The Bacardi Legacy judging extravaganza ended in London recently but not before a great heat in Belfast.
Having spent three days on the road judging in Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh a few days rest was needed from the intrepid judging trio of BarLifeUK, Metherinacocktailbar ‘May’ Kongsrivilai and Global Bacardi Bloke Dickie ‘You Can’t Handle The Truth’ Cullimore.
As we jumped into a cab at Belfast airport we were reminded just what a shame it is that more mainland UK bartenders don’t make the trip over. We are as guilty as anyone on this front but the simple fact is it takes no longer to get to than Edinburgh and the cost difference is negligible. If you haven’t been, we strongly suggest you look into it, we’ll certainly not be leaving it as long next time.
Anyway back to the business at hand, Bacardi Legacy judging. As always the competitors had to make us 2 serves of their entered cocktail, which must be easy to replicate, have 6 ingredients or less and of course contain Bacardi Blanca, Oro or Ocho.
Our home for the day was the beautiful Rita’s, a bar so well designed it’s worth the plane ticket price alone. Last year we had a great day of judging in Belfast so we were looking forward to this one, although the thought of a night out, which we missed out on last year, may have been even more enticing.
Doing your first competition is a daunting affair, making that first comp Bacardi Legacy even more so. You wouldn’t have guessed it when Michael Douglas (James St Bar & Grill) got behind the bar though, ‘My name is Michael for those who don’t know me, for those that do, be thankful’. His bravado was backed up with a great presentation and a Dark ’n’ Stormy twist, he even had samples for everyone in the crowd.
Rita’s not only provided us with our venue but also with several competitors. Barney O’Kane and Paddy Duff not only win awards for excellent Irish names but also both brought a bit of tiki to Belfast. Barney’s drink was inspired by the Millionaire No. 4 and the Old Cuban whilst Paddy based his drink around pomegranate molasses, both with a base of Bacardi Ocho.
Inspiration is an important part of Bacardi Legacy, if you go on to represent the UK it is a story you will have to tell time and time again. David Mulholland of Love & Death nailed it. Starting out by answering his own question ‘What is Bacardi’s Legacy?’ by simply saying ‘bartenders’, he went on to show this by looking back through some of the most famous cocktail books and the amount of Bacardi specific drinks they contain (The Savoy book for example featuring 50 Bacardi recipes). His serve was inspired by drinks from these books with Blanca, strawberries and vinegar all involved.
A special mention to Paul Rocks from Effer & Echo who gave a fantastic presentation which had the whole room hanging on his every word. His family breakfast inspired Old Fashioned twist also hit the mark with a coffee drink that both the coffee loving and abstaining judges all enjoyed.
There could only be one winner though. At it was another Rita-ite in the form of Roisin Mc Erlean who stormed the field. Her presentation was funny and engaging with a series of one-liners ‘Put the Cuba Libre down we won’t tell ya mammy’, and as she pointed out ‘So the only girl in the comp is doing the manliest drink’. Whilst on paper the simple ingredients didn’t necessarily sound the most hair-on-chest-making (vanilla pod, Creme de Apricot, orange bitters and Bacardi Ocho) the stirred down end product was complex and had fantastic depth whilst being superbly balanced.
A night of celebrations ensued around the bars of Belfast, from the salubrious surroundings of the Merchant Tavern to punch pong in Love & Death and everything in-between. It was an amazing day, an amazing night and as we said before, get yourself on that Google and find a flight, you can thank us when you get back.
Just the thought of the London day of Bacardi Legacy judging is enough to make us break out in a cold sweat. We get so many entries through that the day needs to be broken in two, a morning and afternoon session with the bartenders randomly given one of the two slots.
With such a long day in store we tend to call in some extra judging help, this year we were lucky enough to be joined by last years UK Legacy winner Iain Griffiths. So, bright and early the four judges settled into place at Peg & Patriot ready for a long day of drinking tasty cocktails.
