USC Judges

David Wondrich, PhD
David Wondrich, PhD
Author, Journalist, Educator
David Wondrich, PhD

“A living iPod of drink lore and recipes” (the New York Times), or, if you prefer, a “crazy, bearded Civil War general” (Conan O’Brien), David Wondrich is the world’s foremost expert on the history of the American cocktail. Plus, Stephen Colbert thinks he’s cute. As Esquire magazine’s long-time Drinks Correspondent, Wondrich has ranged far and wide through the world of booze, covering everything from Kentucky bourbon to Chinese cocktails. He also writes for Saveur (where he is the Wine and Spirits Editor) and The Malt Advocate (where he is the cocktail columnist), and has contributed to a host of other publicationsp, from Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Wine & Spirits to Oprah, Real Simple, Martha Stewart’s Blueprint, Marie Claire and too many others to count. In 2009, his drink writing earned him the Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Award for best drinks writing. Oh, and Stephen Colbert thinks he’s cute.

He has also written one book on the evolution of American music and three books on cocktails and mixology. The most recent of these, Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to Professor Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar, has been greeted with widespread, and even sometimes fervent, acclaim and is the first cocktail book ever to win a James Beard award (it also won the Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Award for Best Drinks Book and was a finalist for an IACP award). His first book, Esquire Drinks: An Opinionated and Irreverent Guide to Drinking (Hearst Books, 2002), was acclaimed as “arguably the most enjoyable guide to entertaining with alcohol since Kingsley Amis’s 1972 On Drink . . . brilliantly witty, irreverent and brimming with interesting trivia” (The Toronto Globe and Mail ) and “a must-have for anyone who enjoys a first-class cocktail” (the Dallas Morning News). In 2003, it was awarded a Silver Ladle at Australia’s biennial Jacob’s Creek World Food Media Awards. Killer Cocktails: An Intoxicating Guide to Sophisticated Drinking, was published by HarperCollins in 2005; among many other accolades it received, Glamour magazine named it the year’s Best Drinks Guide.

Wondrich’s devotion to the gospel of the classic cocktail does not shrink from fieldwork: he conducts frequent seminars in cocktail history in which the participants get to absorb their lessons not only aurally but orally as well. Occasionally, he has been known to develop a cocktail list for a bar or restaurant. The drinks he created for New York’s 5 Ninth caused the New York Times to say “Mr. Wondrich has an appreciation of the antique in cocktail-making, and a talent for contemporary context”; in 2005, they won Time Out New York’s coveted award for Best Cocktail List. He was also the motive force behind the Slow Food organization’s 2003 Tribute to Jerry Thomas, in which some of the nation’s most respected mixologists got together to pay tribute to the Professor—an event which the New York Times described as “an antiquarian lark, with overtones of a séance.” He is a Founding Member of the Museum of the American Cocktail, a founding partner of Beverage Alcohol Resource, the nation’s premiere training program for spirits and mixology, and a member in satisfactory standing of the Yerba Buena No. 1 Chapter of E Clampus Vitus.

Dr. Wondrich lives in Brooklyn with his wife Karen and daughter Marina, barely a block away from O’Connor’s Bar, where he likes to drink Boilermakers—but only because they don’t know how to make a decent Brandy Crusta.