Australia triumphs in Licor 43 cocktail competition

25th October, 2019 by Melita Kiely

Following a three-day global final in Gran Canaria, team Australia rose victorious to be crowned the winner of the Licor 43 Bartenders and Baristas Challenge 2019.

Jessie Williamson (left) and Millie Tang (right), winners of the Licor 43 Bartenders and Baristas Challenge 2019

A total of 26 bartenders and baristas from 12 countries were paired up following regional rounds and flown to Gran Canaria for the grand final, which took place from 22-24 October this week. The competitors hailed from Norway, Sweden, Finland, the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Australia, Russia and Spain, and were joined by a final team from the European Bartender School (EBS).

The bartenders and baristas, respectively, were: Akseli Pajala and Ronja Kolho, Finland; Andrés Claeys and Joke De Conick, Belgium; Artem Talalay and Ramil Rzaev, Russia; Bryan Kuijer and Laurens Da Costa, the Netherlands; Joakim Anderson and Harold Johnsen Voyle, Norway; Kriston Tomingas and Henri Jürgenstein, Estonia; Ludwig Norderfors and Matteus Silvo, Sweden; Millie Tang and Jessie Williamson, Australia; Nikulus Hannigan and Janis Burka, UK; Petar Grishev Marinov and Alex Kim, Spain; Rasmus Greve Christiansen and John Michael Saunderson, Denmark; Suzanne Fiebiger and Nadja Mayrhofer, Germany; and Ludwig Andersson (Sweden) and Pierre Tymms (Denmark), EBS.

Contestants were put through their paces with a series of challenges, including foraging for ingredients at Europe’s only coffee plantation, Finca La Laja, a coffee and cocktail quiz, a 19th-century market dash, a mystery box task and Instagram challenge.

Taking on the duty of judging this year’s final were: Simon Difford, owner and chief editor of Difford’s Guide; barista, trainer, consultant and owner of Het Koffiegenootschap Merijn Gijsbers; and coffee consultant and educator Timon Kaufmann.

After three days of challenges, the finalists were whittled down to just three teams: Denmark, Spain and Australia.

On the final night of the competition, the three finalists were tasked with recreating the drinks that got them through their regional heats – with the option of adapting their recipes if they so wished.

As their fellow competitors cheered them on, the results were announced and Australia was crowned the 2019 winning country after bartender Millie Tang from The Gresham in Brisbane and barista Jessie Williamson from Blackout Paddington and Black Coffee Lab in Brisbane impressed the judges with their cocktail, Island Hopper – which was completed with a slick sabrage from Tang.

Island Hopper was made with 20ml Licor 43 Original, 20ml espresso coffee (Platinum blend by the Black Lab Coffee Co), 15ml coconut and pandan syrup (pandan-infused Coco Lopez), 10ml Fernet Branca, one dash of Angostura Bitters, topped with a splash of Cava (10ml) and garnished with grated nutmeg.

Australia’s winning Island Hopper cocktail

Denmark placed second in the competition, impressing judges with The Companion – a mix of Licor 43 Original and Manzanilla Sherry infused with coffee.

Meanwhile, Spain was awarded third place for Esfera, made with Matusalem añejo rum, Licor 43 Baristo, Licor 43 Original, dry tomato syrup, Ethiopian coffee and coffee husk (cascara) and lemon juice.

Difford said: “This competition stands apart from other cocktail competitions as it brings together professionals with complementary skillsets to collaborate, learn from and inspire each other.

“It’s been fascinating to see how bartenders and baristas use their combined knowledge to create coffee cocktails within the constraints of three different creative challenges, held in settings as diverse as a coffee plantation to a 19th-century marketplace.

“The competition allowed personalities to shine whilst bringing 26 professionals from 12 different countries together to share and demonstrate techniques to each other as well as us privileged judges. Congratulations to Millie and Jessie, and everyone who took part.”

Difford also noted his surprise at enjoying the winning cocktail as much as he did, as on paper it sounded “sweet and not something I’d like at all”.

Speaking to The Spirits Business after the contest, Difford said: “For me, it was really a surprise. I wasn’t expecting a good drink. If I had been judging the drink written on paper, it wouldn’t have worked.

“But it was delicious. What really amazed me was how biscuit it was, it wasn’t sweet, it was well balanced and the drink had a slight earthiness; it was a really complex, balanced, interesting drink that you just want to carry on drinking.

“It was just so unusual and so unexpected. It was a really good winning competition drink.”

Instagram

Not only did Australia scoop the top accolade in this year’s competition, but the duo also took home first place in the Instagram challenge for their innovative, time-hopping posts. The winning Instagram stories and posts can be found on Instagram on the account: @ausdiscovers43.

Julian Fernandez, Licor 43 global marketing and innovation director, said: “Licor 43 and coffee have long worked well together and now, in an age where focus on heritage and provenance is paramount, we are digging deep into all the different ways this can be expressed.

“Gran Canaria is home to the plantation we source coffee for our Baristo expression from, so it was the obvious choice of venue for the grand final trip designed to immerse candidates in all things Licor 43 and coffee.”

Licor 43 finalists

The Licor 43 competitors, judges and brand representatives following the results

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