Gin Mare has named Spanish bartender Manel Vehí winner of its fifth Mediterranean Inspirations cocktail competition at a close final held in Ibiza.
Spain’s Manel Vehi has won the global final of the Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations cocktail competition
Vehí, of Boia Nit in Cadaqués, Spain, battled against five other bartenders from the UK, Germany, Brazil, Portugal and Italy to win a prize of €4,500 along with the opportunity to travel internationally with Gin Mare in an ambassadorial role.
Having won their respective national heats throughout the year, the six finalists travelled to Gin Mare’s Ibizan brand home, Villa Mare, for the global final on Monday 7 September.
Contestants presented three cocktails to a panel of judges, who assessed the aroma, appearance and taste profile of the drinks, as well as how well they embodied the “Mediterranean lifestyle”.
The first was a Gin and Tonic round, where Vehí presented a mix infused with sea plankton. In the second signature, or “Mare Nostrum”, round Vehi impressed the judges with his “Cinque Terre” cocktail, a mix of Gin Mare, carrot juice, coconut cream, lemon juice and Moroccan spice mix ras el hanout.
For the third and final round, the contestants were required to explore the gastronomic element of mixology, by creating a cocktail to pair with a dish created by Michelin star chef Ramón Freixa.
Frexia sat on a new panel of judges formed specifically to assess the gastronomic round, which was brought back after a two year absence due to the increased use of Gin Mare in food pairing.
Vehí created a cocktail to match Frexia’s tabbouleh, called Azahar, a mix of Gin Mare infused with Madagascan pepper, rhubarb juice, lime juice, simple syrup and egg white served in a glass rimmed with orange blossom.
“Manel did something that was surprising to the judges, and we thought it wouldn’t work. But he gave us a lesson and his Mare Nostrum cocktail in particular was one of the best of the entire day,” said Jorge Balbontin, Gin Mare’s brand development manager and Mediterranean Inspirations Global Final judge.
“His drinks were very nicely done and easy to replicate, which is very important for us as a brand. Overall Manel was coherent but also fun – he really achieved the Mediterranean spirit in his drinks. It’s easy to create a nice drink, but it is harder to create something which really makes sense for the brand.”
Vehí had entered the competition three times previously, but 2015 marked the first time he won both the national Mediterranean Inspirations heat in Spain and the global final.
Italy’s Mirko Turconi, of Mag Café in Milan, was named runner up in the competition, while the UK’s Daniel Warren, from the Straight and Narrow in Lincoln, was placed third. They were awarded €2,000 and €1,000 respectively in addition to Gin Mare ambassadorial roles.
The three other global finalists were Thorsten Veth from Germany, Heitor Marin from Brazil, and Nuno Figueredo from Portugal.
In addition to Balbontin and Frexia, the competition’s judging panel consisted of: Stu Bale, of Strange Hill; Gareth Evans, of The Social Company; Lochlan Miller, of Australian whisky bar Old Soul, and food and drinks journalist Jonatan Armengol.
Returning for its sixth year in 2017, Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations will feature a “brand new element”, details of which have not yet been disclosed.
Gin Mare is described as the “first super-premium Mediterranean gin” and is created using botanicals sourced from the Mediterranean basin, including olives, thyme and basil.
Last year, Thanasis Kouziokas of Groove Cocktail Bar in Greece, was crowned winner of the 2014 Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations competition.