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17 finalists from around the world gathered in Hacienda Patrón, Mexico from the 14th to 19th January 2018 for a unique VIP tequila experience. Their week culminated in the grand final of the Patrón Perfectionists Competition where the global Patrón Perfectionist 2017 was crowned.

The final of Patrón Perfectionists 2017 was closely run, so close that I judged three of the competitors to be aligned in their score with the other competitors very close behind. My fellow judges were equally aligned but when we totalled the scores, Li Tong emerged the rightful winner, a winner we expect to see much more of as she has earnt the opportunity to represent both women and Chinese bartending on a global stage.

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Li Tong had an incredible story and during the semi-final and final rounds of Patrón Perfectionists 2017 she relayed her story with an infectious mixture of emotion and humour whilst demonstrating brilliant bartending technique. This quiet, softly spoken Chinese bartender came out of her shell when behind the bar to give performances that both surprised and amazed me.

During a demonstration of faultless, graceful and efficient bartending technique, Li told the story of a girl who longed to be a bartender, but her family and convention expected her to become a lawyer, accountant or doctor then to marry an eligible successful man and have a family. However, this girl pursued her dreams and became a very successful bartender, so successful that she won the national final of a global bartending competition. It emerged that Li’s story was autobiographical and that she only told her mum that she was a bartender when she won the Chinese final so would be travelling to Mexico.

Good bartenders can hold court at their bar and entertain their guests. Great bartenders, like Li, do this while seemingly mixing drinks on auto pilot. Li does both seamlessly, and while I watched agog, she demonstrated double pick-ups, working flair and a double shake, shaken with a ferocity to shame a 17-stone man.

To view a video of each finalist making their winning drink and their recipe, simply click on their name below.


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