Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore
200 International Drive, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. 21202
Tiffany Dawn Soto
“I like to take guests by the hand and walk them to the right sake. Even if it’s not the right one – though 98 percent of the time it is – at least they’ll get a sake education unparalleled on the east coast.”
|| Since 2011
||Sushi Samba, Hachi Modern Japanese, Terra Rosa, T-Bones Steakhouse, Wynn Resorts, University of Nevada-Las Vegas|
||San Diego, California|
||Bachelor of Arts, University of Nevada Las Vegas; Court of Master Sommeliers; Certified Sake Sommelier, Niigata Sake Research Institute, Japan|
||English, Japanese, Italian|
With artisanal spirits lining liquor store shelves and “mixologists”
behind every bar, it’s not easy to stand out in the current Golden Age of
Cocktails. Yet Tiffany Dawn Soto does – and on two continents, no less.
Appointed Beverage Director of
Hers is quite a celebration, indeed. Cocktails aren’t mixed at the Wit & Wisdom Bar and Lounge, but “hand-crafted” with attention to detail not seen in a century. “We pit and stuff each blue cheese olive individually, hand peel each orange to order, and update the menu in sync with seasonal ingredients,” says Soto, reeling off just a few. “Everyone claims ‘mixology,’ but there are few who are actually doing it.”
Her beverage team works closely with the kitchen, holding regular tasting sessions to assure perfect cocktail and wine pairings for Wit & Wisdom’s inspired farm-to-table comfort menu. There’s a reason the restaurant uses Jefferson grills and wood-burning stoves, she says. “Our cocktails are based on the classics of the tavern era, too.”
Soto’s wine list hovers just south of 300 labels, while at the Hotel’s Japanese izakaya-style hot spot, Pabu, her sake program tantalizes not just with extraordinary range, but with her talent for choosing a sake for every palate. “Whatever your taste preference and regardless of what you’re eating, there’s a right sake for you,” she says with assuredness to back it up.
That confidence didn’t come overnight. Soto’s long and – let’s just say it – boozy road to Baltimore began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where a side job had her participating in a wine tasting program at three years shy of legal drinking age. “I sure wasn’t qualified for anything else,” she recalls with a laugh. Following transfer to the hospitality program at University of Nevada Las Vegas, Soto steeled herself for her sorority’s dry “meeting day” tradition by enrolling in Sunday wine classes. When she aced a surprise blind tasting on the second day she became teaching assistant and her future was clear. “All because,” she laughs again, “I needed a drink before a meeting.”
There’s no end to education in the wine and spirits trade, of course. Soto continued hers at the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Niigata Sake Research Institute, and Sake World in Japan, where she became a certified Master of Sake.
Mastering sake is one thing; actually gaining traction in the closed and male-dominated world of Japanese sake is another. “Gain trust and pay dues – be humble, listen, learn,” says Soto of her formula for crashing the gates. It paid off: As sake and wine list manager at Hachi Modern Japanese & Sushi Samba in Las Vegas, Soto was renowned for pairing sake with Asian and non-Asian cuisine. She became the country’s top seller of Niigata sakes and, later, of all sakes from 2007-2010.
And she got around, leading popular “sake safaris” to Japan through ancient breweries while leading tastings of up to 1,500 sake labels over 10 days. She still tours the US when educational opportunities present themselves and enjoys a sizzling media career that has seen her name and byline everywhere from the Los Angeles Times to The Niigata Times. She has also graced the cover of Bar & Nightclub magazine and been featured by various television outlets.
What does Soto prefer when filling her own sake cup? Kirin-zan Junmai Daiginjo. “It’s hard to find but well worth the effort.”
It didn’t take long for Soto to feel at home in Charm City, where
her husband, a former sommelier, is a law student at the University of
Baltimore. Enthusiasm for beverages aside, Soto is quite normal, leading a
“very Martha Stewart sort of life” outside the Hotel filled with scrapbooking,
yoga and time with her husband and daughter. In other words, right where she
wants to be. “Baltimore is the first
Hotel Press Contacts
Director of Public Relations
200 International Drive
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. 21202
Email Audrey Slade
T. +1 410 223 1343
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