The BarLifeUK office phone rang a couple of weeks ago, which surprised us…
It’s one of those cordless jobs that never gets used because we live and die by our mobiles. We eyed it for a moment with surprise, and not a little distrust, then pressed the green button.
Instead of the call from the Child Support Agency that Simon has long feared, it turned out to be Publicasity, PR agency for Bacardi, with an invitation to attend the Bacardi Legacy Global Final in Barcelona.
Fast forward a few days, and I found myself getting up at an ungodly hour and heading for Heathrow.
Drinking the customary ‘pre-flight breakfast pint’ in the Terminal 3 Weatherspoons, along with a sizeable chunk of the UK bar glitterati, it occurred to me that if our plane went down, the collective quality of cocktails in the UK and Scotland would take a substantial hit.
This thankfully didn’t happen and we were soon making our way into Barcelona’s rather lovely Arts Hotel, a stone’s throw from the beach.
Lunch was served in a large dining room, packed with bartenders from all over the World, their entourages, booze industry VIPs and journalists. A quick glance in any direction and you would see a well known bar industry face.
It was at this point that the scale of the Legacy competition started to sink in for me… The time, effort and indeed money that Bacardi must have expended to bring all these people to Barcelona is quite staggering, and I felt genuinely excited to be there to experience it.
The Competition kicks off
A few drinks on the Arts Hotel’s terrace (the kind of place you could lose several days to), a shower, glad rags on and then it was time to catch buses to the Legacy competition venue, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
Now, I have to tell you, this place didn’t look ‘all that’ from outside as you approached from the road – your typical old museum building.
However, the inside is a different story, looking like a cross between the Coliseum and St. Pauls Cathedral, the room was huge.
A massive stage with Bacardi-lined back bar sat at the front with seating for the judges and some spectators. However, circling this space were banked rows of seats that led the eye up to the huge domed roof.
It’s difficult to describe the interior of the museum in a few words, but picture a place where rich Romans might have gone to watch gladiators knock seven bells out of each other, in extreme opulence, and you would be close.
In short, a pretty terrifying place to be making a cocktail under close scrutiny.
Approximately 3 Daiquiris after our arrival, the competition kicked off.
Ten competitors made the Legacy drink that had seen them qualify for the final. Given the stakes, the location and size of the audience, each did a great job, with little evidence of nerves. In short, it was something of a masterclass in professional bartending.
As the competition went on, I became more and more proud to be a part of the UK bar community. The different nationalities had gathered to watch the comp in groups perched high in the banked seating.
We were by far the loudest, Matthew Dakers was the only competitor to be welcomed to the stage with a Mexican wave, and courtesy of a raid on the green room by Ian Burrell, we were the only group to have a bottle of Bacardi to drink while watching. There were a lot of envious eyes on that bottle as the night went on – props to Ian’s Ninja Skills…
As soon as the competitors were done, we were ushered out of the room and given the chance to try the drinks. Obviously they had been made in bulk, and not by their creators, so they weren’t a perfect reflection of the competition, but one or two in particular, including Matthew’s, were exceptional.
A few of us slipped out of the reception for a cigarette on the Museum’s terrace, which has a stunning view of Barcelona. At that moment the heavens opened and lightening forked down from the sky and lit up the city – it was pretty special to see, and I think the thunder added to the tension evident in the competitor’s faces as they waited for the judging panel’s verdict.
Finally, over dinner, the results were announced by Séamus McBride, Bacardi’s President and CEO. Team UK held its breath for Matthew Dakers, but alas, Marc Bonneton from L’Antiquaire bar in Lyon won to great applause.
Despite being pipped to the post by France, I was left with the impression that the Legacy competition is pretty special. Many of the competitors had brought family with them, with fathers and mothers getting shout-outs as drinks were made.
This reminded me of the numerous times bartenders have told me that winning comps and being taken on trips is great because it offers validation of their career to sometimes skeptical family members.
Regardless of any other rewards the competition offers, performing on that stage in such an amazing place is a way of giving the bartending trade the recognition it deserves, so hats off to Bacardi for that.
The night then took us to one of Barcelona’s most famous bars, Dry Martini, a couple of clubs and, at least for me, a dodgy hotdog vendor by the beach. It was a great night, and congratulations must go to everyone who made the cut and got to the final, especially winner Marc Bonneton.
At this point I was going to include a quote from Peter Dorelli, but instead I’ll sign off with something from Matthew Daker’s Mum. When I asked her is she was proud of him, she replied, “No, he’s a wanker. This is no great shakes”.
He just sighed and gave me a ‘see what I have to contend with?’ look, but he was smiling, and so was she.
The winning drink
Marc Bonneton (winner)
Bar Manager, L’Antiquaire, Lyon, France
Marco’s Bacardi Fizz
- 50ml Bacardi Superior rum
- 40ml Cream
- 15ml Green Chartreuse
- 15ml Lemon juice
- 15ml Lime juice
- 15ml Sugar syrup
- 1 Egg white
- Top with soda water
Dry-shake the egg white, then add all the other ingredients and shake for a long time to emulsify the egg white and cream. Fine strain into a tall glass and top with soda water. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Matthew Daker’s Drink
- 40ml Bacardi Superior rum
- 10ml Yellow Chartreuse
- 20ml Lime juice
- 10ml Honey
- 10ml Egg white
- 1 Dash grapefruit bitters
- 2-3 Mint leaves
Shake all ingredients with cubed ice and fine strain into a chilled coupette glass. Garnish with a grapefruit zest sprayed around the glass then discarded and a mint leaf to finish.