To celebrate our November/December 2022 issue, which marks the 100th issue of Imbibe, we asked some of our longtime contributors and staff to reflect on notable and favorite stories they’ve worked on over the years. From writers to photographers to illustrators, here are some of their memories spanning the past 16 years of Imbibe.
Penelope Bass, Managing Editor
In my seven years with the Imbibe team, I’ve had the opportunity to explore cultures all over the world through the lens of what, and how, we drink together. I’ve also been fortunate to meet some of the most fascinating and passionate people, like winemaker and regenerative farming advocate Mimi Casteel [web extra for January/February 2020] and service industry vet Reza Esmaili [web extra for September/October 2017]. I always appreciate the opportunity to report from the ground, whether that’s showing our readers the scene in Las Vegas [November/December 2019] beyond the tropes or simply sharing a meaningful moment over beers in Vietnam [September/October 2018].
Exploring the culture of drinks is endlessly fascinating and delicious, and I learn something new working with our insanely talented roster of writers and artists in every issue—like Shana Clarke’s deep dive into the evolving wines of tradition-bound Bordeaux (an idea we were able to brainstorm while sipping wine together in Bordeaux) here in our 100th issue!
Joshua M. Bernstein, Contributing Editor
In the early 2010s, breweries began drawing clear lines in the sand separating craft breweries from those owned by large corporations such as Anheuser-Busch InBev. In the wake of Goose Island’s 2011 sale to ABI, I looked at the battle brewing for the future of beer [September/October 2014]. It’s a snapshot of an era when the David-Goliath divide got real blurry.
My favorite stories to write are ones that go beyond the bottle. Here [March/April 2021], I look at the unlikely intersections of honeybees, solar power, wildflower fields, and beer, gin, and mead. It was truly rewarding to connect the dots and tell a much larger story.
During the pandemic, offering to-go everything became essential for survival. I kept noticing that breweries began making and selling pizza, the ideal to-go food to go with a few cold four-packs. I loved writing this story of adaptation and evolution [March/April 2022].
Paul Clarke, Editor in Chief
It’s kind of overwhelming to look back on 100 issues of Imbibe and pick my favorite moments. The profile I wrote of Ted Haigh, “Dr. Cocktail,” for Issue No. 1 in 2006 will always hold a place in my heart, and it helped open the door for Doc to become Imbibe’s first regular columnist. In those early years, I also chronicled the then-nascent (and now surging) renaissance of rye whiskey [January/February 2007], and absinthe’s newly legal reappearance [January/February 2008] in America after nearly a century as a banned substance. And while the spirits and cocktails I’ve covered have always proved fascinating, the people I’ve profiled (like Bobby Heugel [March/April 2013], St. John Frizell [November/December 2013], and Jennifer Colliau [July/August 2011]) and places I’ve reported from (including Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Sydney [November/December 2017) along the way have kept me excited about writing for Imbibe for almost 17 years now.
Chasity Cooper, Contributing Writer
The Tangled Tale of Zinfandel (March/April 2021)
This was the first piece I wrote for an outlet about a specific grape variety, and I was so thrilled! Research for this piece required me to go to one of my favorite places (the library) and do some digging on the history of this grape varietal, and how it has evolved over time. I was super proud to see this piece in print, and to spotlight a number of producers who are giving Zinfandel the props that it deserves.
For the Next Generation of Black Wine Professionals, Change Is Already Here (November/December 2020)
As the first piece I wrote for Imbibe, this was published on the heels of the racial reckoning that we were experiencing as a country in summer 2020. Many of the sources I quoted in this piece are Black wine professionals who I’ve admired since I realized I wanted to make an impact on this industry. Interviewing them at such a delicate time (and in the midst of the pandemic, no less) was bittersweet, but such a humbling experience. I’m grateful that I was able to share their stories in a way that was authentic but at such a critical turning point for the beverage industry.
The Pandemic Has Proved the Value of Local, Independent Wine Shops (May/June 2021)
Another piece written a year into the pandemic, this story gave me the chance to share some of my favorite wine shops across the country and highlight how they, too, had become hometown heroes in their own right at such a fragile time. So many wine shops from coast to coast had to quickly change their operations in order to adhere to social distancing protocols for customers, as well as how to be mindful of the health of their employees and families.
