Gin Mare names Mediterranean Inspirations victorBy Melita Kiely
Bartender Thanasis Kouziokas of Groove Cocktail Bar, Greece, has been crowned winner of the 2014 Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations cocktail competition following a strong final in Ibiza.
Kouziokas – whose suitcase of homemade ingredients was lost in transit and arrived mere hours before the start of the contest – was chosen as the winner for his “simple and truly Mediterranean” creations.
Now in it’s fourth year, the competition tasked bartenders to create three signature drinks that reflect their own personal interpretation of the Mediterranean lifestyle, including a Mediterranean Gin and Tonic, a Red Snapper/ Bloody Mary and a Mare Nostrum cocktail that portrays one of the brand values of lifestyle, gastronomy, climate and escape.
“Without a doubt this year has been the most complicated for the all the judges to make a decision,” said Jorge Balbontin, brand development manager for Vantguard, including Gin Mare.
“Thanasis won for his simplicity and very humble presentation but at the same time, it felt very close to the people.
“You could tell he had prepared his presentation and despite the trouble and worry beforehand regarding his missing suitcase, he remained calm and focused.
“But most importantly, for me as a bartender, he had really great balance in his cocktails.”
Judging the competition this year alongside Balbontin were Italian mixologist Oscar Quadrarini, Spyros Patsialos, founder of Drinkable Videos and Cocktail Photography company Hunting Spirits and Marc Alvarez, cocktail manager of all Adrià brothers venues.
As champion, Kouziokas wins €4,500 and will represent Gin Mare in an ambassadorial role at up to six events in the coming year.
“I am so excited to be named the winner,” expressed Kouziokas. “This is 15 years of hard work paying off and proves you should never stop or give up on what you love.
“Yesterday was awful for me without my suitcase but once my ingredients and home made syrups arrived, I had faith in my ability and my cocktails that I could do this.
“Representing Gin Mare now is my next challenge; it’s something very new for me and I’m sure it will be very interesting.
“I was the last competitor on the day and now, I am the first – it’s the perfect ending.”
Second place was awarded to Nico Colic of the Hotel Rivington and Sons in Zurich, Switzerland, who took home €2,000 and will also represent the brand in an ambassadorial position at two events over the next year.
Third place was awarded to Anna Martinez of Boca Chica, Barcelona, Spain – one of two female finalists – who was presented with €1,000 and will take up an ambassadorial role at one event during the next 12 months.
All nine finalists were treated to the prize of a surprise boat trip to Formentera the day after the competition.
The six other finalists were Russell Downie of Tonic in Edinburgh, UK; Filippo Sisti of Carlo e Camilla, Milan, Italy; Ciro Adriano de Georgio of Dvars, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Andre Filipe Do Reis of Tabilk, Lisbon, Portugal; Cordula Langer of Monkey Bar, Berlin, Germany; and Angel Ramón Tovar of Pueblo 106, Mexico.
Looking forward to next year’s competition and the fifth anniversary of Mediterranean Inspirations, Balbontin revealed to The Spirits Business that the competition will not be limited to just bartenders, but opened up more widely to the rest of the hospitality industry.
“We will be looking to communicate Mediterranean Inspirations to other professionals outside just bars and humbly reinvent our competition,” he added.