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ALBERTO ROCA Top Hat Liquors, Miami, FL rhythm than Top Hat Wines & Spirits. Founded in 2003 by the Cuban- American Rodriguez family, Top Hat has, in just over seven short years, become one of the area’s tip-top retailers. M Cuban-born Alberto Roca immigrated to the States in 2005 and imme- diately began working at Top Hat. The knowledgeable Roca now finds himself the General Manager of the 3,000-square-foot store, which serves an upscale clientele in fashionable Coral Gables and surrounding areas and prides itself on “going the extra mile” for its customers. “Our clientele drinks a lot of wine,” reports Roca, “but that also means we sell lots of spirits.” With sales topping $4 million per year, Top Hat is defi- nitely rockin’, and the 36-year-old GM is a qualified rocker in the industry. (Could it be more than coincidence that his last name is Roca? We wonder.) “Dewar’s is our biggest-selling scotch,” reports the star retailer, with White Label, which Top Hat carries in all six bottle formats, leading the other expressions of the brand. Surely part of the brand’s success at Top Hat is due to Roca’s hands-on approach to his job, but the impressive Dewar’s display on the floor can’t hurt either. —David Gadd VIC MANkERIAN Mission Liquor, Pasadena, CA rom singing in the shower to blowing up the basement, all rock stars have to start somewhere. For Vic Mankerian, Owner of Mission Liquor in Pasadena, CA, the starting spot was a tiny storefront in a 1,000-square-foot building, mere yards away from this rock star retailer’s current state-of-the- art digs. “In 1979, we were a typical hole-in-the-wall liquor store,” explains Mankerian. “Now, it’s our parking lot.” With 8,000 square feet of retail space and two additional locations opened since F 2008, Mankerian has graduated to the sold-out arena caliber of retail rockers. Mission’s selection has even been known to woo customers from competitors. “We get a lot of referrals from competitors who say, ‘We don’t have it, but Mission will,” admits Mankerian.”We have to stay on top of the trends and new spirits through industry publications like THE TASTING PANEL, because we don’t want to wait to have a request for a product—we want to already have it.” Mankerian, like any good rocker, knows the importance of having a few “go-to” brands that will always be in fashion and surefire crowd-pleasers. With 600 blended and single malt scotches to choose from, Mankerian is proud to report that Dewar’s is a top seller, and his passion for the brand is palpable. Like a famous rocker looking back on the gigs of yesteryear, he recalls his introduction to the brand: “I can still remember the first time I tasted Dewar’s 12 Year Old. Ever since, I’ve been in love.” Vic Mankerian. Having achieved gold-record status, Mankerian’s got his eye on the future, and on continued success. ”It feels good to be living my dream,” he says, with the confidence of a star whose flame burns enduringly bright. “But the sky’s the limit. I’m still young!” —Rachel Burkons december 2010 / the tasting panel / 67 iami has become one of America’s most vibrant cross-cultural hubs, and the city pulses with a Latin beat that extends to the wine and spirits retail world. No place better exemplifies that Alberto Roca. PHOTO: TOM CLARK PHOTO: ROB BROWN

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