Above: Chau Tran from Australia
You don’t need to set the global final of your cocktail competition in a luxurious, white-washed villa in sun-kissed Ibiza, but you’ve got to admit, it’s not going to hurt. Particularly when said competition is Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations. Talk about living up to its name – the backdrop, looking over the Mediterranean landscape, couldn’t be more perfect.
Jon Lee (Singapore), Alvin Ching (Hong Kong), Terry Lang (China), Odett Cruz (Mexico), Marian Scaturro (US), Greg Kong (US), and Chau Tran (Australia), the seven talented bartenders in this year’s final certainly thought so. Yes they were here with the aim of finding the person who would be crowned this year’s champ but let’s face it, spending four days at Villa Mare, Gin Mare brand’s home, is a prize in itself.
The seven global finalists
That said, who doesn’t want to be a winner? Swimming pool and designer-style villa aside, there was a reason they were here and that was to create a gastrobartender drink and food pairing hero-ing bergamot – a quintessentially Mediterranean ingredient. To assist them on the food front, they could tap into the culinary expertise of Fabrizio Fiorani, Asia’s Best Pastry Chef, as listed on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Jonatan Gomez-Luna, award-winning chef of Le Chique, Latin America’s Best Top 50 Restaurants.
At this level, it goes without saying that both the drinks and food to go with them were tippety-top but one stood out for the judging panel. No slouches in the drinks department themselves, Joe Schofield, Pippa Guy, Cesar Daniel ‘Burrin’ Ponce, Yael Vengroff and Jorge Balbontin declared Chau the winner with her Fluffy Emu – crazy name but a seriously good drink.
Chau preparing her drink at Villa Mare
Her skilfully balanced blend of Gin Mare, bergamot curd and Seville orange juice topped with Australian wine and spritzed with Earl Grey elixir was served shoey*-style, in honour of her home country, alongside a Pavlova. Not just any old Pavlova but one made with a base of bergamot, finger lime and wild honey distillate, lavished with basil mascarpone, then piled with fresh strawberries lightly pickled with bergamot juice and adorned with finger lime caviar, micro-planed bergamot zest, and dehydrated meringue and bergamot oleo dust crumbs.
“This drink is made to stimulate an appetite, using a blend of bitter and savouriness from the bergamot skin that is micro-planed into the curd, which cuts through with the acidic juice. The sparkling wine is a nod to the Giró family [creators of Gin Mare in collaboration with Vantguard] that started as sherry and wine merchants before they started to make gin” Chau said, explaining the rationale of her drink. As for the star ingredient? Chau admitted that it was rare and hard to find in Australia. “Until two and a half weeks ago I’d never had fresh bergamot. Now I’ve juiced it, pith on, pith off, skinned it, made oleo, made a leather, tinctured, tea-ed, dehydrated every part of it, made several curds with it. But I also wanted to share a little bit of my home”.
Fun, fabulous and a bursting with Med-Aussie flair.
45ml Gin Mare
50ml or 45g curd (in this curd there is lacto ferment finger lime and wild honey distillate and bergamot oleo)
30ml Seville orange juice – sweet oranges
Australian sparkling wine to top
Earl Grey Elixir to spritz
Shake first three ingredients over ice and pour into Collins glass. Top with sparkling wine and aromatise with Earl Grey elixir.
*The “shoey” is a ritual in Australia where the drinker either removes their own shoe, or nominates a friend’s shoe to be used as the vessel. The shoe is tilted and the entire contents of a can of beer are poured into the shoe’s opening.