Above: Joe Harper receiving his trophy from Bacardí UK Brand Ambassador, Metinee Kongsrivilai
Newsflash cocktail comp lovers: one of the biggest in the biz Bacardí Legacy, has had a makeover. Don’t panic, the changes won’t alarm those who know and love the competition in its original format. Think in line of a tasteful freshen up a la Sharon Osborne rather than alteration for bewildering effect as in Jocelyn Wildenstein (Google photos of both before and after and you’ll know where we’re coming from).
We witnessed the results of the new look Legacy first hand at the recent Northern European Finals. In previous years this particular event would have culminated in the big reveal of the Three Most Promising (TMP)*. Not this time. Instead of separate regional finals like before, the shortlisters from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK came together in one big event to find out who would be going straight through to the Bacardí Legacy Global Final in Berlin in May 2017.
One Embankment given the Legacy treatment
It took two days to do it though. The first was spent behind closed doors with the competitors presenting their Legacy cocktails in front of a hardcore judging panel made up of Kirsten Holm, Jimmie Hulth, Jelmer De Boer, Arash Gassemi, Timo Siitonen, Jorgen Dons, Tristan Stephenson, Andrew Nichols, Wolfgang Bogner and Kan Zuo. So far, so intimidating but still a familiar process. Day two was where the second part of the updated format came into play. This was where the 35 competitors got to show off their drinks in the manner they know best: face to face with customers – all 250 of them, made up of industry insiders #nopressure.
Obviously, such an epic production called for an impressive setting and the chosen location, One Embankment in London made over to highlight the Golden Age of Cocktails, didn’t disappoint. Every eensy bit of its 746 square metres was occupied – mezzanine included, not surprising given that each bartender was allocated an area for their own bespoke bar. It made for a wonderfully interactive, very enjoyable, extremely swanky evening with all contestants given an equal platform to serve samples of their drinks and talk about the stories behind them. That said, we weren’t here purely for the social side of things, this was about announcing the winners who for the first time in the competition’s eight year history, didn’t come through a ‘labour intensive’ TMP campaign.
Let’s hear it for…
The 35 Northern European contestants
Introducing the 11 Northern European winners and the names of their Bacardí Legacy cocktails:
AUSTRIA – Kenny Klein ‘Curiosity’
BELGIUM – Ran Van Ongevalle ‘Clara’
DENMARK – António Saldanha de Oliveira ‘El Obsequio’
FINLAND – Eetu Topo ‘The Rum Pickle’
GERMANY – Christoph Henkel ‘Chapeau! Chapeau!’
IRELAND – Conor Myers ‘Electric Avenue’
NETHERLANDS – Vitalijs Aleksejevs ‘Senuelo’
NORWAY – Ingrid Skaue Oines ‘Cuban Pete’
SWEDEN – Kaitlin Wilkes ‘Gonzo’
SWITZERLAND – Martin Bornemann ‘Momento’
UK – Joe Harper ‘Pilar’
Naturally , we’re giving a little more love to Joe Harper – well, it would be rude not to seeing as he’s representing our region… Like the previous three UK Legacy champs, Iain Griffiths (2016); Ally Martin (2015) and Tom Walker (2014), Joe has plied his bartending talents in Scotland but unlike the others, the bar he represents, The Century Bar at Gleneagles, is actually based there. Just thought we’d throw that one in…
More importantly, we caught up with him to talk about the inspiration behind his drink:
Joe Harper, Bacardi Legacy UK Finalist
“My drink is called Pilar, named after Ernest Hemingway’s fishing boat. It’s cheeky tiki in style but with enough jazz to be elegant,” he told us. “It’s inspired by Ernest Hemingway, an amazing, very charismatic guy who was a big part of BACARDÍ cocktail history and cocktail history generally.”
“What fascinates me is his resilience: he survived anthrax, pneumonia, dysentry, skin cancer, hepatitis, diabetes, a fractured skull, two plane crashes – it seemed like nothing could destroy him. That irrepressible spirit is not only represented in BACARDÍ but also in the veterans of our industry who have been bartending for years and years.”
“It’s easy to forget that while bartending is incredibly rewarding there are really hard days and really long shifts thrown into the mix. A big part of my story is that I feel incredibly lucky that my mentors and leaders possess the resilience to stick around long enough for me to benefit from their experience. My drink is dedicated to them – the pillars of our community.”
Joe will spend the next five months promoting Pilar. Look out for it (and him) coming to a bar near you.
40ml BACARDÍ Carta Blanca
30ml RinQuinQuin à la Pêche
20ml lime juice
20ml pineapple syrup
6-8 mint leaves
Shake and fine strain into a coupette glass, top with soda. Garnish with a mint leaf.
PS: A big shout out to the other five UK competitors who did a sterling job. Congrats to Ben Alcock (Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bristol), Geoff Robinson, Dan Berger (Blind Pig, London), Roisin McErlean (Rita’s, Belfast) and Chris Edwards (Filter & Fox, Liverpool).
*The three shortlisted competitors were given a budget to promote their individual Bacardí Legacy cocktail campaigns over a three to six month period with mentoring from their regional Bacardí ambassadors before the finalist was announced.