The UK’s Russell Downie competes against some of Europe’s best bartenders, in front of a truly spectacular view.
Upon walking into the Gin Mare Villa with its idyllic view, infinity pool and splendid contemporary polished concrete interior the first thoughts are that it would be the perfect place for the after party with that attractive group of girls you met at Space last night.
Despite the beautiful surroundings, the tension was palpable as international competitors prepared to compete for the title of Gin Mare global winner and the associated cash prizes for first, second and third.
Each bartender had to present three drinks, which included a Gin and Tonic Twist, a personalised Red Snapper/Bloody Mary and a signature Mediterranean Inspired Gin Mare Creation.
The proceedings were kicked off with our very own UK finalist winner Russell Downie whom had the privilege of spending the previous four days at the villa having competed for the UK final on Sunday.
Having the home ground advantage was in some ways a shortcoming as the homemade ingredients had been taken from trains to planes to cars and in and out of fridges from hotels to villas over a period of a little less than a week.
The Grenadine that Russell had made expressed its aggravation at this manhandling by violently erupting during his presentation. Russell without missing a beat altered his ‘Pink Basil’ cocktail using his homemade shrub and tonic cordial as a replacement.
He wasn’t the only participant that was dealing with aggravations of competing overseas; Thanasis Kouziokas (Greece) had had his bag misplaced by the airline, which miraculously turned up as the competition started. Thanasis spent the majority of the duration of the contest inside pulling out ingredients and small individually wrapped pieces of kit and glassware.
Although I’m sure each bartender had his or her own little struggle to contend with on the day the standard of presentation was extremely high. There were some standout presentations including Cordulla (Germany) who used a few clever aspects to her drinks, including a rosemary sprig covered in salted candy floss and slices of slightly dehydrated and frozen red and yellow peppers instead of ice in her personalised Red Snapper.
Enough of my rambling, the reason that you are reading this article is to find out the results (insert slightly over done drum roll):
In third place Ana Martinez (Spain) with a presentation that was inspired by the three pillars of the Santa Maria Cathedral in Barcelona, the three pillars being representative of a healthy ingredient that was found in each of her drinks. The Gin and Tonic Twist ‘Bella Gin’ was built with a homemade Aloe Vera Gel (1st pillar), grapefruit twist, Gin Mare and 1724 tonic water. The Red Snapper ‘Bloody Sand’ was made with fresh carrot juice (2nd pillar) the usual Snapper ingredients and olive brine and roasted rosemary. Served with Cod crisps that resembled fishy pork scratchings. The Med inspired creation was made with Bay Leaf infused vermouth, sherry, cherry juice (3rd pillar) and served with Langoustines in pistachio and lime crust.
Second Place went too Nico Colic (Switzerland) with his ‘Gin Tunis’ G&T consisting of tonic syrup made with fennel and cumin, Gin Mare and a bottle of fizz, which he attempted to sabre.
He was stood some way away from the judges, which is always a good move as this has a tendency to affect scores if you injure an official in your presentation. After hitting the bottle several times with the large Moroccan knife to no avail. Nico gave up on the attempt, as he walked back over to bar the cork was happy to oblige and shot out almost taking out a low flying bird.
His Red Snapper ‘Breakfast in Casa Blanca’ consisted of tomato jam, sherry, Moroccan spices and egg yolk served in a tea glass with a breakfast tagine of eggs and rice. Finally the drink ‘El Macho’ was inspired by Jean Paul Gaultier perfume with the three major fragrance notes being the ingredients; mint, lavender honey and vanilla.
The winner, despite all the palaver of a lost bag and only getting it in the eleventh hour was Thanasis Kouziokas of Greece. If he was stressed by the close call he didn’t show it in his well-presented delivery of the three drinks.
Thanasis’ Gin and Tonic
‘Gin and Tonic Twist’ (not the most creative name, but to the point)
50ml Gin Mare
5ml Fig Liqueur
120mm 1724 Tonic water
The Red Snapper
50ml Gin Mare
50ml Tomato concentrate
5ml Lemon juice
2 Dashes Chilli Bitters
5ml Olive Oil from Green Olives
Pinch Himalayan pink salt
Mediterranean Inspired – ‘The Garden Mare’
50mL Gin Mare
25mL Lime Juice
25mL Italian White Vermouth
12.5mL Dry Fig Syrup
Couple Dashes Lavender Bitters
The Gin Mare Global Competition is over for another year. As a UK finalist myself I would say it is well worth throwing your hat in the ring for next year, unless the idea of relaxing in Ibiza in a pimped out villa doesn’t appeal.
Russell Downie’s UK Final-Winning Drinks
Gim ‘n’ Sling
50ml Gin Mare
25ml 1724 Tonic Cordial
2 Dashes grapefruit bitters
Stir, pour then top with sparkling water
Red Rose For Mare
60ml Gin Mare
12.5ml Spiced tomato and red pepper shrub
3ml Citric acid
Stir, strain into a martini glass with a Lagavulin rinse
60ml Gin Mare
25ml Grilled lemon juice
12.5ml Mediterranean spiced grenadine
4 lemon basil leaves
Shake, then double strain into coupette with a lemon basil garnish