Bacardi: Its history, its legacy and the Daiquiri3rd January, 2014 by Ross Kerslake
When Bacardi comes to mind I instantly think of white rum, Daiquiris and Hemingway.
However Bacardi has had the unfortunate luck of becoming a misconception.
I once had such a bad image of Bacardi after countless years of rum and cokes or having bartenders make me Daiquiri’s with poor quality rum that I would wretch in disgust.
But that is what happens when you are not given Bacardi.
And so I was put off for many years, until I was presented with a Daiquiri at Legacy – a competition that seeks out the best Bacardi bartenders in the world.
I recently sat down for drinks with the very down to earth Enrique Comas – a sixth generation Bacardi family member and also Bacardi’s global brand manager (and my new best friend).
We talked history and legacy (mostly), over a few drinks including a Cuban Manhattan made with Bacardi 8 which was excellent.
I also had a Superior on the rocks after Enrique spoke with such reverence as to the serve.
To say I was inspired would be an understatement – it blew my mind.
Recently I have taken to having it on the rocks on a regular basis to the surprise of many including a bar manager friend who seemed puzzled by it.
Needless to say, I’m clearly an unofficial Bacardi brand advocate.
I was lucky enough to meet former ‘Maximo Distiller’ Don Jose Sanchez this year during London Cocktail Week which included a talk, Q&A as well as tasting of the 150th Decanter.
When we got round to the Q&A I asked Done Jose what his favourite Bacardi was. “Any Bacardi, with friends”, he said.
Inspiring words, now lets make this first statement stick.
Bacardi is great rum.
It’s history and quality is some of the most impressive in the world, stretching as far back as 1862 when it was founded by Don Facundo Bacardi Massó.
It has survived three coup d’etats, three major earthquakes, over 48 years of exile during two separate periods, 14 years of civil war, four devastating distillery fires, six years under military occupation in Cuba and 40 years on the verge of bankruptcy and seizure of its assets during the 1960’s Cuban revolution.
In fact things became so dire that Facundo’s sons sold their possessions to keep the company going – driven by the legacy of Bacardi.
Now if that isn’t dedication to their craft and history, I don’t know what is.
Today, rum is a wonder spirit with so many different variations and many independent distillers creating unique, boutique rums that it’s no surprise people love it.
But before Bacardi rum wasn’t much of anything.
It was referred to as an aguardiente which literally meant ‘burning water’ or ‘fire water’ due to its rough and harsh unpalatable nature.
Thanks to Facundo’s belief in what was possible the very nature of rum was changed for the better.
Today rum is celebrated, with events like London’s Rum fest, the Miami Rum Renaissance and the Rum Run (no, really) in Tulatin, Oregon where you have a jolly 10k run followed by rum drinks galore.
Bacardi created the Legacy competition not just to celebrate bartenders, but to give them a chance to create their own legacy by presenting a modern classic cocktail for a chance to sit up there with historical greats like the Daiquiri or El Presidente.
But Legacy is more than just your average cocktail competition.
It is a two-year process to find the eventual winner of Legacy global.
It kicks off with applications all over the world in the bartenders respective countries with heats, narrowing it down to up to a selection of seven bartenders with the final narrowing that number down to just three.
These three make up the country’s three most promising who will then go on to spend their time travelling the globe to promote their drink.
These three are then narrowed down to one with that lucky bartender going on to represents their country at the global finals.
The initial competition was launched in the UK in 2009 and 2010 was rolled out worldwide following its success with the first global final held in Puerto Rico in 2011.
Matt Dakers, who was the first UK finalist to travel to the global final with his ‘Angel’s Draft’, travelled the world from Russia to Miami and Puerto Rico gaining amazing experience from some of the world’s elite bartenders.
This year’s UK final saw seven bartenders battle it out and eventually narrowed down to just three.
- Tom Walker (The American Bar, Savoy) with his ‘Maid in Cuba’ (recipe below)
- Sam Kershaw (Callooh Callay) with his ‘Favourite Frost’ – Bacardi Superior, Pineapple infused Kamm & Sonn’s, Martini Bianco, fresh lime juice, two bar spoons of caster sugar, two dashes of grapefruit bitters and a small egg white
- Nelson Bernardes (Good Godfrey’s, Waldorf Astoria) and his ‘Perfect Host’ – Bacardi Superior, egg white, lime juice, basil
While I would love to go through all the drinks the one I’d have to single out is Tom Walker’s “Maid in Cuba” which pays homage to two of Bacardi’s official drinks – the Daiquiri and the Mojito.
Maid in Cuba by Tom Walker
50ml Bacardi Superior
25ml lime juice
15ml simple syrup
3 slices cucumber
Small handful of mint
Dash Absinthe (for glass rinse)
– All ingredients shaken and strained, garnished with mint leaf and cucumber slice, topped off with soda.
What is noticeable about the drinks that come out of Legacy and the Maid in Cuba is the simplicity.
A drink is more likely to stand the test of time if it’s easy to replicate and doesn’t require any hard-to-get ingredients.
Tom has been spending his time traveling to promote it and to get it included on cocktail lists across the globe,
Not just as a Legacy drink but in celebration of the last and next 150 years of Bacardi.
The UK final of Legacy will take place in February.