It’s back, and so are some familiar faces (ours being one of them) as we hit the judging road with Bacardi Legacy.
BarLifeUK has been involved with the UK judging of Bacardi Legacy for many years, and one thing that has consistently impressed us is the resilience of the competitors.
Year after year faces return, and of course new ones emerge and excel (Chelsie Bailey reached the global top 8 last year on her first attempt), but the tenacity, determination and hint of sadomasochism of returning competitors has always impressed us – not least in the form of Leon Back who became UK champ after 3 years of trying to win the Scotland heats (and today is his wedding anniversary, congrats buddy).
So when we arrived at Arcane in Manchester with the one and only Metinee ‘May’ KongsRivalry (hitting cinemas next month), the UK Bacardi Everything Ambassador and lover of cutlery-free food, it was no surprise to see some familiar faces in the room.
This was the first heat of this year’s tour and was dubbed the ‘Rest of the UK’ heat with bartenders from the north east and west, midlands, wales and south west competing. Joining BarLifeUK and May on the judging panel was Chelsie Bailey, pizza’s from Pedro’s were ordered for half time, a briefing and a round of Mojito’s were under our belts, we were ready to go.
For anyone that hasn’t figured it out yet there is a new cocktail hub rapidly emerging in the form of Cardiff. For a few years we have seen some excellent bars and bartenders in the Welsh capital but it has recently hit that critical mass. Confidence is, rightly, high amongst the welsh stick lovers and this heat was a great example of this.
Three of our thirteen competitors had made the trip up from Cardiff and all did their city proud. On the day it was Alex Mills from Lab 22 who impressed the most, his Paint It Red drink was a great concept and tasty as. A mix of Bacardi Blanca, Martini Bitter, orange juice and rose wine was delicious (maybe a little too Martini heavy) and the idea of celebrating Bacardi’s history of throwing amazing parties was a great concept.
On the note of throwing great parties I will now always put Adam Lynch from Manchester’s Dishoom at the top of my VIP list for any gig I’m organising. Anyone who kicks off a presentation wearing a, frankly horrific, shiny silver suit jacket and LED sunglasses so ridiculous he couldn’t see the jigger well enough to measure out his drink, is solid with me. He claimed that bartenders were rock stars (an epiphany which came after a Muse gig) and entertained more people every night than musicians do, you can decide whether each or both of these comments are true but we were certainly sold.
We’ve said many times before that the North of the UK always provides great presentations and we were once again reminded that this comes with a bit of good natured London bashing by Adam Smith from Jake’s Bar in Leeds. His celebration style Prosecco serve came with the line ‘at Christmas all families like to drink a Bucks Fizz, or Mimosa if you’re from London’.
They Finally Won Something
There were however two real stand-outs on the day and, as previously hinted, they both came from competitors who had put themselves through the stress of a Bacardi Legacy heat before.
In actual fact before Ed Belshaw (of World Service in Nottingham) started he quietly said to himself as much as anyone else ‘why do I do this to myself?”
It turned out the reason why was very simple, he was fantastic. His drink Field Marshall was based on (and my historical note taking may not be perfect here) some French bloke who was captured during some battle in 1704 and was kind of imprisoned, but not really, in Nottingham and invented celery. GCSE History? Still got it.
It was a genuinely interesting story (despite my shit notes/memory) and the drink, which was a mix of Bacardi Blanca, a homemade celery syrup (which was so easy he made it in front of us), pineapple juice and Sauvignon Blanc , was my personal favourite of the day.
As it turned out I wasn’t the only one who thought his drink and presentation deserved praise, he became the first person on the wild card list for the year (a maximum of one person from each heat will be nominated as a wildcard with the best across all the heats becoming a UK Finalist). He just has to wait for the other three heats to happen before he can pack his suitcase, there is history there though last year Clare Morrow got the wild card at the same heat and went on to the UK final.
But someone out did him. Someone else is a UK finalist. Someone else has won themselves a trip to New York and Puerto Rico with May. Someone else who had been here before.
It is very difficult for BarLifeUK to give out any praise to Australians during the Ashes, let alone admit they were the best, but Alex Godfrey from Milk Thistle in Bristol managed to achieve the honour. It was his third attempt at cracking the Bacardi Legacy egg, each year he has taken on the feedback and come back stronger, this year he was undoubtably the strongest.
There is a confidence about Australian cricketers, a self-belief when they walk out into the middle to face our plucky bowlers that they will not fail, for many it is arrogance (and in the case of Steve Smith and Ricky Ponting it is/was) but for the rest it is, and I use this word begrudgingly, impressive.
From the first second of Alex’s presentation he had that same confidence, he may not have felt it throughout the 6 minute chat but we certainly believed it. His drink Two Lives told a story of moving countries, something he shares with the Bacardi family, of looking to the past and embracing the future.
The drink was, as the best are, simple and delicious. Bacardi 8, crème de banane, coconut water and (the forgotten citrus) orange juice.
To say emotions were high when his name was announced would be under selling it a bit but it was a massively deserved win and I have no doubt that every one of his fellow competitors was happy for him.
The night continued in a very Manchester fashion including checking out the food and delicious drinks at the achingly beautiful Wilderness. Lyndon, Bart, Adam and the team have really created something special there. Don’t worry though the city hasn’t changed that much, we ended up playing darts in The Bay Horse Tavern and being shit (the combined score of May, Chelsie and BarLife wouldn’t have got us close to the top 5 in the game with whatever rules we were playing).
It was a great start to this years Bacardi Legacy competition and the NoForksTour we are on. As always massive thanks to our hosts for the day, Arcane and in particular Grace, oh and to Pedro’s for the ridiculous and delicious pizzas.
We are currently on a train to Edinburgh for the next heat and by the looks of it Chelsie will be very well rested by the time we get there. Come on back tomorrow for details of the next UK finalist.
Alex Godfrey’s Winning Drink
40ml Bacardi Ocho
10ml Creme du banane
15ml Coconut water
40ml Orange juice
Shaken and served over ice in a highball with an orange slice and cherry as garnish