Bacardi Legacy 3 Most Promising Announced

Last night 8 of the UK’s best bartenders competed for the coveted honour of being one of the UK’s 3 Most Promising in the 2016 Bacardi Legacy competition.

Over the years the Bacardi Legacy Top 8 shoot out has become one of the hottest tickets in the UK bar scene. Those who are lucky enough to get that golden ticket in their case of Bacardi (for the record there are no golden tickets but it’s a great idea right?) get to spend an evening with the great and the good of the UK bar industry whilst sipping on lovely Bacardi cocktails.bacardi-May

There is, however, always 8 people in the room who are a little less relaxed than the rest.

Last night we felt a little bit guilty about the stress and nerves emanating from those 8, it was, after all, at least partly our fault they were there. We had been lucky enough to spend a few days with UK Bacardi Brand Ambassador Metinee ‘May’ Kongisinavillainmali traveling the country judging the UK heats.

In chatting to people before the main event kicked off it quickly became apparent that I was, apart from May, the only person who had tasted all the top 8’s drinks and seen their chat. This left me wide open to the ‘so who do you think is going to win?’/‘who are your top three?’ questions.

Under pressure I channeled my inner French and ran away. Outside taking an air break I went through our top 8 and tried my best to actually come up with my top 3. I couldn’t. During the heats we had picked 8 superb bartenders with great drinks and stories, however since then they had been working on and honing their drinks and presentation all under the careful tuition of May and the Bacardi team.

That is, you see, the whole point of Bacardi Legacy. It is about making those involved better at what they do, giving them the skills and tools to become better bartenders. In short I didn’t have a fucking clue who was going to come out on top.

Big Ole Stage

There are few more nerve-racking stages to make a drink than the UK Bacardi Legacy final. Spotlights, cameras, your name and cocktail on huge banners along the wall and a room full of your peers, idols and mentors would give the most experienced of bartenders the willies. Add to that a judging panel of Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Dickie Cullimore, previous UK Legacy winner Chris Moore, Bacardi globe trotter Marc Plumridge and Mr Rum Ian Burrell and the 8 must have wondered why they were putting themselves through it all.

It has to be said that as a group they excelled. They showed no signs of nerves, the shaky jigger had run out of batteries, the nightmare of silence had been banished, every single one of the top 8 performed out of their skin and really showed that we had picked the right people to be on that stage. Our job had been to make these judges suffer, mission accomplished, you’re welcome guys.

Over the past few years it has been Shervene ‘Shev’ Shabalabadingdong (Blackburn??) who has been master of ceremonies. A tough job with a crowd of slightly inebriated and very enthusiastic bartenders, a strict time schedule and a lot of information to remember. However it was time for the passing of the microphone shaped torch and it was May that was in charge.

There are only a few people in our industry that can get a room to go quiet with a look, Shev has found a fellow stare-silencer in May and she rocked the stage, kept everyone in check and was a superb host for the whole evening.

Going first is always tough, getting the room involved and engaged is a tough act but Peter Nguyen of China Tang did just that. His emotional story involving his grandfather captivated the room and set a high standard for those that followed.

When Robb Collins stepped on stage it became obvious he was from London Cocktail Club, they aren’t a shy bunch after all. His Aussie/American charm and confidence quickly won over the crowd (even if he still can’t say basil properly) and from what we could see nailed his drink.

Oliver Pluck recently opened his own bar in Leeds called The East Village, it was the journey the he undertook to open it which provided the inspiration for his drink. Taking the bold step of standing in front of the bar to address the judges and crowd he inspired the room with his story of following his dream.

Just when we needed it Madi Martin from Flipside in Bristol was on hand to add a bit of glamour to the evening. If the crowd hadn’t been told that she had only 11 months bartending experience they would have never known. Her personal story and belief in healthy drinking was a refreshing take on a rum competition, keep an eye on this name you’ll be hearing it a lot in coming years.

Anyone that knows anything about Bacardi knows that family is important, so when Happiness Forget’s Santiago Michelis pointed out his old man in the crowd you knew he was onto a winner. He also brought a South American fan club with him which all inspired him to produce a superb performance.

Belfast had given us Andrew Dickey from the Merchant Hotel and they must have been very proud of him. His chat was as polished as his outfit and he drew inspiration from a sign in the prep room stating those who ‘drink together stay together’, we’d certainly stay at his bar drinking his cocktail all night.

It was Iain ‘Dandelyan’ Griffiths next, being the most well known competitor comes with a lot of pressure, but Iain handled like a true pro. He got the biggest cheer of the evening with a dig at Soho and his switchel based presentation was hugely entertaining.

Last up is as tricky as first up in a competition with drinks flowing for the crowd but we couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the task than Tonic bars Ryan Snedden. For a start everyone had to concentrate to decipher his Scottish accent but once they had his story revolving around his dad Derek was an amazing way to end the night, surely no prouder dad existed last night and next time we’re up in Edinburgh we want a drink with him.

Top 3 Time

From the cheap seats it looked about as tight as it could get. We spoke to many members of the assembled crowd whilst the judges were deliberating and no-one had a clue as to who was going through.

It wasn’t only the presentation they were being judged on after all, the drink had a huge part to play and there was also a marketing presentation during the day that had to be factored in. We managed to grab a couple of the judges later on in the evening and it was no surprise to hear it was a very tough decision with plenty of arguing before the top 3 were decided.

In the end the judges were happy with their decision and we had our top three in this years Bacardi Legacy UK competition. They are in no particular order:Bacardi-3MP

  • Iain Griffiths, Dandelyan, London
  • Oliver Pluck, The East Village, Leeds
  • Santiago Michelis, Happiness Forgets, London

We will be bring you chats with each of these worthy finalists in the coming weeks and  will follow them on their Legacy journeys. They all did exceptionally well and are more than worthy winners. The are going to need your support and help over the coming months so keep an eye out.

However it’s the other 5 we want to spend a moment on. Each one of them could have been in that list and each of them should be exceptionally proud of what they achieved. Getting into the top 8 of Bacardi Legacy is more than the equivalent of winning many competitions and every one of them performed exceptionally well on that brown trouser enduring stage. each of them walked off the bar having done all they could and made the judges jobs as tough as possible.

A huge congratulations to all the competitors, to the top three in particular, we look forward to seeing what you do. As always thank you to Bacardi for such a great competition and evening and for your support of the UK bar industry. To Joe Stokoe and his team for producing such great and plentiful drinks, to Clotilde for the toughest job in the room, making sure the drinks got from the stage to the judges unspilt and LCC for hosting the slightly messy afterparty.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Carta Switchel (Iain), Amistad (Oliver) and The Knot (Santiago) coming to bars near you (and very far from you) soon.