chicago, and is currently the spirits buyer for Plum Market in Chicago's historic Old Town neighborhood. She is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and is avidly making her way through the WSET Wine Diploma program. When not working, studying, or swirling, Rebecca practices barebow archery, reads wine books, and plans her next wine adventures.


Milos, originally from the Northwest Suburbs by way of Serbia, moved to Chicago in 2004 to pursue Audio Arts and Acoustics. Working in bars and restaurants began as a means to an end but quickly became a passion brought on by the pace and ever-changing carousel of faces in barstools. Naturally curious, Milos' first deep dive into the beverage world was through beer, after having his curiosity piqued by barrel aged beers. He became a Certified Cicerone in 2011 and continued to develop his interest through various positions within the industry including Beverage Director of the Virgin Hotel Chicago. In 2019 Milos launched the beverage consulting company Twisted Sipsters with longtime friend and mentor, the late Paul Tanguay. As a response to COVID, Milos pivoted to the food portion of his F & B knowledge and in 2021 launched Paper Plane Pizza, set to open in the 3rd Street Market Hall in Milwaukee, WI Summer of 2022. For the last 4 years BTI has been a haven for him as he continues to learn about beer and spirits from the truly amazing panel of judges he is proud to work alongside.



Shana is an Advanced Cicerone and Content manager for the Cicerone Certification Program where she keeps training and exam content up to date, runs educational programming, and teaches Cicerone courses. She has also been part of the team at Chicago's Dovetail Brewery since day one, where she works behind the bar, conducts tours, and spends plenty of time ensuring that the beer tastes good.



David's first job in the beverage/hospitality industry was as a wine buyer in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early '90s. In his time in the industry, David has worked primarily in the retail sector at places like Sam's Wine and Spirits and Binny's Beverage Depot. His passion for the industry is derived from the rich history of each spirit. For over 10 years, David has served as a panelist with BTI, and when he tastes he looks for a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Nigal Vann

Founder, Vannity Cocktails

Nigal Vann is the founder of Vannity Cocktails and bartender at The Berkshire Room in Chicago. In the last 15 years he’s been working in bars that focused on just about every genre it comes to cocktails and spirits. He’s traveled all over the country participating in cocktail competitions and working behind the scenes at many cocktail conferences, like Tales of the Cocktail. With the changes 2020 has brought to the hospitality industry, he is making it his mission to mentor new bartenders and virtually educate consumers in a fun and unique way.



Adam cut his beer industry teeth at the iconic Sam's Wine and Spirits in the late 2000s, staying on with Binny's Beverage Depot after the 2009 buyout. Leaving Binny's in 2015, he went north to Wisconsin to help open Octopi Brewing before heading back to Chicago to run the beer program for One Off Hospitality's renowned restaurant, The Publican. In his time with One Off, Adam produced multiple collaboration beers between breweries in the US, with one in Germany, and took home a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for his "Pixie Dusted," made in tandem with Firestone Walker. Adam has been featured several times on the Travel Channel and Food Network and was named one of Wine Enthusiast's 40 Under 40 Tastemakers. His palate is recognized nationally and he has used it to serve as a judge for the World Beer Awards in addition to being  a BTI panelist for over 10 years.
"The consistency and broad consumer reach of BTI ratings and reviews really solidified the quality message of our artisan brand and helped us build a well-distributed and highly regarded specialty portfolio of beers."
Laurent-Xavier Gilbert,
VP Development at La Brasserie Unibroue
"The BTI rankings have an effect on what restaurants put on their wine lists, and ultimately on what you might be drinking."
Joe Gray,
Editor, Chicago Tribune
"BTI is still the outstanding tasting organization, uniquely independent. Keep up the good work!"
Jan Wells,
VP of Marketing, Cannon Wines
"Beverage Testing Institute is a professional operation with a professional approach. I like that they are committed to truly blind tastings and that their reviews are comprehensive and informative. We highlight the reviews in our tasting room and post them on social media; the consumer response is very positive. "
Edwin Richards,
Winemaker/Owner, Adastra
“Our BTI awards have helped us with our US distribution. Sales have increased form 0 cases to 250 cases in just a couple of months. We opened two new accounts in Seattle and New York.”
Eduardo Aguirre Victoria,
Terre de Vignerons
“[BTI's] is well known as a main reference for connoisseurs, experts and followers of spirits.”
Otto Flores,
Ron Barcelo
"We have used (BTI) for the last 5 years and couldn’t be happier. They always have great customer service and support! Not only do they have detailed professional reviews and tasting notes, the addition of the metallic stickers and shelf-talkers help us capture customers, and drive bottle sales. The trophies, medals, and printed awards are displayed as center pieces in our tasting room. Their website is easy to navigate and has great product information."
Mike Huffman,
Whidbey Island Distillery
“Our winery has had BTI rate our wines for a number of years. We use the bottle stickers and shelf talkers for both education and to enhance our marketing. We have had distributors request bottle stickers, and during wine pourings, we use the shelf talkers as a customer take away. We appreciate the information written by BTI since we find it to be concise, descriptive, informational, and a well rounded review of our wines.“
Janet Soderberg,
Alamira Wines, Vistaflores Estate
When we found out that our 20 year Pappy Van Winkle had been entered in BTI's 1997 World Spirits Championships and received their 99-point rating, that’s when we started getting calls from distributors around the country looking for our whiskey.

That was a benchmark moment for our business. Every time we received a high rating from BTI over the years, interest increased for our brand.

We owe a lot to the Beverage Testing Institute for our success.
Julian P. Van Winkle, III,
President, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
BTI has been our go-to partner for our alcohol awards program for years now, providing quality reviews of our wide selection of wines, beers and hard seltzers. The unique quarterly submission process allows our team to highlight new, trending and seasonal offerings and the staff at BTI is always responsive, collaborative and supportive to help us reach our goals.
Carrie Reitz,
Corporate Buying US, ALDI Inc.
The trust that consumers, major retailers, distributors and suppliers have for BTI makes their reviews and recommendations an invaluable complement and a huge asset to the success of Atlas’ bespoke label brands. I enthusiastically recommend their tools and services to anyone in the control or private label beverage program spaces.
Jim Cosma,
Atlas Imports

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