After travelling 1,500 miles around the country to judge the previous 4 heats of the Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations competition we found ourselves in London for the final heat.
Over the last few months we had judged over a 100 Gin Mare cocktails and picked 4 finalists to head to Ibiza at the end of August for the UK and ultimately Global Finals. The final heat saw 14 more hopefuls vying for the final spot on the plane.
The regular judging panel of BarLifeUK, Stuart ‘The Moustache’ Ekins from CASK Liquid Marketing and BarChick.com’s Jennie Chuter were joined by Jorge Balbontin, Gin Mare Brand Ambassador. Each competitor would have to impress the panel with a Gin Mare original cocktail inspired by the Mediterranean and a twist on the Dirty Martini in 10 minutes.
One look at the list of competitors was enough to know it was going to be a really enjoyable day of judging followed by a really tough decision at the end and that is exactly what transpired.
Early in proceedings Jess from Worship Street Whistling Shop impressed with his Ocean & Earth was served on a bed of edible sherry sand with bottled ‘essence of the ocean’ to spray as you sipped. Leon from City of London Distillery really upped the ante for presentation however when he served his blended Down Where It’s Wetter in a bowl containing a real live goldfish, which was certainly some-fin the judges hadn’t seen before.
Whenever Andreas Tsanos is in front of you as a competition judge you know you will get one hell of a show and once again he didn’t disappoint with aromatized smoke, foam, leather hip flasks and terracotta pots. On top of that his superb Dirty Martini twist won the hard fought and coveted best olives of the day competition.
A big part of the Global Finals in Ibiza is food matching with your drinks and whilst this isn’t an area we judge on in the UK heats but we are lucky enough to get plenty of edible treats anyway. This heat saw great goodies however Ian Goodman from Oxo Tower produced the dishes of the day with his tapas serves perfectly accompanying his fantastic drinks.
Gareth Evans from the Social Eating House had just been on a cruise round the Med as the UK representative at the World Class Finals. His drinks impressed the judges due to their simplicity and balance. Products any bar has, or can get, mixed together to produce great looking and tasting cocktails.
Quote of the day went to fellow judge Stu who turned to me at one point looking rather confused ‘I was thinking there was a hair in my glass then realised it was my moustache’. Strong work Stu.
However the overall winner was the one who managed to balance all of the above areas to produce a fantastic 10 minute presentation with superb drinks at the end. This winner was Ali Reynolds of Hawksmoor who joins the other finalists in Ibiza at the end of the month to battle it out to represent the UK in the Global Finals. His Dirty Martini Twist in particular was one of the most interesting and tastiest we have tried in two years of judging this comp.
So we had 5 finalists ready to go but Stu had other plans and announced that there would be a wild card joining the gang. Over the previous heats we had been keeping a close eye on who came second and it was unanimously decided that Natasha from the Edinburgh heat deserved a place in Ibiza (her drinks can be seen here).
So congratulations to our 6 finalists we’ll be seeing you in the sun soon. Thank you to Viajante for hosting us so well and Gin Mare for once again putting on a great comp. As always it was great to see the support the contestants gave each other and thank you to everyone that entered.
Ibiza here we come!
Winner – Ali Reynolds, Hawksmoor
Dirty Martini Twist – Dirty Dorada
40ml Gin Mare
20ml salted Coca Cola syrup
5ml Fernet Branca
Topped with Champagne
Stirred over ice and fine strained into a chilled cocktail glass, topped with Champagne.
Mediterranean Inspiration – Ibiza Crush
50ml Gin Mare
15ml egg white
10ml lemon juice
10ml pink grapefruit juice
10ml homemade passion fruit syrup
Dry shake, then wet shake. Double strained into a fancy coupette glass.