Top 50 Cocktail Bars

Meet the judges of the Rising Star award

The Rising Star judging is well underway with our final five being announced earlier this month, but who decides who wins this award?

Charli Tomney | 14/01/2024

Top 50 Cocktail Bars has collaborated with Bar-Fabric to bring you the first ever Rising Star award, a way of identifying and awarding emerging talent in the UK bar scene by educating and supporting. Narrowed down to just 5 applicants, the potential winners will be facing their last round of challenges and judging in London on Monday 15th January.

We’ve carefully curated our list of judges, supported by our very own Charli Tomney, to help decide the winner for this exciting award. So, who are they?

Daniele Umoette

Dani started bartending in Italy in 2003 and moved to London in 2008 pursuing a career in hospitality.

Having worked in impeccable venues such as the Ronnie Scotts, Saint Martin Lane hotel and managing the bar of the famous The Box in Soho, he moved to the brands’ world due to his love for spirits and innovation. After working for over 5 years with premium vodka and gin, he moved to tequila following his passion for the liquid, Mexico, and what makes agave spirits so special.

As the UK Ambassador for Tequila Herradura and El Jimador, Dani spends his time spreading love for agave through tastings and sensory sessions, as well as organising and hosting brand events and brand collaborations.

Cam Dawson

Cam Dawson became the UK’s first Jack Daniels Brand Ambassador in 2014 and the role has seen him travel the globe sharing his knowledge & passion of Lynchburg, Tennessee’s most famous export.

Hailing from the heart of Scotland, Dawson’s 18 years in the drinks industry began in Australia where he learned the craft of the cocktail. Upon returning to the UK, he became an award-winning bartender and continued to work in some of the best loved cocktail spots around London and the South before joining Brown-Forman UK as brand ambassador of the first whiskey he ever tasted; Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.

Sandrae Lawrence

Currently positioned at number 12 in the Bar World 100, Sandrae is one half of The Cocktail Lovers, the eponymous magazine, website, podcast, events and consumer workshops company she runs with her husband Gary Sharpen.

Noted for knowing who’s moving and shaking in the cocktail world, The Cocktail Lovers Magazine was voted Best Spirits & Cocktail Publications in the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards 2016 and Sandrae was shortlisted for Best Cocktail and Spirits Writer at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards in the same year. The Cocktail Lovers podcast has picked up two awards since launching in 2021: Best Broadcast, Podcast or Online Video Series: Tales of the Cocktail 2022 and Best Food & Drink Podcast: The Publisher Podcast Awards 2022.

As born and bred Londoners Sandrae and Gary are proud to have been listed on the London Evening Standard The Progress 1000 –  London’s Most Influential People in both 2015 and 2017 and more recently, Sandrae was inducted into the Spirited Awards Dame Hall of Fame, shortlisted on the CODE Hospitality Women of the Year and IWSC Communicator of the Year.

As well as publishing The Cocktail Lovers Magazine, their work, opinions and recipes appears in The Daily Telegraph, London Evening Standard, Time Out, Christie’s International, Ocado and Delicious magazines and together and separately, they are regularly asked to judge cocktail competitions around the world.

Courtney Francis

Courtney Francis is a UK multi-award-winning bartender praised for creativity and trendsetting in the bar world, which gained her both the 'Emerging talent in Bartending' award with the IWSC in 2022 as well as the 'Emerging Bartender' award at the Class Bar awards 2023.

Alongside her healthy list of accolades, Courtney is on the judging panel for Class Bar’s Bartender Brand Awards within the agave category.

Courtney started her career 3 years ago and was the head bartender of Ojo Rojo (15th-best bar in the UK), she currently works for Couch in Stirchley, Birmingham, the 12th-best bar in the UK, and is building a career around specialising in agave spirits.

The winner of the award will be announced the official list reveal on Tuesday 6th February at the Underglobe in London. Be sure to follow @50cocktailbars on Instagram for more event updates.