Congratulations to Michael Buonocore, the winner of 2019 A day with the master!

Michael took home the grand prize in 2019, showing his skill, passion, and expertise in cocktails and knowledge of the Gin category. He worked with Tom Nichol and Nathan Perry to create a Navy Strength Gin with the addition of pink peppercorn, cinnamon, and cardamom.


A life-long dedication to your chosen trade? A grueling apprenticeship under the most demanding of mentors? Confronting your fears as well as the evil father you never knew, as Luke Skywalker did to become the greatest Jedi Master who ever lived? In our world of spirits and distilling, the title “Master Distiller” has become more commonplace than ever, and yet there is no clear definition that everyone can agree on. The “craft distillery” movement has led to a booming renaissance in the spirits business, and of course each one of those distilleries must be led by someone with the skill, knowledge, and ability to distill, age & blend beautiful spirits in a crowded and competitive market. Amongst those leaders walk a select few; an elite group whose achievements excel beyond all the rest. True artisans and craftsmen who have forgotten more about the science & art of distilling than most will learn in their entire lifetime. One of these men, one living legend, who has unequivocally earned the title of “Master Distiller”, is Tom Nichol.

Before joining J. Rieger & Co. in 2015, Tom spent 42 years with one of the finest Gin brands in the world, Tanqueray, becoming their Master Distiller and creating Tanqueray No. TEN, the most awarded Gin in history. He later resurrected the classic Malacca recipe, as well as handwritten recipes from Charles Tanqueray in the mid 1800s.  Upon joining our team following his early retirement in 2015, Tom set out to create the finest London Dry-style Gin ever produced in the United States. Through the meticulous selection of the botanicals as well as his mastery of the subtle nuances of the distillation process, Tom has mentored our Head Distiller, Nathan Perry, in producing Rieger’s Midwestern Dry Gin. A simple, straightforward combination of only 5 botanicals resulted in an impeccably balanced and wonderfully complex Gin that lends itself beautifully to classic cocktails.

Likewise, J. Rieger & Co. co-founder Ryan Maybee is the only graduate of the highly-esteemed Beverage Alcohol Resource “BAR 5-Day” program to achieve the certified level of “Bar Master”.  Achieving this certification required years of practice and study behind the bar as a professional bartender, blind-tasting of hundreds of spirits, and a broad, comprehensive understanding of classic cocktails and how to perfectly balance ingredients. As a professional bartender, your goal will be to showcase your mastery of cocktails using Rieger’s Midwestern Dry Gin. Demonstrate your ability to use it as a canvas while also highlighting its best features. How would you best utilize the flavors, aroma, and mouthfeel to create the perfect cocktail? In addition, during the final round of the competition, you will be required to demonstrate your ability to blindly identify spirits, botanicals, and different styles of Gin. So extensive experience in the category of Gin is a must. The ultimate prize will be the opportunity to create and distill their own Gin, alongside Master Distiller Tom Nichol and J. Rieger & Co. Head Distiller Nathan Perry. That Gin will be bottled, packaged and released as a part of the annual “Rieger’s ‘Masters Series’ Gin”.  One person - through hard work, passion, dedication, and skill will earn the right to work with the legendary Tom Nichol to create their own Gin, with the style and flavor that they choose. That person will get to spend A Day With The Master.


Submit one original cocktail (photo and recipe) that showcases your skill as a bartender.
This cocktail and complimentary ingredients should highlight the attributes of Rieger’s Midwestern Dry Gin.
Answer required essay questions.


All complete entries submitted within the entry time frame will be judged against the following criteria based on the perceived qualities of the questions answered, written recipes, and photo submission. Entrants will be notified via email if they have been selected to move onto the Kansas City final competition. Judges will not take into consideration current employer, time spent bartending or any other personal information in the selection of top five finalists.
Guidelines and Requirements:
• Recipes must be original. This means the cocktail is a product of the individual and is not a copy or imitation.
• Minimum 1.5 ounce of J. Rieger & Co Gin.
• Recipes must not exceed 7 ingredients including drops, dashes (This does not include garnish, sprays or citrus zests).
• Picture of cocktail is required.
• Limit one entry per person.
• All recipes must conform to any legal regulations.
Judging Criteria (Online Entries):
Scores will be based on the judges’ interpretation of the written description submitted. In some cases, judges may recreate the cocktails to settle closely ranked submissions.


• Original Rieger’s Midwestern Dry Gin Cocktail (50 pts.)
• Essay answers (50pts.)


• Thoughtful recipe name and and story (20pts.)
• Presentation (10pts.)
• Taste/balance/intelligent use of ingredients (20pts.)
A total of five bartenders will be selected from the online submissions and will compete at the final event in Kansas City, MO.
• Top 5 bartenders are selected from online submissions and brought to J. Rieger & Co. distillery to showcase their skills and compete for the Grand Prize.
• Judges include J. Rieger & Co. Head Distiller Nathan Perry, 2019 A Day With The Master Winner, Michael Buonocore, and one TBD.
• The top 5 bartenders will be hosted for 2 days in Kansas City - July 27th and 28th.
• One winner will distill their own custom designed batch of Gin with Master Distiller Tom Nichol and Nathan Perry at the J. Rieger & Co. Distillery. The Gin will be bottled as "Rieger’s 'Masters Series' Gin". Total production volume may vary, and it will be available in allocated amounts in the home market of the Grand Prize winner.


• This program is open to all working bartenders that are not employed by liquor companies or distributors as full time employees.
• Competitors must be at least 21 years of age.
• Competitors must be legal United States residents. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary.