Costa Rica Wins Seventh Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge

Gabriela Wong champion of the Bartenders & Baristas Challenge holding a Costa Rican flag.

Nine national champions vied for the international title in Madrid, Spain, this month.

BY SARAH ALLEN
BARISTA MAGAZINE

Photos courtesy of Licor 43

Madrid, the city lauded as the most important in Spain for mixology, played host last week to the Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge, known globally as the pinnacle event in coffee cocktails. Gabriela Wong Arias, who works as a bartender at La Esquina de Buenos Aires in Costa Rica, was named the victor for her original drink, Capital Vice, which included a base of nutmeg and cardamom cold-brew coffee.

“My cocktail for the 43 Challenge is inspired by the seven sins,” says Gabriela. “Each one is present in our society; we enjoy and suffer for them: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and laziness.“

Gabriela Wong competes on a stage behind a table where she's crafting a drink.
On stage at the finale of the Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge, Gabriela Wong Arias turns in her winning performance. Judges Merijn Gijsbers (second from left), Yeferson Avila (second from right), and Spaniard Bernabeu (far right) watch, along with emcee Gavin Wrigley (far left).

Out of hundreds of competitors, nine national champions were named as finalists in the B&B Challenge, and traveled to Madrid from October 16–19 to compete for the ultimate championship title. The champion from the United States, Joseph Arakawa of Anima in Las Vegas, won second place for his drink, Dawn Patrol, while México’s champion, Esaú Samuel Bello Jiménez, earned third-place honors for his drink, Gentleman. Esaú hails from The Boss Speakeasy in Morelia Michoacán.

Over the course of the competition, these bartender-baristas were charged with competing in multiple challenges, including creating a drink on the spot using Licor 43 spirits, and making a drink using ingredients from a “mystery box.”

The Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge competitors pose in two rows.
Competitors in the Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge gathered in Madrid, Spain, October 16–19, along with judges, supporters, and Licor 43 representatives.

The other six competitors were Katharina Robitzo of Germany; Andy Valderrama of Peru; Victor de Vera Luque of Spain; Igor Renovato of Brazil; Diana Tšistjakova of Estonia; and Diego Fernando Hernández Vasquez of Colombia.

All competitors took part in a coffee workshop with head judge and longtime specialty-coffee industry professional Merijn Gijsbers, wherein they learned about coffee-brewing techniques and sensory skills.

The winning drink in a glass topped with foam next to a bottle of Licor 43.
Gabriela’s drink, Capital Vice, won top honors in the 2023 Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge.

Led by Merijn, the 2023 Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge judging panel included Spaniard Bernabeu, a Spanish bartender who owns bars in London and Copenhagen; and Yeferson Avila, owner of Bar Solution in Colombia, who won the 2022 Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge in the Canary Islands.

“Our B&B Challenge really does go from strength to strength every year, as does the quality of people entering,” says Oliver Svatek, Licor 43’s global brand director. “’Challenge’ is the right word when it comes to cocktail creativity with Licor 43 and coffee.”

The trophy for the Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge with the certificate for Gabriela Wong, the winner.
As the winner of the 2023 Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge, Gabriela Wong Arias of Costa Rica wins 3,000 euros to spend on training and materials, as well as national and international media coverage, and the opportunity to travel to Spain in 2024 to judge next year’s challenge.

Past winners of the Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge have been Martin Kramer of Germany, 2017; Søren Kroc and Jonas Gehl of Denmark, 2018; Millie Tang and Jessie Williamson of Australia, 2019; Annarose Krone of the United States, 2020; Thalia Freire of Brazil, 2021; and Yeferson Avila of Colombia, 2022.

As the winner of the 2023 Lictor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge, Gabriela wins a bursary of 3,000 euros to spend on training and materials, as well as national and international media coverage, and the opportunity to travel to Spain in 2024 to judge next year’s challenge.

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About Sarah 933 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.