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Torres Zero Challenge reveals 2024 champion

Mexico’s José Alberto del Toro has been named the winner of the Torres Brandy Zero Challenge 2024 for his sustainable glass bottle initiative.

Torres Brandy Zero Challenge 2024 finalists
The Torres Brandy Zero Challenge 2024 finalists, with del Toro (pictured centre)

Now in its second year, the Torres Brandy Zero Challenge called on bartenders around the world to submit their ideas for sustainable solutions in the on-trade.

Del Toro took home the top prize of €30,000 (US$32,452) after competing against nine bartenders in the competition final, held in Barcelona last week (20 March).

The 10 finalists were invited to Barcelona, where they were given an in-depth look behind production at the Torres Brandy House, followed by a day of presentations and cocktail making as part of the global final.

Del Toro, founding partner and director of Rufina Mezcalería in León, Guanajuato, won with his project, ‘Zero workshop: Giving a second chance’.

Within his bar, del Toro has a space where discarded glass bottles are reused and turned into glasses, lamps, ashtrays, cups or barware. The project, which has been in the works for nine years, aims to bypass traditional recycling to cut carbon emissions.

His initiative would also provide employment to elderly people, who are unable to find jobs and want to return to work.

Del Toro, who was born in Guadalajara, is part of an environmental division within the government of León, where he resides. “We want to become a city that recycles all our glass,” he said during the presentation.

Speaking after winning the competition, del Toro said: “I’m very happy. I won an international competition. I want to tell every Mexican we can do it; we can do anything.”

Del Toro is ambitious about the project and is hoping to scale it beyond his city using the prize money.

The final saw 10 bartenders present their projects to a panel of judges that included Christian Visalli, global spirits director of Familia Torres’ spirits division, Juan Torres Master Distillers; Aitor Molina, creative director and co-founder of DearPlanet; and sustainable business communication consultant María Negro.

The panel judged the competition on three aspects: the analysis of the problem and its solution, the sustainability of the proposal, and the financial viability, profitability and execution of the initiative.

The other finalists were Rokas Tolvaiša (Lithuania), Jason Strohan (Canada), Loni Lewis (US), Juho Tuppurainen (Finland), Regor Siiner (Estonia), Giedre Bielskyte (UAE), Marco Crobu (Italy), Alberto Díaz (Spain), and Felix Cohen (UK).

Tuppurainen’s project looked at how bars could replace imported fresh products with local ingredients that replicate the same flavours, Cohen from Daisy bar in Margate focused on aluminium can collection, and Italy’s Crobu repurposed waste into products that could be used for cleaning.

The presentation portion of the competition represented 90% of the final marks, with the other 10% judged in a cocktail contest in the evening featuring a mystery box of ingredients.

Each finalist picked a numbered box without knowing its contents and were divided into pairs who would compete against each other.

Each contestant had five minutes to open the box and decide what they would make with the ingredients, alongside a selection of Torres’ spirits, and another five minutes to make the cocktail. Contestants were challenged to make the cocktail as sustainable as possible.

The cocktail element of the contest was judged by last year’s Torres Zero Challenge winner, Giacomo Giannotti of Barcelona’s Paradiso bar; Tupac Kirby, bartender and writer at The Cocktail Room; and bartender Yhanna Prado, who has worked in Barcelona cocktail bars Milano, Dry Martini and Galileo.

Expanded competition 

The 2024 Torres Zero Challenge was extended to 10 countries, up from seven for the inaugural edition.

Online registrations for this year’s competition began in September 2023, followed by local heats from November to February 2024 where four finalists went head-to-head in each market.

“We are very proud to witness this initiative stimulating and inspiring the hospitality sector,” said Visalli.

“We were impressed by both the level of all the projects submitted and the growing commitment of the sector to environmental and social sustainability issues.

“We look forward to seeing the implementation of the winning project and will continue to support the sector, as we will soon announce the third edition of the Torres Brandy Zero Challenge.”

The company is hoping to take the 2025 competition to more countries.

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