June Rodil Tastemaker Earning the Master Sommelier Diploma in the Court of Master Sommeliers is an unbelievably difficult task. The exam has three sections: a verbal wine knowledge test, a blind tasting of six wines in 25 minutes, and test of the candidate’s ability to provide and beverage service in a fine setting. Since its inception in 1977 in England, only 227 people have reached the rarified air of the Master Somm. Only 147 people in the U.S. have passed the test since 1987.

Until the summer of 2011 there were zero Master Somms in Austin, but then Devon Broglie and Craig Collins became the first two in town. Now, June Rodil, beverage director for Maguire Moorman Hospitality Group, becomes the third in Austin, the seventh in Texas and one of 23 women in the world to hold the distinction. She has completed the four stages of testing that include Introductory Sommelier Course; Certified Sommelier Exam; Advanced Sommelier Course; and Master Sommelier Diploma (read about the process in So You Want to be a Sommelier).

I first met June four years ago right after she passed the Advanced exam. It was clear that her bubbly personality, keen intelligence and unrestrained drive to succeed would propel her to the Master level. Armed with her signature sharp wit and that mischievous gleam in her eye, June shared a behind the scenes look at her quest to become a Master Sommelier.

What Are You Drinking?: How long did you study for the exam?

June Rodil: I got my Intro pin in 2007 when I started with Uchi Restaurant Group.

 

WAYD?: How certain were you that you had passed?

JR: HA! That’s a good one.

 

WAYD?: Who was the first person you called after you earned the Master Sommelier title?

JR: I handed my phone to Aaron (my boyfriend/S.O.) to pick up and respond when necessary. I was in a room full of my peers and some of my best friends. My mentors were present as well. It was very special to have so many people there in person. Then, I called my parents and my grandparents (cause, duh). And then work.

 

WAYD?: Who was the most helpful in you preparation for the exam?

JR: You have to find a good study partner. I skyped endless hours with David Keck and Jill Zimorski. The day before the exam, I locked myself in a hotel room with Josh Orr and Jordan Salcito to review “the world of beverages” for about 12 hours. All these people are rad so it’s not so bad to spend so much time with them. It’s also beneficial to have a super supportive S.O. who doesn’t mind it if you’re studying every moment away from your normal 12 hour work day. Find your people. They will help you get there. Don’t spend your time being in too many study groups or having a very large one. Things get complicado.

 

WAYD?: What did you drink after the ceremony?

JR: Oh, but the question is what did we drink BEFORE we went to get our results….

 

WAYD?: Who was the first person who made a masturbator joke?

JR: You know there’s a Master Bates, right? Christopher Bates, MS. No joke. Just real life.

 

WAYD?: If you were single/unattached, would you use your new title to get laid?

JR: Nope.

 

WAYD?: What is the one thing you would never drink? (wine, spirit, cocktail, beer)

JR: Pickle Juice.

 

WAYD?: Would you refuse service to anyone who ordered it? (yes or no)

JR: Yes. Because if it accidentally touched my skin, I would start dry-heaving.

 

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Hendrick's Gin Flying Cucumber It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a flying cucumber! That’s right, Hendrick’s Gin has created Hendrick’s Air, a gigantic billboard in the sky. The 130-foot-long, 44-foot-tall blimp nicknamed the Flying Cucumber is visiting Austin this weekend.

The Hendrick’s Flying Cucumber first set sail on April 13 in Los Angeles and will visit San Francisco, Austin, Dallas, South Florida, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Ann Arbor, Indianapolis and Chicago during its journey. In Austin, the blimp will fly over Levitation Festival, Zilker Park and South Congress. It’s the first booze blimp to grace the skies of Austin.

“Our giant flying cucumber will pay homage to the distinguishing ingredient that makes our gin special. We want to remind our loyalists that Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic deserves the finest cucumber garnish, every time. We hope that this journey will enlighten our imbibers as to the important role the cucumber plays in the Hendrick’s world,” said brand ambassador, Jim Ryan, at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport where the blimp is tethered.

Whether you cast a jaded eye on the massive cucumber or see it as an omen that you must immediately have a cocktail, you have an opportunity to take a flight on the blimp.

“We are able to take a select group of people to ride with us in the Hendricks Flying Cucumber,” says Ryan. “These fellow ‘unusualists’ include loyal drinkers from the industry trade, press, and of course, our fans. Anyone can enter [for] a chance ride in the Flying Cucumber through social media by snapping a photo of it as it soars over Austin and post[ing] it onto Twitter or Instagram using #HendricksGin, #FLYINGCUCUMBER and #CucumberChallenge.”

The dirigible will fly over Austin “slow and low” at a sub-1000-foot cruising altitude from May 8-10. Hendrick’s recommends gathering at one of its viewing spots during the weekend to catch sight of the Flying Cucumber:

  • Friday, May 8, 6-8 pm at Maggie Mae’s
  • Saturday, May 9, 4:30-6:30 pm at Olive and June
  • Sunday, May 10, 7:30-10 pm at the W Hotel, Bar 96 and Bungalow

Only two to three people can ride at one time in the tiny capsule, so you may be lucky to catch a ride. The weather also may play a nasty role in grounding its flight. As of filing time for this story, Hendrick’s was unable to get its cucumber up for the press.

Well, as Mr. Hendricks, er Hendrix said, “Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

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