Irina Jelizarova won the first edition of "the Journey" in 2016, representing Lidkøeb cocktail bar in Copenhagen. We will have the pleasure to meet Irina again in September, as she is invited to the final, and hopefully will make us taste her creation "Golden milk".
In the meantime, we have asked Irina some questions about her journey after the competition last year:
Irina, you won The journey competition last year with "Golden Milk". Could you tell us YOUR journey since then, and how the competition has changed your life or your way of thinking?
There has been quite a lot of things happening after I won the competition The Journey. I have actually moved from Copenhagen, back home, to Estonia, where I have not lived for almost 10 years. I have opened my own bar with 3 more friends of mine, which is again a huge step for my career. I cannot say it all happened due to the win of the competition, as opening a bar has been a long term goal for some time. But participating and winning The Journey is definitely a benefit, which helps me a lot while being a bar owner and its manager. Mentioning to our guests and to the staff that there is my own aquavit coming out soon is something that gets people excited.
People you meet during competition, stories you hear while sharing experience between participants, seeing what other people do – this all gives you ideas for creating your own drinks later on. You start feeling the trends of the industry much better; you get your confidence while talking in front of the world's best bartenders, who are judging you.
What did you enjoy the most during last year competition?
I think there is quite a few things. First it was really nice to see such a well organised competition. Everything was taken care of and everything was on time. The winning prize of the competition was something every bartender would dream of. Getting a trip as a prize is great, but getting to blend your own spirit, knowing it will be aging in a cask, going around equator, being bottled and you can design a label- that is something that makes you want to win it. And how cool would it be to have that bottle in my own bar later on, give it to friends as a present and tell them the story…the story of my Journey :).
Also amazing fact was the panel of judges - this is something that is so scary, but so exciting at the same time - being judged by the best from the industry.
Could you tell me about your prize, your own Linie aquavit? What is it like?
As I’m coming from the Baltic region, and amber is something we use a lot here, I've decided to add some amber distillate into my aquavit. Of course we had so many different trials, while being at the lab many many hours, but finally it was born. I cannot wait to taste it after it has been on the sea journey. And of course getting to choose my own label and have my name on it - I feel proud :)
What would say to other bartenders considering to enter the competition this year?
When I was entering the competition last year, I had no idea I was going to win. When you see so many talented bartenders participate, you feel that maybe your drink/ skills/ story is not that good. It is very easy to lose confidence. But what you should really consider is just being sincere. The more competitions you do, the better you are going to get. It will help you to focus at the bar you work, your knowledge of spirits will get so much better, as all the preparations requires lots of reading (something you might not have time for during your routine work). There is nothing you can really lose by entering it, so just go for it, and I'm excited to see the next year's winner :)
Thanks for answering our questions Irina!