Meet Tom Walker, 28 year-old bartender at The American Bar at The Savoy hotel in London and winner of this year’s
Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition 2014
How long did it take for your drink, Maid In Cuba to come to fruition?
I started working on it in August/September 2012. It took around a month to come together but that said, the initial dummy runs were not quite there. I originally looked at making it a long drink, something with both lemon and lime, also mint and cucumber, plus absinthe and soda – a highball-style Daiquiri hybrid essentially. But the original recipe wasn’t quite right, there was too much going on. So I stepped away from it for a couple of weeks and gave the idea time to breathe.
When and how did it finally come together?
I was reminded of the Old Maid which is essentially a gimlet-style drink with gin, lime, sugar, mint and cucumber. I took the absinthe and soda aspects of my failed attempts and mixed it in with the Old Maid. But instead of gin, I used the Bacardi Superior and rather than serving it as a long drink like I’d originally planned, I chose to serve it straight up with carbonation to give it a bit of a zip. I was pretty pleased with the result.
Why do you think it works?
The drink is quite delicate. There are three to four different components to it – the muddling, the rinse of absinthe, plus the dilution of the ice and the carbonation of the soda on top – you can’t just whack everything in and hope for the best.
Give us a heads-up on the ‘Maids’ and why you chose
this particular category for the basis of your Legacy cocktail.
The ‘Maids’ are one of the newest drinks categories in 100 years. Essentially they consist of your spirit of choice mixed with lime, mint and cucumber. There have been a ton of twists on it including the Kentucky Maid which is made with bourbon, the Polish Maid with vodka, Mexican Maid with tequila and the Old Maid which is made with gin. I was surprised no-one had done one with white rum as I personally think that classic cocktails made with gin tend to work really well when replaced with white rum.
“The Maid in Cuba ties in with Cuban rum Bacardi heritage but also has a new style of drinks philosophy which comes from New York, one of the pioneering cocktail cities today” – Tom on the thought process behind his cocktail
What was it about the Bacardi Legacy competition that convinced you to devote 18 months of your life working on it?
I’ve looked at other drinks competitions and my simplistic minimalist style wouldn’t work for them, especially when all I could say is my drinks are twists on classics – I’d have to add more meat which I wouldn’t believe in. I joke that I’m a bit of a one-trick pony and my drink making style goes in tandem with Bacardi Legacy – its simplistic philosophy and straight-forward drink making nature is true to what I believe in.
What have you learned about yourself since partaking in
the Bacardi Legacy journey?
That I have a relentless work ethic and despite the support from my family, team and friends, it can be a lonely business. So I’ve learned to take care of myself: juicing in the morning, exercising – generally learning to find that all-important balance.
What’s been the hardest part of your 18 month journey?
Doing the PR/marketing of the Maid in Cuba brand was hard but the hardest part was doing what I did for the whole of that time without a girlfriend –going home at night and not having someone to talk it through with was particularly tough.
“I don’t think I’ve got a phenomenal palate but I do think I can judge a good drink” – Tom on changing his cocktail
Other than winning Bacardi Legacy what are you proudest of in your career?
Being a 28 year-old bartender from Teeside who not only works in one of the most famous bars in the world but has also gone on to represent my country in a prestigious competition. Since participating in the competition I’ve grown as a man and a bartender, it’s been an incredible experience.
What does Legacy mean to you?
To me Legacy is about leaving a dent in the universe that will last long after I’ve gone. Really, it’s about a legend lasting beyond its life span. In this instance, to have created a drink which has the potential to be one of the most important drinks of the 21st Century is something I can’t even begin to quantify or put into words.
“You have to ask yourself, is the drink going to be applicable in two years, will it stand the test of time, can you have a relationship with that drink for the entire period and longer and still be proud of it “ – Tom on his Maid in Cuba
Who would you most like to drink and compliment you on your winning cocktail?
I would like a ton of famous people to try the drink (and hopefully they will do now), but I guess if I had to choose one person, alive or dead, it would be Steve Jobs.
What are your plans now that you’ve won Bacardi Legacy?
Apart from the travel that goes with winning a competition like this, I plan to continue doing what I’m doing but being even smarter whilst doing so and showing how honourable and rewarding this profession can be.
Three things we learned about Tom…
1. He wanted to be a voyeuristic tourism travel journalist…
2. He worked at Costa Coffee by day and Popolo in Newcastle by night whilst finishing off his dissertation at Sunderland University…
3. He has a unique dance style!
Three things Tom revealed about himself…
1. He has two full sleeves and a torso full of tattoos…
2. He loves hip-hop…
3. He hasn’t had a proper relationship in his 20s…
Ladies, form an orderly queue…
Maid in Cuba, the spec:
2 parts/60mls BACARDÍ Superior rum
6 leaves of mint
3 slices of cucumber
1 ½ parts/45mls ‘sweet & sour’ mix (15 sugar 2:1, 30 fresh lime, infused for half a day)
1 ½ parts/50mls soda
Add ‘sweet & sour’ mix to a cocktail shaker, along with the mint and cucumber. Bruise gently, and then add the BACARDÍ Superior. Add ice, shake rapidly and double strain into an absinthe rinsed-coupette. Top with soda, garnish with a slice of cucumber and serve.
Try the Maid in Cuba at The American Bar at The Savoy, and bars around the world