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Cointreau names 2023 Margarita Challenge winner

Lola Liu, of Hope & Sesame in Guangzhou, China, has been crowned the winner of the Cointreau Margarita Challenge 2023 for her ‘masterful reinterpretation’ of the original cocktail.

Cointreau Margarita challenge
Lola Liu won for her Mysterious East Margarita, made with Basao jasmine tea-infused Cointreau

This year’s competition celebrated the 75th anniversary of the original Margarita, created by Margaret ‘Margarita’ Sames in 1948.

The global contest invited professional bartenders from around the world to showcase their unique interpretation of the original recipe, using tools and techniques from the era of its creation.

The 10 global finalists travelled to the home of Cointreau in Angers, France, in mid-April for the competition’s conclusion.

There, the finalists were invited to visit the Cointreau Distillery before being greeted at Cointreau’s historic family estate where the final challenges took place.

The competition was judged by a panel that included Cointreau’s master distiller Carole Quinton; bar consultant Rory J Shepherd; spirits and cocktail expert Kelly Magyarics; and Jonathan Stanyard, the 2022 winner of the Cointreau Margarita Challenge and head bartender at Il Bistro in Seattle, US.

Together, the four judges assessed the finalists over a series of three rounds, evaluating their creativity, improvisation skills, and cocktail knowledge.

Quinton said: “For this third edition of the Margarita Challenge, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the iconic cocktail, I was impressed by the high quality and originality of the submitted recipes, as well as the participants’ savoir-faire and knowledge.

“I would like to congratulate all competitors for their hard work and dedication. We faced the difficult task of choosing the most balanced, creative, and bold recipe among all the amazing proposals.”

The winning cocktail included a ‘mysterious east-spiced’ Patrón reposado Tequila and verjus

Winning serve

Liu’s ‘masterful reinterpretation’ of the original serve, called Mysterious East Margarita, earned her this year’s title, and the prize of a trip for two to France, plus a sponsor budget to tour and promote her reinvented Margarita in the world’s best cocktail bars.

“If I had to describe my Margarita Challenge experience in three words, I would say that it was fun, knowledgeable, and heart-warming,” she said. “And for the bartenders who want to join the competition next year, go for it. This is a once in a lifetime challenge you shouldn’t miss.”

She added: “My cocktail was inspired by Cointreau’s unique mix of fresh and dry peels from sweet and bitter oranges.”

Liu used multiple dry and fresh peppercorns alongside Cointreau infused with Basao jasmine tea, ‘mysterious east-spiced’ Patrón reposado Tequila, a mixed peppercorn cordial, and verjus to create “a somewhat aged tangerine peel-perfumed cocktail”.

Second and third place went to Billy Lai Him Choi, of Quinary Bar in Hong Kong, and Lize Rombaut, of Bar Ran in Bruges, Belgium, respectively.

Shepherd said: “The 2023 Cointreau Margarita Challenge showed us how exciting and creative modern bartending can be, while still celebrating its history and roots.

“The engaging personalities, captivating stories, and outstanding drinks showed us what it means to be a bartender. It made me proud to be part of this industry and the contestants should be proud of what they achieved.”

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