Bacardi Legacy 2017 Global Final Week

Berlin recently saw bartenders, media and supporters from across the world descend for the 2017 Bacardi Legacy Global Final.

The first two days saw the 38 competitors compete across two rounds, a full write up of which can be found here.

That night BarLifeUK found ourselves in a derelict brick walled building which had been filled with food trucks, bar and a couple hundred well dressed folk. As Global Brand Ambassador Dickie ‘Spotlight’ Cullimore took the stage to announce the 8 who would, the following night, be competing on the big stage, it was hard to define whether the perspiration on the foreheads around us was from the heat or the tension.

As we have said in the aforementioned article it was impossible to call the top 8 from the semi-finals, every presentation was fantastic, every drink looked superb, it really was anyones game. We were quietly confident that the UK’s Joe Harper would make it into the 8 after his performance but alas it wasn’t to be.

The 2017 Top 8
The 2017 Top 8

As the final 8 stood in front of us on stage there could, however, be no arguments about the line up and the quality of competitors. The final 8 were:

Australia – Dave Kerr, The Beaufort Bar, Melbourne – The Viento
Belgium – Ran Van Ongevalle, The Pharmacy, Knokke – Clarita
Greece – Loreta Toska, Theory Bar & More, Athens – Look for the Silver Lining
Ireland – Connor Myers, The Exchequer, Dublin – Electric Avenue
Japan – Kentaro Satoh, Bar Day Cocktail, Yokohama – Mariel
New Zealand – Darren Miley, Ostro, Auckland – Admiral’s Salute
Taiwan – Grace Tsai, Bar 21, Tainan – Apostle
Thailand – Hideyuki Saito, Bronx Liquid Parlour, Bangkok – La Blanca

What happened next can be best described in two words – Iain Griffiths. Doors previously locked burst open, confetti cannons exploded, music reverberated making the old brick walls vibrate, people were dragged through by an invisible force. It was like a party backdraft. No-one could escape.

Describing an Iain Griffiths party is a bit like describing Donald Trumps face. You know the words exist in the English language but somehow no matter which ones you use, and in what order, it doesn’t seem to do it justice. There was definitely more glitter, rollerblading transvestites and bad dancing than there is on Trumps face, and less confusion, potholes and orange. However both definitely shared a lot of fake hair.

What transpired over the next few hours is probably best left unsaid however we woke up the next morning with a purple wig on our chest, it’s an odd way to start any day.

Day Of Reckoning

The day started calmly. A little jaunt up the river through Berlin’s amazing architectural city for the international journalists which, besides hitting the deck occasionally to avoid the very low bridges, was a relaxed affair. However when we passed the boat containing the 30 bartenders who had missed out on a top 8 place it became obvious not everyone’s boat experience was quiet as low key.

As the evening unfolded we were very happy for our chilled out floating afternoon. Bacardi Legacy don’t do small events, the grand final is the biggest of them all.

The stage on which our intrepid final 8 were to perform was better lit than a Las Vegas glitter ball conference. The audience were seated and there was standing room only in the aisles. Dickie got on stage to introduce the competitors and judges to the crowd and watching world, throughout the room hushed voices discussed who was going to take out the top spot.

Each of the competitors had been working on their Bacardi Legacy entry for months and it suddenly came down to 7 minutes. By this point all any of the competitors can ask of themselves is they do their best and make the judges decision as hard as possible.

Having watched them all in the heats we can confirm that every single one of them upped their presentation on the night. If you meet anyone who says they knew who was going to win the moment the final competitor walked off the stage flick their nose, pull their pants down and call them a liar.

Ran with the previous winners
Ran with the previous winners

A sort time later Dickie retook the stage and the room waited to hear who would be lifting the trophy and taking the mantle off Gn Chan, the 2016 winner. In an explosion of noises, lights and elbows (as people tried to get the perfect picture), Ran Van Ongevalle from Belgium was the face beaming down onto the crowd below him.

His family rushed the stage, there were hugs, there were tears, but mainly there were smiles. The strange thing was a large proportion of those smiles came from the 7 other competitors. The 7 people in that room who had every reason to feel down, sad, disappointed where the very ones who were most happy for Ran.

No-one could argue with Ran’s win. All week he had been a smiling, laughing, ball of energy and an integral part of the Legacy competitors group. On stage he seemed no different to off it, relaxed and relaxing, seemingly thriving off every second in the limelight.

You can find out more about Ran, his drink and his Legacy experience here.

24 Hour Party People

The after party must have been impressive as BarLifeUK danced…. well moved about in a manor suggesting dance without any of the rhythm or style required, whilst music played.

It may have been the excitement of the evening, it may have been the Daiquiri’s on tap or the Cuba Libre station, it may have been May Kongalivinonaprayer telling us to do it or it may have been Jillionaire.

Jillionaire, it transpires, is a musician. Asking who the hell Jillionaire is, it transpires, a good way to get eyes rolled at you. Also, for future reference, Major Lazer is not a back up lighting business he started with two friends incase his musicianing career doesn’t work out, it is his band.

After he’d put on a hell of a show, which included one of the most impressive double drum kit performance we have ever seen, he was up bright and early (brighter and earlier than most who attended the party) for a final day announcement.

As we arrived, the next morning, at yet another fantastic venue in the heart of Berlin we were treated by Jacob Briars and Jillionaire and the announcement of a new Bacardi rum – Major Lazer. With his Trinidadian roots Jillionaire worked with Bacardi to create a rum with punch serves in mind.

We spent most of the rest of the day drinking it in various concoctions and can confirm it mixes very well. Unfortunately there are very, very limited amounts coming into the UK so keep your eyes peeled.

Many there on the final day might have mistaken it as a day to celebrate the new rum or to celebrate all the competitors achievements, they however were mistaken. It was May’s birthday.

We celebrated with drinks, with Caribbean food and with May and, her partner in crime, Shervene Shahbazkhani, on the decks (although Shev did look a lot like Dave Kerr at various points). They were so impressive that Jillionaire flew to Miami rather than risk getting looked into any impromptu DJ battles. For us though, our favourite bit about the day was catching up with people now the pressure was off.

The competitors were relaxed, the Bacardi team no longer had 1,000 things to remember and do (it was down to about 100 by this point), the judges work was done. Everyone spent the day telling stories of their week, sharing highlights and swapping details to stay in touch.

Once again Bacardi Legacy provided a superb week and brought together bartenders and smiling hangonerers from around the world to grow the family. Next year? Well Viva la Mexico.