Very rarely do you come across a grumpy bartender. Opinionated? For sure. Nit-picky when customers give them gip? Why, of course. But unhappy on the job? Not if they’re in it for a career.
We think we’ve cracked part of the code as to why the good ones are content in their work. We saw it writ large across 34 faces at the Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition. There’s a lot to be said about the money-can’t-buy opportunities that taking part in prestigious contests like this give them to a) travel the world; b) meet and learn from experts in their field and c) be part of a global cocktail community. Or in the case of Bacardí, being embraced into the fold of the family.
That’s not to say they hadn’t touched down in Sydney without wanting to take the big prize home. Far from it. They’re all ambitious, hardworking bartenders with belief in themselves and their Legacy drinks otherwise they had no business making their way half way around the world to prove otherwise. Having beaten off the top talent in their respective countries and spent anything from three to six months working on marketing their drinks, the 31 guys and three gals were already stars on their home turf – this was the last, very important part in a long, exciting and character building journey.
Before we get to the drinks…
Bacardí Legacy is so much more than the long awaited seven minute presentations. Before even stepping up on to the stage to present their Legacy cocktail, the competitors were immersed in a series of invaluable workshops. The purpose? A mixture of things really, primarily to inform, inspire, educate and stimulate but to allow them to get to know each other as well. Talks on health and wellbeing, the art of bartending and history of Australian cocktail culture all featured in the sessions a few days before guests flew in from all around the world. So by the time we’d arrived, their nerves were calmed, jet-lag had ceased and friendships had been formed. Nice work. Time to get on with what we were all there for…
Clockwise from top left, Legacy cocktails from: Estonia, Ireland, Israel, Germany, Hong Kong, Row two from right: Hong Kong, Italy, Latvia, Belarus, Finland, India
Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition 2015
Two semi-finals split over two days. And together with Simon Webster from BarLife and Mark Ludmon from Bar Magazine, we saw every single one of them. Not exactly a hardship given the stellar performances on show, we witnessed laughter and tears, heard fascinating stories and even some mighty fine singing but sadly we didn’t get to taste the drinks.
That was left to the expert panel made up of David Cordoba, Elizaveta Evdokimova, Nicholas Saint-Jean, Shingko Gokan and Sven Almenning. They were tasked with judging not only the flavour and balance of each cocktail but the confidence of the competitor, whether their Legacy cocktail had a good name, the inspiration behind it and if it had longevity and global appeal.
There was also a little matter of originality that had to be considered. Not easy given that the brief was, as it always has been, to create a drink using six ingredients that can be found and reproduced with ease in any bar, of whatever level around the world. But this lot were clever so-and-so’s. Plus, for the first time in the six years of the competition, they could choose to work with either the classic ‘white’ Bacardí Carta Blanca, or go for gold with Bacardí Carta Ora. And the results were truly amazing.
The glorious setting for the Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition Finals, 2015, hosted by Global Brand Ambassador Dickie Cullimore
Close your eyes and imagine these: Bacardí Carta Blanca shaken with St. Germain, lime juice, pineapple juice and honey vinegar with a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce (Xaris Darras, Greece); or how about Bacardí Carta Ora combined with sea buckthorn, lemongrass syrup and fresh lime juice (Regeri Zoo, Estonia)? Other original combinations included Bacardí Carta Blanca, cigar syrup, Seville orange marmalade, fresh lime juice and chocolate bitters (Jamie Añon, Spain); Bacardí Carta Oro, maple syrup and lime juice topped with corn foam (Emil Areng, Sweden), and Bacardí Carta Blanca, white wine, lemon juice, olive oil and sugar cane (Franck Dedieu, France).
Naturally, there were a few reoccurring themes:
The Legacy drinks in numbers
Bacardí Carta Oro vs. Bacardí Carta Blanca
Number of cocktails served in coupettes
Number of long drinks
Most popular ingredients
Sherry – 6
St. Germain – 5
Lime juice – 16
Chartreuse – Green 1; Yellow 4
Basil – 4
Clockwise from top left, Legacy cocktails from: Argentina, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Australia, row two from right: Singapore, Mexico, Lithuania, UAE, United Kingdom
Inspiration came from many sources but for the most part, the drinks were born from the untameable spirit and relentless passion of the Bacardí family.
