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Jo Last wins Mediterranean Inspirations 2017
Published:  11 September, 2017

British bartender Jo Last has been crowned champion of the Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations cocktail competition for 2017 which was held in Ibiza, Spain.

Last is a bartender at Domino Club in Leeds, England and she was joined by six other bartenders for the global finals, which took place at Gin Mare’s villa in the north of Ibiza over three days.

Last’s winning cocktail, Heart used a teabag to infuse the different Gin Mare botanicals with artichoke flavours, and the 25-year-old took a plunge into the Villa Mare swimming pool after being announced the winner.

“To be honest, just getting here has been a prize in itself. I’ve had a great time in Ibiza meeting cool people and winning has just been an extra bonus,” said Last.

Gin Mare has reinvented the competition in recent years to focus heavily on food pairing as well as cocktails, which is why Last is now ‘gastrobartender’ of the year and has been given the opportunity to enrol on any professional culinary course of her choice worth up to €6,000.

Last added: “I haven’t thought about what course I would like to enrol on because I didn’t think about the possibility of winning. I think if you do that then you’re unlikely to win.”

CHALLENGES

The seven finalists, which each won their regional competitions to reach the last stage in Ibiza, were given two challenges to test their bartending and team work ability.

In the opening round, each bartender presented a Gin Mare-based cocktail with an artichoke focus in front of a panel of judges. Their drinks were then paired with canapes created alongside former Michelin star chef Peter Coucquyt.

The panel of judges consisted of Gin Mare’s Jorge Balbontín and drinks experts Andrea Tsanos, Dean Callan and Oscar Quagliarini.

Fellow finalist, Edwin Cruz said: “When Jo was presenting she was really touching the judges in their hearts, which goes with the theme of her cocktail and I thought she was a strong contender right there. 100% she deserved to win.”

Portuguese bartender Daniel Carvalho of The Royal Cocktail Bar in Porto, was given a second opportunity on the final day to create his cocktail after his luggage was lost in transit to Ibiza, forcing him to use different ingredients and the flower pots from the villa to serve his drinks.

The second challenge took place in the salt fields of Formentera, a separate island to Ibiza, where the bartenders where divided into two teams and asked to create a food and cocktail pairing for the judges with ingredients chosen by the bartenders at a local market that morning.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to present a second time and I’ve really enjoyed my time in Ibiza, there has been some exciting new concepts brought forward,” said Carvalho.

“I thought Jo was the backbone to her team in the second challenge and she’s very friendly to everyone.”

EDUCATION

Throughout the three days of competition there were a variety of workshops led by the panel of judges focusing on bartender speed and accuracy, drink aromas and service techniques, as well as guest presentations from culinary experts including a knife sharpening demonstration by Ramón Utset.

Dean Callan presented his workshop based on bartender speed and engagement with customers, and it was these skills which impressed him with Jo’s performance.

Callan added: “There were a few bartenders who were very closely matched but Jo’s engagement with the judges gave her an edge over the others, also the role she played in the teamwork challenge put her in the spotlight.”

Jorge Balbontín added: “We want the competitors to learn as much as possible when they come to the competition. The workshops are a great way to share information with some of the best bartenders in the world.

“This is also why we have given Jo a prize to further educate her and hopefully boost her already great career behind the bar.”