Above: Eric Van Beek pre Global Final presentation

If you were to give each of the spirit categories a personality, rum would definitely be the sharing, caring one that wants everyone to have a good time, preferably while they party. Rum is about music, good times, exchanging of ideas, conviviality and bringing people together – family style – all of which Bacardí does in spades.

You see and most importantly feel it in everything the Bacardí crew do but perhaps the camaraderie comes through to best effect at the Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition, now in its 10th year. We know. We’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the magic at half of them. We’ve done Moscow (2014), Sydney (2015), San Francisco (2016), Berlin (2017) and most recently, Mexico City, and each year the bond gets stronger. It’s a time to catch up with old friends, make new ones, get insights from industry leaders and enjoy the hospitality of the host city. But most of all it’s about being reminded of just how inspiring bartenders from all around the world can be using their favourite rum as a base.

Rum always has been a drink for the common man
But in recent history it turned from gutter to glory
Because people started to understand
Much like Bacardi, who faced earthquake, fires, prohibition, exhile, you name it.
But Familia de Bacardi always had a resilience and passion

To bounce back and retrieve everything they had lost, and to reclaim it

– Eric Van Beek

The Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition class of 2018

Over two days we sat mesmerised as the 34 competitors shared their stories and inspiration for their Legacy drinks with us. There was plenty of laughter, a healthy dose of swagger and a whole lot of passion as we heard tales of bravery, overcoming cultural differences, small town hospitality, feminine wiles, the power of eight (as in Bacardí Carta Ocho), and given the importance of family for Bacardí, there was plenty on that front too.

The semi-finalist judges, l-r: Enrique Comas, Pamela Wiznitzer, Sarah Doyle, Danielle Dalla Polo, Kofi Amoo-Gottfried (behind),
Gn Chan, Carina Soto Velásquez, Shingo Gokan and Ivy Mix (grand final judge)

Then before you could say “make mine a Daiquiri” semi-finalist judges Gn Chan, Benjamin Padron, Danielle Dalla Pola, Carina Soto Velásquez and Pamela Wiznitzer had somehow managed to whittle the numbers down to…

The top 16:

(In order of announcement)
Akira Abe, Japan
Gonzalo ‘Chalo’ Marin, Colombia
French Scott Marshall, USA – Washington DC
Didier Van den Broeck, Belgium
Sim Sze Wei, Singapore
Shekhar Grover, Cruise Ships
Eric Van Beek, Netherlands
James Irvine, Australia
Sabrina Mailhot, Canada
Noppasate Hirunwathit, Thailand
Antonis Mantzaridis, Greece
Constantinos Kazelis, Cyprus
Juan Ignacio Quijano, Argentina
Akhilesh, India
Carl Wiman, Norway
Ana Alicia Herrera, Mexico 

The top 16

That was for the drinks. Once the scores for the promotional campaigns judged by Enrique Comas, Shingo Gokan, Kofi Amoo-Gottfried and Sarah Doyle were taken into account, a few hours later we heard who had made it through to…

The top ‘ocho’:

Ana Alicia HerreraMexico
AkhileshIndia
Akira AbeJapan
James Irvine, Australia
Eric Van Beek, Netherlands
Antonis MantzaridisGreece
Juan Ignacio QuijanoArgentina
Constantinos KazelisCyprus

The top 8. Back row, l-r: James Irvine, Juan Ignacio Quijano, Ana Alicia Herrera, Akira Abe;
front row, l-r: Antonis Mantzaridis, Akhilesh, Constantinos Kazelis, Eric Van Beek

The Grand Final was held the following evening and a jolly fine affair it was too – – we even had a live proposal thrown into the mix. Thankfully, she said yes (congratulations Akira Abe and the future Mrs Abe). Bold romantic gestures aside, here’s where the scoreboard was wiped clean and Jose Sanchez Gavito, Alex Kratena, Ran Van Ongevalle and Ivy Mix’s fine palates came into play, trimming the competitors down, first to…

The top 3:

James Irvine, Australia
Eric Van Beek, Netherlands
Ana Alicia HerreraMexico

And lastly to…

The Bacardí Legacy Global Champion 2018:

Eric Van Beek, Netherlands

Naturally, we made it our business to catch up with Eric to talk about presenting in rhyme, why persistence is key and how Greek yoghurt makes all the difference to a drink…

Congratulations Eric, you’re the 10th Bacardí Legacy Global Competition champ. Let’s cut to the nitty-gritty; why Bacardí Legacy?

