Here’s a recap of how the 2019 BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition went down, and why creating a great drink is nothing if people don’t know about it
Story by Sam Bygrave
They had come from across the globe, all winners at home, and they came to Amsterdam in May to contest the 11th instalment of the BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition. They came to learn, make friends, and do battle, with the aim of putting their Legacy cocktail into the pantheon alongside the great BACARDÍ drinks, the Daiquiri and the Mojito among them.
Representing Australia was Jenna Hemsworth, the bartender who in 2018 became the first female in the history of the Bartender Magazine Bartender of the Year competition to win the top prize and who, off the back of that win, had scored a wildcard place in the Australian final of BACARDÍ Legacy.
BACARDÍ Legacy takes a lot of work — yes, there is the creation of a drink which tells the story of the Legacy you might like to leave behind — but there’s also the months of the promotional campaign, of spreading the word, of acquiring and deploying the skills needed to make it in the modern bar world.
It might sound like a bit of work — and it is — but there is also great reward in the offing: Jenna’s prize for winning in Australia was scoring a place at the global final and going on a bartender trip of a lifetime which took in London, Amsterdam, and Singapore, and visits to Bombay’s Laverstoke Distillery and De Kuyper’s Schiedam distillery as well.
First stop: London. One of the world’s oldest and grandest cocktailing cities, we had just one night in town and were determined to drink in as much of the old world cocktail culture as one could (responsibly) imbibe. The team performed admirably, gaining inspiration from Lyaness, and taking in the grand delights of The American Bar at The Savoy, before moving on to the bar wonder that is Coupette, and rounding out the night at Satan’s Whiskers and Callooh Callay.
It was an early rise the next day for a long car ride out onto the motorways and into the English countryside, for a visit to the home of the Bombay Spirits Company, Laverstoke Mill. Resident ambassador, Sam Carter, took us on a detailed and comprehensive tour of the distillery, which has won accolades for its devotion to sustainable practices, and is where every bottle of Bombay is made, be it Bombay Dry, Bombay Sapphire, Star of Bombay or their newest, Bombay English Estate.
After a night’s stay in a reliably haunted pub dating to Magna Carta times, we made our way to Heathrow and hopped a jetplane to Amsterdam.
Put it this way: Amsterdam is much more than the sum of its red light district and smoking cafes. It’s a beautiful old town, with boozers dating back hundreds of years, the kind with tobacco stains on the walls and the sense that history has happened within their walls.
It’s at the first Bacardi family event at which you release the scope and scale of the BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition. Bartender from across the world — from some 43 countries — were here, getting to know each other, trading stories and telling tales and nervously awaiting the draw of the order of the competition. Jenna was drawn towards the end of the first day of semi-final competition, which meant that she would present her drink in front of a packed room late in the first day, and present her promotional campaign on the second.
Jenna didn’t disappoint when she took the stage. With a friends and family watching the livestream back home in Australia, she had a load of support cheering her on in the room, and did us proud. The word around the competition was that she’d done well, too, in her promotional campaign the next day, but this being BACARDÍ Legacy, and there being another 42 competitors doing their best to make the grand final, the suspense was palpable as we arrived to here the announcement first of who was to make the Top 16, and then, an hour later, who it was who would make the Top Ocho and take the stage at the grand final on the following evening.
The Top 16 was announced, and there was a huge cheer for Australia as Jenna had made it through. Come the Top Ocho announcement, however, Jenna just missed out. Going through would be the bartenders from Puerto Rico, Japan, UAE, Canada, Chile, Greece, UK, and Thailand.
The grand final was held the following evening in the old town section of Amsterdam. There were plenty of good things to drink, with the Top Ocho’s drinks on offer throughout the night. The room was alive and loud as the grand finalists took to the big stage and gave their best.
They faced a tough judging panel that evening, too: the legendary Julie Reiner (of Clover Club fame), global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, BACARDÍ Maestro de Ron Juan Gerónimo Piñera Guevara, and 2018 winner Eric Van Beek.