Wayne Curtis, Contributing Editor and Columnist
I’d have to say my favorites were Mixopedia columns that explored the flotsam and jetsam of bar culture. This included pieces on the Tap-Icer [November/December 2017], the foot rail [May/June 2019], Rosko the Battery Powered Bartender [March/April 2018], and the history of the sugar-coated rim [September/October 2019]. Sitting at a bar while enjoying a drink or two invites questions, at least if you put your phone away—why is this cocktail cherry so, so red [January/February 2017]? How did two popular types of cocktail strainers [March/April 2017] come to be? Writing the columns allowed me to indulge in research that wasn’t going to materially change the world, but allowed me to scratch an itch, and then share what I found.
Max Falkowitz, Contributing Writer
Never in a million years did I think a national magazine centered on alcohol would greenlight a feature on a cadre of Hong Kong old-timer tea roasters and the generational tradition they’re preserving from the Chinese mainland’s endless march of progress. I hope the story [from the September/October 2018 issue] illustrates what’s so special about good tea and why it’s worth paying attention to. A tea story—a lot of drink stories, really—is a business story, it’s diaspora, it’s cultural diffusions and recombinations, and it’s about a cup of something that could change your life. What a gift to take part in sharing that.
Jennifer Fiedler, Contributing Writer
My most favorite articles are the ones where I learn a lot when I’m researching them. The field blend [November/December 2021] and nomadic winemakers [May/June 2019] and no-alcohol wines [July/August 2022] were all really interesting to research! There’s so much consistent growth in certain sectors that I feel like I could write an updated piece on alternative sparkling wines [March/April 2017], Alpine wines [July/August 2019], and strange American grape wines almost every year since we published the original article, which is neat. The hardest article to write/research was on the Cali wildfires [July/August 2021] because it was (is) all so awful, but it’s such an important topic. The POG article [September/October 2022] was fun and different for me—fun to write about home!
Carolyn Fong, Contributing Photographer
Speed Rack (January/February 2013)
This might have been right after the first Speed Rack competition! I loved getting to meet Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix as they just launched Speed Rack. And I’ve been wowed by how much they have continued to grow and create more charitable contributions to the world through their efforts both behind and in front of the bar!
Grand Banks NYC (January/February 2015)
When I got the assignment to photograph an oyster bar on a boat at sunset, it was surreal because there just aren’t that many locations in NYC where you get the sense of being so removed from the city with just a few steps! As soon as I stepped aboard it felt like I was transported. This resulted in a cover image, and I loved being able to meet and work with the folks who were behind the bar!
Tonya Pitts (March/April 2022)
Last year I got to meet and photograph master sommelier Tonya Pitts—who besides being generous with her time and energy—was so kind and the EPITOME of a Host—capital H. She embodied all the wonderful things I love about working with people who are in the service industry and especially in the Imbibe world. There’s a level of care and hosting and just mutual respect and care for another human that is at the heart of someone who has dedicated so much of their time and energy to learning about all the amazing ways that a product—a drink—can influence and effect another person’s life.
Gabriela Hasbun, Contributing Photographer
The Oakland bars for November/December 2018 was a top fave amongst so many! It was unexpected to find a bar that had amazing cocktails, great food, and a music venue all in one space. The bar also transported me to New Orleans, where I went to school. The space is infused with soul and great energy.
Molly Henty, Art Director
My very first issue was #38 (July/August 2012) so I have been art director (and graphic designer) for 63 issues! Throughout that time, there have been a lot of feature designs I’m proud of. But my favorite is, perhaps fittingly, The Design Issue (March/April 2016). It was a challenge to approach the design of the issue in a different way than usual (of course I wanted to be sure to design The Design Issue well) but also fun. And I’m pleased with how the whole package looks.
Eric Medsker, Contributing Photographer
My first shoot ever for Imbibe was back in 2014 [May/June 2014], and it was a portrait of Dave Pickerel. Pickerel was incredibly gregarious, funny, and easy-going, which I was immensely grateful for. He made that first job so easy.
