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Interview with Meridith May: Tasting Panel Magazine

Since its inception in 2007 by Anthony Dias Blue and Meridith May, The Tasting Panel Magazine has become one of the most prestigious and sought after publications in the American wine and spirits industry.  I had the pleasure of sitting down with Publisher and Executive Editor Meridith May, to hear more about her history and how she helped build the magazine to what it is today.

Meridith surprisingly started in radio as promotion and marketing director at KIIS FM in 1978 just as we were coming out of the disco era.  Her boss, world renowned DJ Rick Dees was a foodie before there was such a term.  Because of Rick’s love of food and wine, Meridith was charged with setting up fun promotions for the station which allowed her to meet many chefs who would invite them into their kitchens.  Years later, Meridith took that knowledge of both radio and her new love of food and wine and started a noon talk show on KLSX with a focus on restaurants.  Meridith moved just slightly north to Santa Ynez to work for the Santa Barbara news press and had a show on KEYT.

Shortly thereafter Meridith moved back to LA where for 10 years she was editor for Patterson’s Beverage Journal which was what she called an “old trade rag”.  After working in the industry for so many years, Meridith knew she was ready to take on the challenge of a magazine herself.  She connected with Anthony Dias Blue who had been Editor of Bon Appetit for 27 year prior and together they took Tasting Panel Magazine national and it has since become the largest trade publication in the country.

Meridith is now charged with running the business side of things and putting together 120 pages of editorial and advertisements each month.  She loves the art of the deal now almost as much as she loves writing about wine and whisky.  Her passions really lie in creating editorials for brands that customize their identity.  Meridith sees the publication really as a branding magazine.  She gets to talk with the taste gatekeepers who now revere her taste and industry forecasts more than ever.

Unlike many other editors and magazine owners, Meridith seems to remain open minded and is always discovering new and exciting things her favorite being new boutique whiskeys.  I asked Meridith what her latest pic was to which she replied, “I love the new Maker’s 46 it has a lot of character.”  The last cocktail she drank was a Chambord flavored vodka cocktail, a brand the magazine has been working a lot with.  Meridith even gave us a cocktail recipe recommendation called “Idun’s Apple”:

  • 1 oz and a half of Calvados – (Boulard suggested)
  • ½ oz of aquavit
  • ½ oz of cardamom cinnamon honey syrup
  • 2 heaping bar spoons of apple butter
  • 1oz of lemon juice
  • Garnished with an apple round
  • Shaken over ice and strained

Aside from being an expert on taste, Meridith had some great insight for freelance writers in the food & beverage industry.  Her advice?  “Learn to take photographs.  That’s really who we’re looking for.  Photography is so important in order to capture the beauty of the brand and it’s so much easier to hire one person with both capabilities.”

When asked about current trends in mixology, Meridith said, “We are getting to a point where there are computer geeks and mixology geeks, the mixology geeks are able to create trends out of foams, homemade syrups, etc. to make a drink that’s not so labor intensive but wonderful.  Long drinks are great for a showcase but the trick is to get your stuff together so you can be the best on your block and do things no one else is doing.”

Finally I had to ask what her biggest bar pet peeve was.  “Having a hard time getting my check and poor customer service.  Bartenders and servers alike should know what’s special about their menu.  I don’t like lazy.”

Check out more about Meridith and Tasting Panel Magazine at www.tastingpanelmag.com

Stay tuned for more from LaurelK.com

 

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