The first of 5 heats for the incredibly popular Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations competition took place this week at Covent Garden Cocktail Club.
It was quite hard to imagine lounging next to an infinity pool, sipping a gin & tonic in the blazing sunshine in Ibiza as the biting cold nipped at every part of my body as I made my way to CGCC. As soon as I met up with my fellow judges however, who had all been lucky enough to be on the trip to the Mediterranean party island last year, the stories started to flow and I felt automatically warmer (for more on the trip click here and here).
Our job was to find the first lucky soul who would be jetting off to Ibiza for the UK final of this marvellous competition in September. This task fell on the shoulders of BarLifeUK, boss man of CASK Liquid Marketing Stuart Ekins, BarChick’s birthday girl Jennie Rae and last years UK champion Dee Quinones.
It was an early start for anyone involved in the dark art of bartending to ensure we were done in time for the bar to open but it didn’t take long to the Gin Mare & Tonics to fly off the bar and everyone was ready to go.
The concept for the heats sees each bartender having to make two drinks for the judging panel. The first, a unique drink using the Mediterranean as inspiration, and the second a twist on a Dirty Martini. Both within 8 minutes.
The Inspired Drinks
We were treated to drink flavours from across the Mediterranean region with the likes of seaweed, tomato water, lots of fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar and even smoked ham and cockles making their way into the shakers.
Seeing as I’d missed breakfast I was also grateful to the food matching which seems to be a big factor in Gin Mare competitions with oysters, stuffed tomatoes, olives steeped in Talisker, homemade bread, smoked ham, and crostini just some of the deliciousness we devoured.
Gin Mare is a great gin to judge the creativity of bartenders with due to the unique nature of its flavour profile. You can’t just replace it for gin in another juniper based cocktail and expect it to work, it needs to be treated with love.
As such judging the Gin Mare competitions lead to some of the most innovative and tasty cocktails we tried last year. Once again we weren’t let down by the quality of drinks on offer at this London heat.
There was only one place on the plane to Ibiza however a special mention had to be given to Kris from the Anthologist with a brilliantly conceived and balanced double cream based drink called Cleopatra’s Mediterranean Milk Bath. He also nearly burnt the bar down which with his second drink, which we always enjoy.
However he was beaten to the top of the podium by a sterling effort from Tiago from the Lobby Bar at One Aldwych with two fantastic cocktails and a great presentation. His drinks (and Kris’ Cleopatra cocktail) are below for you all to try out.
There are still 4 spots on the plane up for grabs and it isn’t to late to enter with another London heat as well as Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh still to come. To enter and find out more details click here.
Winner – Tiageo, Lobby Bar at One Aldwych
Mediterranean Inspired Cocktail – Olor Del Mare (Smell Of The Sea)
50ml Gin Mare
25ml Martini Bianco with Basil infusion
10ml basil syrup
1 barspoon of Violet Liquor
3 dashes of lemon bitters
Thyme foam on top
Stir all the ingredients in the mixing glass and pour into Old Fashioned glass with ice ball and add the thyme foam on top. Garnish with an edible flower and lemon twist.
Dirty Martini Twist – El Ibérico
100ml Gin Mare
2 dash of balsamic vinegar
3 slices of smoked ham
1 bay leaf
Pinch of oregano
With 25ml of Gin Mare cook the olives with smoked ham and bay leaf. In the mixing glass add balsamic vinegar to coat ice and the rest of the Gin Mare. Add final result of the preparation and stir down. Double strain into Martini glass and garnish with oregano and serve with more olives and smoked ham.
Cleopatra’s Mediterranean Milk Bath!
50ml Gin Mare
25ml egg white
30ml double cream
30ml lavender and honey gomme
4 drops lavender bitters
Garnish with lavender sprig and Bob’s Lavender Bitters. Served in a tea cup