In the end, however, there could only be one — and he was a standout on the night. Thailand’s Ronnaporn Kanivichaporn took out the crown with his drink, Pink Me Up (take a look at the specs above).
“Ronnaporn’s drink and his performance were both just so original and unique to him,” said Reiner. “I felt like we just walked into his bar and he made that drink for us; in a room full of hundreds of people, to make you feel like you are the only one is such a gift.”
So you’ve got a great drink. How does it become one for the ages?
What sets BACARDÍ Legacy apart from other competitions is its focus on creating a modern classic, the next Daiquiri, Mojito, or Old Cuban. But these drinks don’t spread around the world and make the cocktail books of the future just because they taste good; people have to learn about them and find them.
Here, Jacob Briars, global advocacy director for BACARDÍ and a guy who knows a thing or two about what makes a legacy, shares his advice on getting your drink out to the world.
1. You’ve made a great drink, but if you don’t tell anyone, did it really happen?
“Great drinks don’t become known just in a vacuum,” says Briars. “You know, you invented the world’s most perfect drink but if you don’t tell anyone about it, did it really happen?
“We want these drinks to become known as the creation of the bartender, and to become known as their signature drink through their career. The drinks that do become known are more than [just] great drinks; they’re also drinks that the bartender has usually done something to promote. If you think about the archetypal examples out of New York, the Old Cuban and the Penicillin, the 21st century classics, both Audrey [Saunders, creator of the Old Cuban] and Sam [Ross, creator of the Penicillin], they made these recipes widely available, very quickly, they made them wherever they went.
“I’m a firm believer about just how important it is for bars and bartenders as well as brands to have signature drinks; if you’re going across town and decide to visit you know, bar X, there’s a very good chance that you’ve spent a couple hours that day or even a couple days that week thinking, ‘Man, I can’t wait until Thursday when I get to whichever bar it is, and I’m going to get a chance to try this drink.
“It’s good business for a bar, and in actual fact it sometimes becomes a plus one drink, like Dante’s Garibaldi or their vermouth service. You go to Dante and while you’re thinking about getting a Negroni on tap, you get the vermouth service or a Garibaldi right?”
2. Behind every great drink is a great deal of slog
“The only way that that happens is through consistent effort, making the drink known, working with journalists to make sure that they’re recognised as the creator of the drink, and so it kind of seems a little like BACARDÍ’s letting you to do BACARDÍ’s work for them. All cocktail competitions have these layers of work; most have an element of slog to them. It’s just for BACARDÍ Legacy, it’s what we see as being the slog of the modern bar business: how to create a drink, how to come up with a name, how to attach yourself to various causes that you believe in, how to promote the drink.”
3. You get out what you put in
“The people who get the most out of it are the people who truly throw themselves into this and think, right, this is a chance to learn new skills that I might not necessarily have. I think every person who goes through BACARDÍ Legacy has probably had some moments where… they think to themselves that they wish they didn’t have to do this. Much like going to the gym or going for a run. But those who throw themselves into it are the ones who come out the other side, like nothing is impossible for me now.”
4. It can set you up for the next phase in your career
“If you ask Legacy alumni, they’ll say that Legacy taught me to do things that I never thought I could do, and that has set me up for a new phase in my life and my career. We wouldn’t do it unless we genuinely thought that it paid off for the bartender as well.”
Enter the 2019/2020 BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition
- Entries open: Thursday 20th June 2019 – visit www.bacardilegacy.com to enter.
- Australian entries close: Tuesday 10th September 2019 – Midnight AEST
- Top 30 Announced: Thursday 3rd October
- Top 8 Announced/Plus Australia’s BOTY: Monday 28th October
- Semi Final: Tuesday 12th November in Sydney
- National Final: Tuesday 4th February 2020 (BACARDÍ Founder’s Day) in Melbourne
- Global Final: Friday 1st May – Thursday 7th May 2020 in Miami