Festival Management Team

The NMCC Festival Management Team is comprised of a talented and respected group of professionals. Meet the crew:

Natalie Bovis, Creator / Producer NM Cocktails & Culture Culinary Festival

Upon founding The Liquid Muse LLC in 2006, Natalie immersed herself in cocktail culture, the liquid element of the culinary world. She was named “One of four women leading the liquor industry” in 2016, voted Edible Magazine’s 2017 “Local Hero” in Mixology and recently included “100 Trailblazing Women in the Hospitality Industry,” Natalie Bovis is a spirits educator, cocktail book author, and Founder of the annual NM Cocktails & Culture Culinary Festival. Her third book, Edible Cocktails landed on USA Today’s 2012 “Top Ten Summer Cookbooks” alongside Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart. A spokesperson for spirit, wine and nonalcoholic beverage brands, Ms. Bovis hosts video shows, and teaches at cocktail conferences, nationwide. With a passion for all things eco-friendly, she and Jason Monkarsh co-created multi medal-winning OM Liqueurs resulting in the “Entrepreneurs of the Year” award at Nightclub & Bar Show 2014.  More at: TheLiquidMuse.com.

Michelle George, Restaurant Liaison

Michelle George was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  She had the honor of working with the Children, Youth and Families Department for over 20 years.  Upon retirement, she continued her employment working with various nonprofit organizations and has sat on various boards and commissions.   She’s had the privilege of coordinating the Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Event for the past 6 years to broaden awareness of child abuse prevention and to bring together community organizations and community partners to provide a fun filled day for children and families.   Michelle has recently branched out and has obtained her Alcohol Server License andhas begun taking her career in an exciting new direction.    In her spare time she loves Bootcamp class, riding her bike, eating and enjoying a good cocktail.

Layla Linn, Back of House Director

Layla has over 25 years of hands on experience as a beverage professional. She prides herself on creating cocktails that embody the client concept, designing creative bar programs for national accounts to world class cocktail bars, and has traveled extensively across the world learning the history, allure and distilling processes of spirits, with a passion for agave. Layla launched her Beverage Consulting Agency~ Lock, Stock & Shaker, LLC. in 2017, focusing on drink development, education, marketing and events.  She also serves as the Director of Beverage with The Liquid Kitchen.  Her engaging personality and ability to connect makes her an enthusiastic and compelling trainer, speaker and educatorShe has attended the renowned Beverage Alcohol Resource Program (B.A.R.) in 2009 and is B.A.R. Certified.   She has served on the boards of Arizona Cocktail Week, NM Cocktails & Culture Culinary Festival and Après Ski Cocktail Classic. Layla is also an advisor for the Phoenix Chapter of the USBG & the National Nominating Committee (United States Bartenders Guild).  She is a C.R.T. Trained Tequila Expert and a judge for multiple competitions throughout the country, including Diageo World Class, Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender and WSWA.  Further certifications include WSET Level 2, with distinction and Master Class on Sherry Wines.

Shannon Krol, Front of House Director

Shannon has been in the hospitality industry for nearly 25 years, wearing many hats from bartending to managing to assisting with opening new concepts.  Recently, she started her own spirit consulting company, Actionable Craft where she manages events for Rattle & Rum, bringing craft cocktails to the masses at large scale festivals throughout the Phoenix valley as well as cocktail development for Liquid Architecture, a national account consulting firm. Her new home is at The Lab AZ, a collaborative space for like-minded professionals with similar passions for knowledge about the history of spirits and cocktails, a respect for distilleries who put their hearts into their bottles, and the understanding that you can make someone’s day by passing them a great cocktail across the bar.

Nicole Lawe, Art Show Curator

Nicole Lawe is an artist and bartender who currently works at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM (owned by local author George R.R. Martin, creator of Game of Thrones) as Assistant Manager with her focus being on the bar. She has, on behalf of the Jean Cocteau Cinema, won “Best Cocktail” 2016 with the Night’s Watch, “Best Cocktail Second Place” 2017 with the Jon Snow Cone, and “Best Cocktail” 2018 with the George R.R. Martini at the New Mexico Cocktails and Culture Festival. She has been making wire wrapped jewelry for nearly two decades and recently started her own handmade jewelry business, Mineral & Meridian. She is an enrolled member of the Karuk Tribe of California and received her AA in Liberal Arts at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS, and her BFA in Studio Arts, with an emphasis in photography, at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM.

Aaron DeFeo, Festival Management

Award winning Mixologist Aaron DeFeo made a name for himself in Tucson, AZ, and now lives in Phoenix where he opened celebrated Little Rituals bar. He and business partner, Ross Simon, plan to open new concepts in the coming year. Aaron is a long-time supporter of the NMCC Festival and integral part of the festival family!

Zachary O’Haire, Bar Team 

An Arizona native, Zachary has honed his craft as a hospitality professional over the past two decades. With his knowledge of wine, beer and spirits he has developed, trained and lead operations and beverage programs for multiple concepts around the world. His mantra is to always create outstanding experiences with his team, his clients and their guests. Zachary also sits as Chapter Director for the United States Bartenders Guild Phoenix Chapter and helps to further his local community whenever possible.

Carol Donovan, Bar Team

Carol is a spirits expert, educator and singer! Certified “Spirits Professional” USBG Master Accreditation;  B.A.R. 5-Day “Bar Certified”; WSET Level 2 Spirits certification; Advanced Mixology Culinary Academy; BarSmarts Advanced; BNIC Cognac certified; BNIA Armagnac certified;  CRT “Award T” tequila certification; WSET Level 3 Sake certification; Certified Specialist of Sherry Wine, Behind the Barrel bourbon intensive; USBG Chapter officer

Lauren Lowe, Bar Team

Lauren brings experience as a team leader, bar manager and bartender for 15 years. In addition to bartending she is always looking for ways to be a part of our growing community through charity events and bartenders guild events. She has competed in multiple bar competitions, most recently stepped outside of competing and helped coordinate Speed Rack Southwest which was held in Denver.

Stuart Jensen, Bar Team

Stuart is from Colorado Springs and went to college at CU in Boulder, where he started cooking in restaurants. Once he moved to Denver, he cooked at Tag and ChoLon. A part time bar-backing job at Green Russell, which was his intro to the bar world, and he eventually made the move to full time bartending there.  He left to be the bar manager at Mercantile Dining & Provision when they opened, and after about 2 years started a consulting company called Vigilante Cocktails.  Through that company he met his business partners at Curio and they opened that bar at Denver Central Market about two and a half years ago. The duo recently opened Brass Tacks in downtown Denver, and in August 2019 will launch a bar called Roger’s in Edgewater. Jensen’s wife, Elle, owns Amethyst Coffee company, which will soon have 3 locations in Denver, so between the two of them, pretty much all of the beverages are covered! Outside of food and drinks, he’s into honky tonk music, motorcycles, and traveling whenever there’s time.