We sat down with Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition Champion, Tom Walker, and asked him some silly questions.
BLUK: Congratulations again on your win, Tom. That was an epic performance on stage, I think I caught a glimpse of your spirit animal, but couldn’t quite tell what it was. Care to enlighten us?
TW: Haha, sure, but I’m not really sure what to say. There was a lot of adrenaline and a hell of a lot of emotion running through me that day.
I’d rehearsed it so much the previous night and the next morning that I had confidence in executing it, as well as the content around what I was saying. It was such a great day. I think a lot of people were moved by the final eight presentations of the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition; everything was honest, true and from the heart from every finalist. It’s easy to get carried away like that.
BLUK: A while ago at an event, you told me you have a fear / dislike of public speaking. How did you turn that around and develop your stage presence?
TW: I realised that over the campaign I had accomplished numerous things; the drink – Maid in Cuba was genius in its simplicity and liked by many; the marketing campaign was clever and I had the work ethic to back it up. Everything was in place for my success, apart from my inherent dislike of public speaking; I feel that I don’t always know how to approach certain subjects or topics and how they should be executed.
I started reading up on and watching people who are notoriously good at public speaking, Steve Jobs, TED talks, etc… That helped a little, but it’s harder actually putting them into practice. That’s where the Bacardi UK team were brilliant. Lisa, Shev and May really helped to put me through my paces; play on my strengths and work on any areas where I needed to improve.
I guess it was about tackling it head on. I have realised that I’m not a bullshitter and not great at projecting myself, but on the other side of the coin, give me something to talk about that I’m passionate about or I believe in and everything comes much more naturally.
BLUK: You enter a public toilet which has four urinals. Peter Dorelli is at one end, Salvatore Calabrese at the other. Which one do you pee next to?
Haha, it’s funny you say that as I head breakfast with the two of them in the hotel the morning after the final of the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition! You know, standing next to either of them would be privilege, so I wouldn’t mind. I’ll take my chances.
BLUK: What has been the highlight of your journey from regional heat to Legacy final?
TW: There were quite a few in all honesty as so much went on. The UK national final was quite exhilarating, as I’d never done anything like that before, especially on that scale. Other highlights of my Bacardi Legacy journey included heading over to Australia for nine days and working at PDT in New York.
BLUK: Gun to your head, the choice of never drinking again, or never having sex again. Which is it, and why?
TW: Never drinking again, but for different reasons than you might think. I went for long periods without booze last year, which was easy. Plus, Constantino Ribalaigua didn’t drink, and he turned out to be pretty famous in his field… (
BLUK: How did you go about creating the Maid in Cuba? Did the fact it was a competition drink change your normal process for creating drinks?
TW: It took about a month to get the recipe to work. In the beginning, I did a highball-style drink with different cite uses, mint and cucumber, but it just wasn’t clicking. So I left it. It was then that I stumbled across the ‘Maid’ category, and decided to combine the two ideas together. The drink leans closer to the Maid than the original inception, but I’m really happy it turned out that way.
My approach to drinks had matured a lot over the past 18 months and the Maid in Cuba is more of an example of what can be achieved when you stick with what you have and utilise what’s available. Saying that, I think it’s safe to say that the drink probably wouldn’t have been born if it wasn’t for the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition.
BLUK: And finally – In your own words, why should bartenders enter the Bacardi Legacy competition?
TW: It’s pretty simple; there’s not one part of the competition where you don’t win. Sure, if you progress, the more rewarding stuff is there, but apart from the prospect of your drink gaining immortality, the competition teaches bartenders some very important aspects of the trade in the 21st century.
Over the years, knowledge of stuff like distillation went from something geeky to something that is now taken for granted; the same with classics and obscure classics a decade or so ago. Branding and marketing are some the most important aspects a bartender should take note of today, especially with the way that social and online media play an increasing role in this profession. Learning to get to grips with that is huge. Coupled with incredible networking, the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition teaches bartenders about some of the most underrated concepts in the profession, something that other booze companies don’t even consider.
For me, and it seemed the some way for a lot of the other contestants, but that particular week during the Global Final was pretty life changing. I mean sure, there was a competition to keep an eye on, but the seminars and session at the beginning of the week were informative, useful and helped everyone to bond. Everyone made new friends from all over the world, and people who usually work all the time got to hang out (this was especially true for the London crowd) and that was pretty much like a prize in itself.