From 34 to eight
In true Bacardí style, the announcements of the final eight were made after a huge, extremely delicious family dinner – this one held at the rather splendid Art Gallery of New South Wales. Cue raising of glasses and downing of Bacardí Ocho as the following eight names were called onto the stage…
Franck Dedieu, France – Le Latin
Faye Chen, China – Gold Fashioned
Denzel Heath, South Africa – The Lennox
Barney Toy, New Zealand – Pan Am Cocktail
Jad Ballout, Lebanon – El Mediterráneo
Karim Mehdi, Ireland – Garrigue
Xaris Darras, Greece – Clandestino
Peter Chua, Singapore – Sugar Man
Eight very different characters, eight very different drinks – who would win? Everyone we asked had a different viewpoint but one thing was clear, it wasn’t an easy one to call. Fast forward on to the next evening…
The final countdown
The final ‘ocho’, from L-R: Barney Toy, Jad Bellout, Peter Chua, Denzel Heath, Franck Dedieu, Faye Chen, Xaris Darras, Karim Mehdi
As befitted the opulent setting of the Town Hall in Sydney posh frocks and natty suits were standard attire from the guests. As for the main attraction, well their performances were equally stunning. After a spectacular light show and dramatic rendition of the Piña Colada Song played live on one of the biggest organs we’ve every seen (oh behave!), we were off…
Franck Dedieu got things off to a mighty fine start with a smooth presentation of his elegant, supremely classic Le Latin cocktail. His choice of ingredients – Bacardí Carta Blanca, wine, lemon juice and olives – was surprising and clever, blending Latin and French cultures together beautifully in a glass.
Next came Faye, the only female finalist in the comp. Not that she let that help or hinder her. She commanded the audience with her cool, calm and confident performance and cleverly factored in a few laughs to lift the tension in the air as well. Of all the cocktail names, her Gold Fashioned cocktail had the ring of a future classic about it but using logan water (logan water?) as one of the main ingredients didn’t sit quite so easily.
On to Denzel Heath who chose to set the scene to his presentation accompanied by an emotional and motivational voiceover from Rocky. The inspiration for his cocktail The Lennox, made from Bacardí Carta Oro, sherry, an easy to make banana syrup, lemon juice, All Spice/pimento bitters and egg white, came from the bar that helped to shape his career.
Some people are born performers and cheeky chappy, ever-smiling Barney Toy is one of them. Stepping on to the stage with the Piña Colada Song (yes, again!) playing in the background was always going to get the audience on side and thankfully, his presentation of his Pan Am Cocktail, inspired by the style and elegance of Pan American airlines in the 1930s and 1940s, kept the good vibes flowing.
Ago Perrone in judging mode
Jad Ballout was more low-key but equally passionate about his cocktail, a rum-tastic mash-up of Dale DeGroff’s Whiskey Smash and Joerg Mayer’s Gin Basil Smash. His version gave Bacardí Carta Blanca a flavour of the Mediterranean, lacing it with Mastiha, basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil floating on top. Then came Karim from Ireland who received a standing ovation for his emotional semi-final presentation the day before. His was a tale that could have come straight out of the Bacardí story book, driven by the relentless desire to succeed having entered the competition six times and never giving up until he made it to the Global Finals. His cocktail called on Bacardí Carta Blanca, lemon juice, orgeat, yellow Chartreuse and a pinch of sea salt.
Xaris Darras from Greece posed the question, if you left your country what would you take with you? A thought brought on by the song Clandestine which tells the story of a man’s exile from his country. As Xaris mixed his drink made up of a daring blend of honey vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, St. Germain and lime juice he played a video of the 27,000 km journey it had undertaken in the months leading up to the global final.
Lastly, it was down to Peter Chua from Singapore to win over the judging panel with his Sugar Man cocktail, a deliciously refreshing libation made up of Bacardí Carta Blanca, lime juice, rich ginger syrup, absinthe and salted cucumber (bonus points for giving out sample bottles to guests in the audience the day before). If the drink didn’t work for their palates, we’re betting Peter’s voice did as he closed his performance with a pitch perfect rendition of Sugar Man by Sixto Rodriguez .
And then it was over. Eight flawless presentations for the crack squad of judges made up of Ago Perrone, Steve Schneider, Tom Walker and José Sanchez Gavito to deliberate over.
Top from left, the final three, Barney Toy, Franck Dedieu and Jad Ballou; middle: Frank in celebratory mood;
Above, with the judges: Ago Perrone, José Sanchez Gavito, Franck Dedieu, Tom Walker, Steve Schneider
In the end it was monsieur Franck Dedieu who got the nod for his Le Latin which has already been dubbed the Dirty Daiquiri.”My Legacy cocktail brings together the work of two families – the Bacardí family who came from Catalonia, where Facundo Bacardí was a wine merchant; and my family who come from the region between Montpelier and Marsellan, an area with a strong Latin culture where my family’s vineyards have matured over many years and where Don Facundo Bacardí used to sell wine.
“To bring a touch of innovation in the Latin style, I have customised the DNA of the most famous rum cocktail: rum, lime and sugar. Sugar cane and rum are the Cuban touch of my cocktail; lemon is the specific citrus and wine represents the French vineyard. A green olive and its brine balances the cocktail with a salty touch.”
So what gave Franck the edge? “It was incredibly tight between the top three but Frank had the total package,” said Ago Perrone after the announcement was made. Steve Schneider concurred. “His drink was innovative and inspiring but also replicable. We all felt his cocktail would stand the test of time.”
Le Latin aka the Dirty Daiquiri
45ml Bacardî Carta Blanca
20nl white wine (preferably Viognier)
20ml freshly-squeezed lemon juice
6ml olive brine
2 barspoons sugar cane
Shake ingredients over ice. Strain into a coupette and garnish with a green olive et voila, a true legacy. C’est manifique.