Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the quintessential cocktail, the third edition of Cointreau’s Margarita Challenge has crowned its grand prize winner: Lola Liu, from Hope & Sesame in Guangzhou, China.
This year’s competition celebrated the 75th anniversary of the legendary cocktail, created by Margaret “Margarita” Sames in 1948. In 2023, the global competition invited professional bartenders from around the world to showcase their unique interpretation of the Original Margarita, using tools and techniques from the era of its creation.
The jury faced the challenge of selecting 10 finalists from a pool of over 1,200 talented contenders. This year’s judges were:
- Jonathan Stanyard: 2022 winner of the Margarita Challenge and head bartender at Il Bistro in Seattle.
- Carole Quinton: Cointreau’s Master Distiller.
- Rory J. Shepherd: Bar Consultant, previously featured in the World’s 50 Best Bars.
- Kelly Magyarics: Journalist, spirit & cocktails expert
“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,” says Carole Quinton, Cointreau Master Distiller and jury member.
The 10 finalists traveled to Angers, France in mid-April for an immersive Cointreau experience that put the French art de vivre center stage. They were invited to visit the Cointreau Distillery before being greeted at the Cointreau’s historic family estate, where the final challenges took place. The jury assessed the finalists over a series of three rounds, evaluating their creativity, improvisation skills, and cocktail knowledge. We’re incredibly proud to reveal our first-, second-, and third-place winners, whose skills and signature Margarita recipes wooed the seasoned jury.
Grand Prize Winner: Lola Liu – Hope & Sesame Bar in Guangzhou, China
Lola Liu’s masterful reinterpretation of the Original Margarita and her exceptional mixology skills have earned her this year’s title. She will walk away with a trip for two to France and a sponsor budget to take off on a tour to promote her reinvented Original Margarita in the world’s best cocktail bars. Cheers to Lola!
“If I had to describe my Margarita Challenge experience in three words, I would say that it was fun, knowledgeable, and heartwarming. 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.
My cocktail was inspired by Cointreau’s unique mix of fresh and dry peels from sweet and bitter oranges, by using multiple dry and fresh peppercorns, adding a little bit of jasmine tea and agarwood, to create a somewhat aged tangerine peel-perfumed cocktail.”
Mysterious East Margarita
● 20ml Cointreau infused with Basao jasmine tea
● 60ml Mysterious east spiced Patron reposado tequila
● 20ml Mixed peppercorn cordial
● 15ml Verjus
● Glass: Nick & Nora
● Garnish: Mixed Pepper Salt
Billy Lai Him Choi – Quinary Bar in Hong Kong, China
● 30ml Cointreau l’Unique
● 15ml Hop-infused tequila
● 10ml Fresh lime juice
● 5ml Agave syrup
● 30ml Fresh pineapple juice
● Garnish with chili salt and an orange peel
Lize Rombaut – Bar Ran in Bruges, Belgium
● 20ml Cointreau L’Unique
● 40ml Tequila
● 10ml Monkey Shoulder
● 30ml Lime juice
● 45ml Tamarind galangal coriander chili syrup
● Spicy salt rim with brown sugar
● Top with Bintang Pilsner
You can discover all the 10 recipes here at cointreau.com
Cointreau’s Margarita Challenge serves as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Original Margarita, as well as the role Cointreau plays in elevating the cocktail experience. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to all winners and participants, and look forward to continuing this spirited tradition of innovation and creativity in the world of mixology.
“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,” says Rory Shepherd, World’s 50 Best Bars awardee, former Creative Director of The Little Red Door and jury member
Cointreau and the Margarita — A Timeless Combination
The close relationship between Cointreau and the Original Margarita cocktail began in Acapulco in 1948. Margaret “Margarita” Sames, a wealthy American socialite known for her lavish parties with extravagant twists, often sought new creations for her soirées. For this particular party, she wanted a daytime cocktail that her fashionable guests could enjoy poolside. Naturally, she turned to two of her favorite spirits: Cointreau and tequila. After several initial attempts, she had a moment of inspiration and added a dash of lime juice for balance and a subtle rim of salt around the glass, which further enhanced the distinctive character of what would become the Original Margarita. Thanks to its simple recipe and refreshing, versatile taste, the Original Margarita emerged as, and has since remained, a true icon on the international cocktail scene, inspiring countless variations. So much so that it has become the world’s most popular cocktail. And as Margaret Sames said, “A Margarita without Cointreau is not worth its salt!”
Cointreau, Cocktail Pioneer
“It’s written in the books,” as they say. Written references to Cointreau being used as a cocktail ingredient are many and varied, the first instance dating back as far as 1913, in the indispensable tome “Der Mixologist” by Carl Seutter. There followed a long line of other books, including “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails” (1922), thanks to which Cointreau rapidly became a mainstay for cocktail aficionados around the world. Drawing on more than 170 years of tradition, Cointreau orange liqueur has grown to become a pioneer in the world of cocktail culture. It’s no wonder that today it forms the basis of more than 500 iconic cocktail recipes.
“At the heart of more than 500 cocktails, Cointreau has established itself as a staple of the international cocktail scene, thanks to the proven qualities of the liqueur on the one hand, and because at the heart of the original recipe of the essential Margarita. Global success since its inception, the Margarita now ranks 4th among the most consumed cocktails in the world, and convinces both proven professionals and enthusiastic neophytes,” explains Fanny Chtromberg, Cointreau Executive Director
Since its creation in 1849, Maison Cointreau has been driven by the creative energy that has brought it to life. Balanced and crystal clear, Cointreau l’Unique liqueur has retained its original characteristics, inspired by its visionary creator. Its character and excellence lie in the thorough selection and blending of sweet and bitter orange peels and essences, a meticulous task entrusted to the Master Distiller of the Maison Cointreau, Carole Quinton. A premium liqueur, Cointreau has a long-standing presence on all five continents. Its superior quality makes it a favorite of mixologists and has earned it a place of choice in the most renowned bars in the world.
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