I don’t enter lots of competitions for the simple reason that they have to resonate with me. Bacardí Legacy is perfect because I feel it gives bartenders the perfect opportunity to voice exactly who they are. That really counts for a lot with me.

Tell us about your journey?

Please let me tell you, sit back back and listen.
I’ll tell you about how the message of this legacy has risen.

I originally entered the competition two years ago but lost out in the regional finals. However, I’ve kept a close eye on it, watching Gn Chan win in San Francisco and the next year, travelling to Berlin for the Global Finals where Ran Van Ongevalle from Belgium took the top prize. All of the competitors here call me the Legacy guru because I know all of the previous competitor’s recipes.

Now your recipe for Cariño joins the Bacardí Legacy Hall of  Fame. How did you hit on the idea to use Greek yoghurt as your hero ingredient?

The idea was to make Cariño timeless
to add something simple yet complex
Something familiar yet unconventional
Something that is easy accessible
Without getting too technical
Turning it into a drink that’s truly Bacardí classical

At first I came up with a Manhattan style drink using fig liqueur. It was delicious but couldn’t easily be replicated and one of the key things about Legacy is that the drink has to be replicable. It also has to be different. So the way I approached it was: “what ingredient is super familiar with everybody but has never been used in Legacy?” and dairy came to mind.

The profile I was going for was something fresh – like a Mojito blended with a Daiquiri and combining one if my favourite drinks, the Piña Colada. At the beginning I was thinking soy milk but that didn’t cut it. Then I thought of cream but I didn’t want to use that either. Eventually I hit on Greek yoghurt. I’m lactose intolerant and Greek yoghurt is filtered multiple times which really brings down the lactose level. It also has a nice tart freshness which is why people eat it in the morning and due to the probiotics, it’s healthy for your gut. It also tasted great in the drink.

Greek yoghurt,
is filtered multiple times, just like Bacardí
This brings down the lactose level.
And for people like myself who are lactose intolerant,
It gives us the chance to drink this drink without having to run to the bathroom battlefront
Through fermentation and by adding specific yeast and bacteria
It was this unique ingredient that met all the criteria
It mimics Mr Facundo Bacardí because he singled out a specific yeast strain
Adding something that would not only complement its flavour but also its core.
To complement this specific part, I opted for this door

How and why did you hit upon doing your presentation in the spoken word?

It came from Gn. Not from what he did but the way he looks. Even if you forget his drink or his story, you’ll definitely remember him – he was the Asian guy with the locks. Me? I’m a white guy with blue eyes and blonde hair – there are tons of people who look like me. My presentation was different: you might not remember my drink (although people have started calling me the yoghurt guy!) but you’ll remember the fact that I was the guy who was rhyming. 

It wasn’t just a gimmick though, there was a message running through the dialogue. I was inspired by Lauryn Hill who also did a lot of spoken word. It was my way of being memorable but also conveying my message with a big impression.

Love and support doesn’t always come from familiar faces,
Sometimes strangers take you to higher places.
So I’m going to ask you to stand up and hold one another’s hand!
Now, look to the person on your left, now look to the person on your right
As individuals we stand alone, but together we can make this world
A better place if you are ready to fight.

Are you a poetry person?

Every six months or so I get inspired by something, so I grab a notebook and write things down but nothing more than that.

What have you learned about yourself from doing the competition?