Harry from The Knight’s Bar immediately got the judges thinking about lunch with a drink inspired by a Cuban sandwich from the film Chef with pickle juice combining with Bacardi Blanca. May started looking up pizza options.
The food inspiration continued when Raphael from Hakkasan based his drink around a Japanese restaurant that opened in Cuba this time it was a Yuzu Sake that worked superbly with the Blanca, even more impressive as he was another competitor taking part in his first non-internal comp. May ordered the pizza.
Reborn was an aptly named drink from the Haymarket Hotel’s Robert. He had been a global finalist for his home country the year Tom Walker walked away with the prize, from there he opened his dream bar but unfortunately the dream ended when he lost it all. He has now moved to London to start chasing the dream again, it was a touching story backed up by a great wine, basil and ginger drink.
Rob from Clove Club brought the party to the room with a great presentation based around an old TV advert for Bacardi. LCC Shoreditch bartender Morten also shone behind the bar looking back on his previous career as a magician and its similarities to bartending for bringing people together.
On home ground Constanca seamlessly tied together all the elements of her presentation with her Airmail twist named after privateer/sailor William Kidd and the transition from beer to rum on ships. In under 5 minutes she not only managed to keep us entertained but put together a superb drink with IPA, Fernet Branca, honey, lemon and Bacardi Ocho.
With such a vast amount of bartenders, the London heat produced two winners heading to the UK finals. Dan Berger from Blind Pig gave a presentation based on his life and the journey he’s had linked to that of Don Facundo. His drink summed up the Bacardi Legacy ideals with simple ingredients being used to create a fantastic drink.
Satan’s Whiskers’ Geoff Robinson took the other place in the final with a serve based on a drink that is already a legacy in it’s own right, the Cuba Libre. With people thinking more about what they drink these days his idea was to remove the coke but keep the flavours. His entertaining presentation was backed up by a cold brew coffee based twist that we could see gracing top bars as well as mud covered festival going crowds.
So there we have it. Our 6 finalists have been chosen for the UK Bacardi Legacy final which will be taking place on Tuesday 8th November in London. This year only one winner will be picked, a move away from the previous 3 Most Promising so the whole country can get behind one person. Having seen them all present and tasted all their drinks I have not a scooby who is going to emerge victorious.
On their day any one of the finalists could easily take the crown and I am pretty happy that my judging duties are done for the year and other people have to pick a winner from the pack.
Good luck to all six (full recipes below) and a huge thank you to all those that entered and supported along the way. A special thanks to all the bars that hosted and the bartenders that ensured all the competitors had what they needed and the crowd were Daiquiri’d up. As always thanks to May, Dickie and the rest of the Bacardi team for a superb competition that seems to go from strength to strength each year. I’ll let you off the early starts and hangovers this time.
Roisin Mc Erlean, Rita’s, Belfast
Matedero Street Resurrection
50ml Bacardi Ocho
10ml Briottet Creme de Apricot
1/2 vanilla pod (scraped)
2 dashes orange bitter
Shake and fine strain into a coupette glass half rimmed with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Geoff Robinson, Satan’s Whiskers, London
30 ml Bacardi Carta Blanca
15 ml Contratto Rosso
15 ml cold brew coffee
15 ml allspice-vanilla syrup
10 ml fresh lime
Top with small amount of tonic
Build in a highball and garnish with a fresh lime wheel.
Dan Berger, Blind Pig, London
50ml Bacardi Carta Blanca
20ml fresh lime juice
15ml pineapple syrup
3 cracks sea salt
10ml tonic water
Shake and fine strain into a nick & nora glass, garnish with dehydrated lime wheel.
Joe Harper, Gleneagles Hotel, Gleneagles
40ml Bacardi Carta Blanca
30ml Rinquinquin a la Peche
20ml lime juice
20ml pineapple syrup (see notes for recipe)
6-8 mint leaves
Shake and fine strain into a coupette glass and garnish with a mint leaf.