Cheers Magazine Announces Winners of the 2009 Cheers Benchmark Awards

Jul 08, 2009, 14:44 ET from Cheers magazine

NORWALK, Conn., July 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Cheers magazine, the premier on-premise beverage resource, announced the winners of its 2009 Cheers Benchmark Awards (Beverage Excellence Awards for non-chain hospitality establishments). Now in its third year, these awards were created to honor those independent establishments that are true drink destinations. The awards are presented in three categories: Best Wine Bar, Best Beer Bar and Best Cocktail Lounge.

To qualify, entrants must be independent operators, defined as concepts operating in no more than five locations and independently owned or part of a hotel or multi-concept restaurant company.

The winners of the 2009 Cheers Benchmark Awards are Best Wine Bar: Ottimista Enoteca-Cafe, San Francisco, CA; Best Beer Bar: Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, N.Y.; and Best Cocktail Lounge: Sepia, Chicago, IL. Each represents an outstanding independent operator who has been honored for a history of excellence in the beverage business.

Melissa Gisler, founder and managing partner of Ottimista Enoteca-Cafe, the Italian-inspired wine bar in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood, explains that "The name, 'Ottimista' means optimist in Italian." Gisler was truly an optimist when she opened the wine bar three and a half years ago without any previous experience other than as an avid wine lover and amateur chef. She goes on to say, "We always think of the wine glass as half full."

The Blind Tiger boasts 28 draft taps, two hand-drawn casks and a gravity keg, plus a selection of more than 50 bottles and an extensive list of vintage ales. The offerings rotate constantly and what can be found on tap one week, won't necessarily be available the next. Co-owner Alan Jestice says, "I consider this an art gallery and the brewers are the artists. My job is to show off their work."

This cutting edge cocktail lounge at Sepia is housed in a 1890s-era print shop in Chicago, with old photographs and antique cameras on display. "Like the restaurant, Sepia's cocktail program is based on the classics but with modern twists," points out owner Emmanuel Nony. The cocktail list is refreshed every four to six weeks, according to the head bartender, Joshua Pearson. "Right now, I'm taking advantage of rhubarb that's in the market-and fresh spring herbs."

For more information about Cheers magazine and the Cheers Benchmark Awards, contact Cheers Editor-in-Chief Liza Zimmerman at (415) 994-0130, or email or visit

SOURCE Cheers magazine