Brooklyn Kura was another memorable shoot [September/October 2018]. Since sake is one of my favorite libations, it was fascinating to shoot the process and taste an American-made version so close to home.
Spending time with Nacho Jimenez and the crew at Ghost Donkey before they closed the NYC location was a special treat. It was one of the most rambunctious, lively good times to be had in NYC and just as much fun to photograph [January/February 2020].
Matty Newton, Contributing illustrator
Imbibe #86 cover: With the world on COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, Imbibe was unable to run things as usual. I was asked to create most of the key visuals for the then-upcoming July/August issue including its cover and 22 interior illustrations for articles, features, and Summer Drinks lineup. It was a unique experience and something I will cherish. I don’t know if the opportunity to illustrate as much for one single magazine issue will present itself ever again. I am very proud of the work Art Director Molly Henty and I achieved under very uncertain times.
Celebrating 100 Years of the Negroni: Simple drink. Big journey. This one illustration began as a proposed t-shirt design and then became an interior Imbibe illustration to commemorate 100 years of Negroni with Art Director Molly Henty’s guidance. But this one ‘lil Negroni continues to quench, as it now graces the cover of a Penguin UK novel!
Caroline Pardilla, Digital Content Editor
My first appearance in Imbibe was actually as an LA blogger in a profile piece for the Los Angeles issue (March/April 2015), and that meant I got to have my portrait taken by Dylan + Jeni. But one of my favorite pieces I wrote was the Elements: Genever in the May/June 2019 issue, simply because it was my very first one for the magazine. And in print! Before that, I primarily wrote online. I remember being so excited when Paul [Clarke] reached out to me about doing some freelance work for Imbibe, and that Elements was my first job. Coincidentally, while he had me look over the edits for that piece, I was recovering from a snowmobile accident, so working on it helped boost my morale for sure.
Kelly Puleio, Contributing Photographer
My favorite shoot for Imbibe was the destination feature Las Vegas 2019 [for November/December 2019]. I do not love Vegas and avoid going at all costs, but when Molly [Henty] offered up this shoot, I trusted the team at Imbibe wouldn’t misguide me. Penelope [Bass] was the writer, and she sought out the best of the best, places I would have never gotten to know had I not been on that shoot. I got to experience Vegas off the Strip and meet loads of folks who changed my perspective. This shoot is at the core of why I’m a photographer, getting to experience the same place in a totally different way and show it to the rest of the world.
Robert Simonson, Contributing Editor
The Imbibe stories I’ve enjoyed working on most are the “Characters” profiles. The cocktail world is full of characters, and Imbibe has been generous enough to allow me to sketch several of them. I tend to gravitate toward behind-the-scenes people, marginal figures unknown to the public who have had an invisible hand in shaping modern cocktail history and perhaps have not been given their proper due. Among these are: cocktail app creator and general mixology Zelig, Martin Doudoroff [July/August 2015]; Herbsaint history hobbyist Jay Hendrickson; the one-man whiskey evaluation industry, Paul Pacult [May/June 2020]; influential boutique liquor store owner LeNell Camacho Santa Ana [November/December 2018]; and the late Brother Cleve [March/April 2017], the Godfather of the Boston cocktail revival. I was particularly grateful to be able to give Cleve the full biographical treatment before his recent, untimely passing.
John Valls, Contributing Photographer
I’ve loved so many projects from Imbibe, so it’d be hard to pick a favorite. But I do have a favorite thing about working with Molly Henty, the art director. So many of the photos we create together have the hit of subtlety, powerful use of color, and a kind of mystery. I try to create a mood, a kind of feeling that will let the cocktail really shine. These elements are what really make the drink and the photo “pop” for me. This subtlety helps create the mood and lets the viewer imagine themselves there, in that environment, with the drink.
David Wondrich, Contributing Writer
I’ve just spent a thoroughly enjoyable 45 minutes looking through my old columns for Imbibe. I think my favorite is from November/December 2012, on the great African-American bartender Dick Francis and his Special. I’ve written a good deal about African-American bartenders and their key role building the American institution of the bar, but this is one of the earliest such pieces to be published and one of my favorites.