Why Getting To ‘Zero’ Means Winning Today… And Tomorrow


What role can bars and mixologists play in protecting Earth’s fragile environment? It’s a question that Juan Torres Master Distillers, the maker of Torres Brandy, has attempted to answer via an innovative competition.

A highly regarded spirits brand based in the Penedès region of Spain, Torres Brandy is the creator of Zero Challenge, an annual international competition whose aim is to promote, identify and reward environmentally friendly solutions in the management of bars and crafting of cocktails.

The 2024 Zero Challenge finals were held last month in Barcelona and featured 10 bartenders based in countries from around the world, including Finland, Estonia, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Canada, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Each presented a project intended to improve sustainability and reduce environmental impact within their bars and included solutions often specific to the impact that climate change is having in their respective regions. They were also challenged to develop a cocktail using Torres Brandy, one that reflected their commitment to a sustainable future.

The event spanned the course of three days and included educational tours of the Torres Brandy solera and Familia Torres winery, the latter of which has for decades emphasized the importance of addressing climate change through the use of innovative growing methods and production processes. It culminated in the crowning of Beto del Toro of Mexico’s Rufina Mezcalería as the winner of the Zero Challenge competition, a title that came with a grand prize of €30,000.

This episode features interviews with four of the key participants in the competition, including Beto Del Toro along with Christian Visalli, the Global Spirits Director for Juan Torres Master Distillers; Loni Lewis, a finalist representing Okan, a restaurant in South Carolina; and Giacomo Giannotti, the owner of the World’s 50 Best number one bar Paradiso, and the winner of the inaugural edition of Zero Challenge.

In this Episode

2:56: Interview: Christian Visalli, Global Spirits Director, Juan Torres Master Distillers – Surrounded by Familia Torres’ vineyards, Christian speaks with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about a traditional food prepared for the event’s guests before explaining the origins, aim and importance of the Zero Challenge competition. He also shares details about the project that won the inaugural edition of the contest, the potential to provide funding for more than one person in future contests and how Familia Torres’ ancestral grape varietals project, which was launched 45 years ago, is key to its sustainability goals and benefited the company’s innovation and product strategy.
16:22: Interview: Loni Lewis, Bar Manager, Okan – Loni shares details about Okan, a West African and Caribbean-inspired restaurant based in Bluffton, South Carolina and how her concept for a “secret bar” and new food plantings, including moringa and okra, on the premises benefits its sustainability goals. She also explains her approach to preparing for the competition, presenting in a way that gets judges and audience members interested and excited about her idea and why she believes that “waste is a lack of imagination.”
27:04: Interview: Giacomo Gianniotti, Owner, Paradiso – Giacomo and Ray chat about the latter’s first visit to Paradiso and the bar’s copper still-themed speakeasy, why it has become a global destination and how he, an Italian, came to Barcelona by way of London. He also discusses the development of Paradiso’s Zero Waste Lab, the project that won Torres Brandy’s first Zero Challenge competition; how it has supported the bar’s sustainability initiatives along with those of the local community; and his role in judging the cocktail component of the 2024 contest.
39:07: Interview: Beto del Toro, Owner, Rufina Mezcalería – An elated Beto explains why winning the competition is the “crown” for Rufina, which he opened nine years ago. He also shares details about his project, which transforms discarded glass bottles into a variety of useful items for the bar, including glasses and barware, which reduces the need for traditional recycling, and how he communicates the importance of sustainability to his patrons.

Also Mentioned

Torres Brandy

Some images provided by Jessica Blaine Smith Photography.