Story by Sam Bygrave for BACARDÍ Legacy
We arrive in Guadalajara around 9pm at night, and drop our bags at the stately hotel we’ll see very little of over the course of the next 36 hours. It’s time to venture out into the evening and into a special agave spirits tasting at 400 Conejos. Some three hours (and a whirlwind tour through Mexico’s agave distillates) later we’re back for a quick nap; we’re off to the highlands of Tequila — the red soils of Arandas, to be precise — in the morning.
It’s in Arandas where we go on a detailed tour of the Cazadores distillery and venture out into the agave fields to knock down a grown blue weber or two. It’s backbreaking work made all the more tolerable by a Paloma or two.
We roll back into Guadalajara in the afternoon and head into one of our favourite bars from the whole trip, El Gallo Altanero. Run by expat-Irishman Alan Mulvihill — whom you may know form his turn behind the stick at Thomas Olive in Melbourne a couple of years back — it’s here where our boy Irvine is holing up for the night, busting out some Bocado’s and spreading his BACARDÍ Legacy story one last time before the global finals. Think of the bar like a Mexican Black Pearl, with an open air courtyard and all the delicious, independent tequila you could want. The hospitality of Mulvihill and his crew — and the fine eats we smashed — marks this joint as one of the best bars in the world.
After a somewhat late (read: really very late) finish, we’re up and away to Mexico City, the country’s largest city, a sprawling metropolis and the seat of federal power in the country. Once we’ve landed we’re quickly acquainted with the city’s notorious peak hour, congested traffic that lasts from three in the afternoon to nine in the evening. If you’re wanting to drive around Mexico City and avoid traffic, you’ll need some sort of jetpack device (though a hoverboard we’re sure would suffice).
It’s here in Mexico City that James Irvine will bring to a conclusion many months of hard work taking his BACARDÍ Legacy cocktail, Bocado, to the world. So after some of the finest meals we’ve ever had, at Quintonil (number six on the the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants List in 2017) and lunch at Pujol (which landed at number 20 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List), it’s time for BACARDÍ Legacy to kick off proper.
Bartenders from 34 markets around the world were in town, and at the offical welcome dinner to Legacy — which saw a raunchy display from Australian cabaret performer Reuben Kaye — the running order for the competition was drawn from a hat. Irvine was the second last name announced, meaning he would present his drink in the second last spot on the second day of the semi-finals.
It’s a two stage process to make it through from the semi-final to the grand final: yes, Irvine would need to make his drink on stage in front of the semi-final judges, but he also had to present his promotional efforts to a panel of judges, describing the many ways in which he got his BACARDÍ Legacy drink in the hands of consumers and trade around the world.
Despite some stiff competition, we were all excited when it was announced that Irvine was indeed a member of the final round and would do his thing one last time for the grand final.
With Irvine in the final round were bartenders from Mexico, India, Japan, Greece, Argentina, Belgium and Cyprus.
After months and months of hard work, shaking drinks, and sharing recipes, the final of the BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition was held and a winner announced: The Netherlands’ Eric Van Beek.
Our boy Irvine made it through to the final three, but in the end, it was Van Beek who won against competitors from some 34 countries around the world. It was his combination of promotional skill in getting his drink into the hands of people across the world, his rhyming stage presence, and a beautifully constructed drink that saw him over the line.
His drink, Cariño, a mix of BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho, Yellow Chartreuse, Greek yoghurt, vanilla syrup and lemon juice impressed the judges.
“For me the drink was so unique, with ingredients that really aren’t that unique, but that beautifully showcased the rum and allowed it to shine through,” said judge Ivy Mix, of Leyenda in Brooklyn and Speed Rack. “It was meant to win because it is so unusual but super delicious. In his presentation it was very clear to me that his level of dedication was above and beyond; I think Eric is a real example of what you can do if you truly put your heart and soul into it.”
Van Beek has been bartending for just two and a half years, and works at Bar TwentySeven in Amsterdam; it is the second year running that he’s represented The Netherlands at the BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition.
If that doesn’t inspire you to get to work on making your own Legacy, we don’t know what will.
How to enter the BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition
Entries open soon, so follow the BACARDÍ Legacy Australia Facebook page to be kept up to date – https://www.facebook.com/BacardiLegacyAustralia.
New to the competition this year: the winner of the Bartender Magazine Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDÍ & De Kuyper will this year also win a wildcard entry into the BACARDÍ Legacy Australian Final.