Representing the North of England is Oliver Pluck from The East Village in Leeds. Oliver goes through to the much-anticipated finals of BACARDÍ Legacy on 10th November with his cocktail, Amistat. Describing his bartending style isn’t particularly straightforward: “Having worked in five-star hotels and cocktail consultancy for the likes of the Royal Wedding but also working in dive bars I can only describe myself as a bartending chameleon, working smoothly and cleanly all the time. However, customer service is always first and foremost.” Nuff said…
So Oli, when and why did you decide you wanted to enter BACARDÍ Legacy this year?
Having bought my own bar The East Village in December 2014, I worked so hard on it and it was a dream come true. I gutted the whole venue, rebuilt everything single-handedly and was the only employee for the first five weeks. Once this achievement was ticked off the list, the next thing was to put myself out there and utilise all my skills and work closely with a brand that hopefully would see my potential and would want to work with me.
What is it about this particular competition that resonates with you?
For me BACARDÍ Legacy is one of the best cocktail competitions in the world. It’s the world’s elite going head-to-head on a global platform. The drink you enter right from the start is the drink that could win you a world title. Like Antoine Amedie Peychaud did with the Sazerac, I want to win BACARDÍ Legacy with the ‘Amistat’.
Have you followed the journeys of previous finalists (UK and/or global) and if so, who has stood out most for you and why?
Being a massive fan of the American Bar at the Savoy. Tom Walker was one that impressed me greatly as he came across as himself. Sometimes bartenders in these competitions adopt a false persona for the wrong reasons. I do have to say though that Ally Martin’s marketing was simply amazing and it really goes to show how much this competition means to everyone who enters it.
Why is BACARDÍ Legacy such an important competition for you personally?
In a world where cocktail innovation in bars and on the competition circuit is constantly growing, people often forget about the consumer and the way that both you as a bartender and the drink are perceived. With BACARDÍ Legacy you have to believe in yourself, the brand and the cocktail to the bitter end. Your cocktail has to be innovative and creative but easily replicable on a global scale. As there is a marketing period involved, bartenders get tested on all their abilities, not just on creating the next classic cocktail.
Please describe your cocktail and the inspiration behind it.
Knowing about the Bacardí dynasty and the story around the family’s Cuban heritage, I was so excited when I heard that Raul Castro and President Obama were in talks for peace and lifting the embargo. With John Kerry flying to Cuba to raise the flag in the US embassy for the first time in 54 years I thought ‘this is what it has all been about’.
I wanted to create a rum cocktail that could stand up next to an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. I couldn’t help but feel that BACARDÍ had the citrus side of drinks firmly in its pocket so I wanted to create a modern day classic with depth, warmth and complexity.
I called my drink ‘Amistat’ which means friendship in Spanish and this resembled what was happening in Cuba with America. Since Columbus first arrived on the island, people of Cuba have always fought for independence and I wanted my drink to tell the story. BACARDÍ Oro represents the company’s Cuban heritage with an Amontillado Sherry representing the Spanish rule. Woodford Reserve is a hat-tip to America with the friendship linked in to the Brown-Forman portfolio. Coffee liqueur represents the substantial coffee growth within the country now that sugar cane production has slipped considerably in the last 50 years. I use three dashes of Aztec Chocolate Bitters to add mocha tones to the cocktail, which balances out the drink beautifully. Finally, I lightly zest the drink with an orange in the shape of the five-point lone star from the Cuban and Puerto Rican flag symbolising both the revolution and BACARDÍ’s new home.
You’re permitted to use six ingredients in your cocktail, what’s the one component (apart from BACARDÍ) that brings the x-factor to your drink?
It has to be the Armontillado Sherry. Both the Carta Oro and sherry have been aged longer so they both have complex nuttiness with zesty orange and great richness to them.
You can choose from BACARDÍ Carta Blanca or BACARDÍ Carta Oro as the base for your cocktail, which did you go for and why?
The ‘Amistat’ has no mixers, citrus or perishables – it’s just alcohol. Therefore I chose BACARDÍ Oro for its maturity and oaky characteristics, which really shines through. From previous mixing sessions the Carta Blanca works much better for cutting through tarter, sweeter flavours.
Why do you believe your drink has the potential to be the next BACARDÍ Legacy cocktail?
For decades the world has been craving a complex, dark and seductive classic rum cocktail. With Manhattans and Old Fashioneds becoming more popular I really wanted to give BACARDÍ something similar.
The ‘Amistat’ has no perishables so can easily be bottled and sold. This will help with mass production and getting it around the world. It’s a night time drink but also a winter drink. It can be served straight up or on the rocks. You could even barrel-age it and play around with different sherries, coffee liqueurs and bourbons. I experimented with different bitters and they changed the drink dramatically, just like each bartender tweaks his or her Old Fashioneds. Maybe the ‘Amistat’ is the next best classic for both consumers and bartenders?
Who would you most like to see drinking it?
I would love to personally go back in time and see Don Facundo himself sitting back and enjoying it. It would be an honor to see Facundo L. Bacardí try it also. In the mainstream though I would just love to be in a bar and overhear someone order an ‘Amistat’. To see a total stranger order and try it (and enjoy it) would be the ultimate gratification.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received during the competition?
There are three things that stand out…
- “Be yourself” (Metinee Kongsrivilai, BACARDÍ Trade Ambassador)
- “Think bigger” (Matt Dakers)
- “Practice, practice, practice!” (Declan McGurk, the American Bar at The Savoy)
What would winning BACARDÍ Legacy mean to you?
It would probably be the biggest achievement of my career. There would be lots of tears of joy and excitement and would be the biggest hug of recognition I think I could ever get.
I am gunning for this one and going to give it my all to get to the Global Final and win it for the UK. I wish every single competitor the best of luck and I’m just humble to have got this far and learnt so much already.
37.5ml BACARDÍ Carta Oro
12.5ml Woodford Reserve
12.5ml Amontillado Sherry
10ml coffee Liqueur
3 dashes of spiced chocolate bitters
Stir ingredients with ice. Serve on the rocks and garnish with an orange twist.
Follow Oli @BacardiLegacy16
The BACARDÍ Legacy UK Final takes place on 10th November. Keep up to date at #BacardiLegacyUK