I knew I was persistent but I didn’t know I was as persistent as I’ve been during this competition – not so much for the presentation of the drink but for the marketing side of things… I had my drink listed in 53 places, did 28 guest shifts and flew 40,000 km around the world spreading the word about Cariño – I don’t usually ask for lots of things but for this I did. It wasn’t about getting lots of numbers but because I knew I could convey the message better in person than getting it listed and asking people to tell the story for me.

I’m on a mission to spread love, thats why I’m being persistent.
Listen
I have a vision
You and I are not so different

Speaking of the marketing: creating a drink is standard stuff for a bartender, how did you find doing the promotional campaign?

I hadn’t done anything like that before, that’s why when I lost last year I asked previous competitors for their promotional campaigns. Like Ran, I tried all of the Legacy cocktails before I went to the final but I took it a step further by asking previous finalists for their promotional plans. Loretta Toska last year’s competitor from Greece was a big influence and her campaign was incredible. She couldn’t help me because she had Adonis from her bar representing Greece this year. However, she did give me a lot of invaluable advice for which I am truly grateful.

Now that you’re the 10th Bacardí Legacy Global Champion, no doubt cocktail lovers will want to check you out in your bar. Can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s called Bar TwentySeven and it’s in Hotel TwentySeven which has has just opened up in Dam Square in Amsterdam. I’m the Head Bartender and work with my best friends there – we have an amazing team. 

As for the concept, we have 16 drinks on the menu and they all have a probiotic element to them. We hit on the idea as one of the team has an aunt who only eats probiotic food and he claims that she’s the healthiest woman in Amsterdam. The first drink we made was a Bloody Mary from some of the tomatoes they’d fermented and it was absolutely delicious so we built on that, starting with Cariño. Now we have a Daiquiri with fermented pineapple, a Red Snapper, make our own kombucha, have a drink with miso, have fermented beets to create a spritz-like drink and one of my favourites contains soju which we serve in a dehydrated lime husk and pair with kimchee.

We’re still working out the kinks as it’s quite difficult working with probiotics but the main thing is that we want to add flavour, texture or aroma – something that enhances the drink, we’re not going down the probiotic route just for the sake of it.

Eric Van Beek with the grand final judges, l-r: Alex Kratena, Ivy Mix, Ran Van Ongevalle and Jose Sanchez Gavito

What have you enjoyed most about the competition?

Meeting all the competitors. I’ve learned so much about myself since I’ve been here. I was touched by the fact that people took time out to give me lots of tips, and equally important, I looked in the mirror and took their advice on board. A huge thank you to Emmanuel Otero from Spain, Irene Benjamin from Israel, Carl Wimin from Norway, Leon Back from the UK and Marco Carollo from UAE – they’ve all been fantastic.

We bartenders pour our hearts into what we do
We serve it in a glass with class, especially for you
With the message, a nod, a smile and a how do you do?
We do it happily, rapidly and always thankfully.
Resulting into them becoming family!”

Other than winning, what’s been your favourite part of your Bacardí Legacy journey?

That Don Pepe [Maestro de Ron, Jose Sanchez Gavito] said welcome to the family.

Going from a rum that is a light crisp feather weight
To a heavy strong full body heavy weight
I believe this is how Don Pepe’s process narrates
Thats why I raise my glass to him whilst we celebrate.

Lastly, tell us something not many people know about you.

I went to the same school as Martin Luther King – Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s predominantly a black college and I’m still the only Dutch guy to have studied there.

 

Cariño

50ml Bacardí Reserva Ocho
5 ml Yellow Chartreuse
30 ml Greek yoghurt
20ml vanilla syrup*
10 ml lemon juice

Method:

Shake all ingredients and serve over a large ice cube in a Coupette glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Be sure to try Cariño (it’s delicious and we’re not fans of dairy) and say hello to Eric at Bar TwentySeven when you’re next in Amsterdam. 

 

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