Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations UK Final Result

Jo Last of Domino Club (Leeds) to represent UK at World final in Ibiza

The UK final of a multi-region competition is often a tense affair, with starched shirts and sweaty palms the order of the day. Not so the Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations final. As a rule this is because the people at CASK genuinely want everyone to enjoy themselves, however on this occasion the venue itself seemed to keep adrenalin levels in check.

Jo Last [Domino Club, Leeds]
Jo Last [Domino Club, Leeds]

When I arrived at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), a group of young men and women, very smartly dressed in business attire, were gathered on the marble steps for a photo shoot. ‘Blimey’ I thought to myself, ‘Gin Mare have gone all World Class this year’. On closer inspection (no visible tattoos) the group revealed itself to be the UK’s freshest crop of engineers, posing for graduation pictures.

If this makes the location sound a bit suited-and-booted, it is. The building has the feel of the Dad’s bank in Mary Poppins. However, tucked away on the third floor is one of the nicest spots for a competition I’ve seen – a wide, white hall that opens out onto a balcony with a gorgeous view of the river and London beyond. The competition bar stood on the balcony, the audience sat inside looking out. It was sunny, warm, and there was a nice cool breeze. It was a bit like being on holiday, and the competitors were, for the most part, very relaxed.

Regional heats had selected a final field of six bartenders, who arranged themselves at the tables dotted around the hall, unpacking enormous amounts of kit, sipping gin and tonics, and generally getting their shit together while names were put into a glass and a running order decided.

Jo Last's 'The Heart' cocktail
Jo Last’s ‘The Heart’ cocktail

BarLifeUK were on photography duty, as opposed to judging, on this occasion, meaning I didn’t taste every drink. However, I can report that Dario Guaglione’s gin and tonic twist was absolutely delicious, and if it’s on the menu at Worship Street Whistling Shop, you should try it. Another notable mention would be J Rivera from Jamie Oliver’s 15 – perhaps unsurprisingly, his ‘artichoke-inspired’ effort was probably the best of the food pairing entries.

In Simon Webster’s report on the Northern Mediterranean Inspirations qualifying heat, he describes Jo Last’s presentation as one of the best he has seen this year. Jo lived up to this billing at the final, her presentation was confident and flowed, her bar skills were top notch, and the judges scored her three drinks highest overall. As such, Jo goes on to represent the UK at the grand final in September, during which she will compete against some of Europe’s best bartenders at the Gin Mare villa in Ibiza. We wish her the best of luck, not that she’ll need it.

Jo Last’s Winning Drinks:

50ml Gin Mare
25ml Arbequina olive cordial
10ml Pomegranate molasses

Garnish : Pomegranate seeds
Method : Build

40ml Gin Mare
15ml Med Tincture (Rosemary, Basil & Nora pepper , salt & sugar)
5ml White Port

Garnish : Salt n Sugar Marinated Samphire
Method : Stir & Strain

The Heart
40ml Gin Mare
20ml Pineapple cordial
5ml pineapple tincture
25ml rose & milk thistle tea
5ml Maple
Top : Soda

Garnish : Thyme flower and rose petals
Heart of Gin Mare Tea Bag : infusion pouch of botanicals that are present in Gin Mare.
Food pairing : Artichoke salad with mango vinegar
Method : Crushed ice, churn.