Bacardi Legacy: Story of the week

30 May, 2017

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese residents witnessed Ran Van Ongevalle of Belgium lift the Bacardi Legacy trophy in Berlin last week via an entourage of mobile phones broadcasting the live final across the world.

Ongevalle earned his place in the bartender hall of fame with his Clarita cocktail made from Bacardi Gran Reserva 8, sherry, crème de cacao, absinthe, saline solution and garnished with olive oil.

“This is just too much to take in,” says Ongevalle. “It feels like I am honouring my family with this win. What an amazing week we have all had together; winning the final now is difficult to take in. This trophy is pretty heavy to hold, but I’m not putting it down.”

That winning feeling!!! Ran Van Ongevalle of Belgium is Bacardi Legacy champion 2017 #bacardilegacy

A post shared by Drinks International (@drinksinternational) on May 23, 2017 at 2:29pm PDT


10,000 bartenders were narrowed down via regional competitions to 38 semi-finalists. These bartenders were then flown from their respected bars around the world to Germany, where they spent a week competing and learning from some of the biggest names in the business, as well as networking (albeit on the dancefloor) in some of Berlin’s most fashionable venues.

The semi-finals were held over two days at a riverside venue in Eastern Berlin, where the 38 competing bartenders were given the task of creating two cocktails in seven minutes in front of a live audience and a panel of experts. The bartenders were judged on the marketing behind their cocktail as well as the drink itself.

Amongst the best performers in the semi-finals was Australian bartender Dave Kerr, who used his dry sense of humour to win over the crowd. Kerr’s Viento cocktail took him to the final eight on 23 May, where he forgot to prepare his strawberry garnish, resulting in a mission impossible-style dash backstage to finish his performance with seconds to spare.

Grace Tsai of Taiwan, who coincidently comes from the same hometown as 2016 champion Gn Chan, stole the headlines on day two of the semi-finals. However it wasn’t her precision and dramatic use of burnt cinnamon that was most impressive, it was the 200,000 live viewings via social media broadcasting that wowed the audience.


Bacardi held a party for every guest in an abandoned castle in the heart of Berlin where the eight finalists were announced and branded the ‘Remaining Ocho’ - after Bacardi’s Gran Reserva 8. From here, following a night of free flowing Bacardi cocktails and an entourage of drag queens, the finalists faced the task of reproducing their cocktails the following day in front of a larger audience and a new set of judges.

The final was once again viewed by more than 200,000 Chinese residents via social media and after all eight finalists had performed, three final bartenders were invited on stage; Ongevall, Grace Tsai and Kentaro Satoh of Japan. The then reigning champion Gn Chan then announced that the Belgian had been crowned his protégé.

New York bartender Julie Reiner, one of the judges on the night, says: “I’m delighted because this drink was my favourite of the eight in the final. There were some wonderful cocktails in tonight’s final, but Ran’s had an elegance and simplicity that I think is indicative of trends we are seeing currently for beautiful stirred drinks.

“His use of Amontillado sherry really enhanced the Bacardi rum; he has created a dry but well-balanced drink that I would not hesitate to order again and again in a bar. I also found Ran’s performance on stage tonight totally captivating, he just crushed it.”


In the opening days of the Bacardi Legacy week, the contestants attended workshops and seminars led by famous bartenders such as Monica Berg, Hidetsugu Ueno and Naren Young, followed by a special lecture on stage performance by cabaret singer Reuben Kay.

Norwegian bartender and author Monica Berg gave an hour-long seminar on how to maximise the taste of cocktails using Pina Colladas and pineapple as her case study, which explored the possibilities of Slush Puppy Pina Colladas, vegan Bloody Maries and the opportunities within the flavours of cherries.

Naren Young offered his experience from working at Dante bar in New York with a lecture on the aromas of cocktails. The Australian was convinced that “You don’t need any fancy shit to make great drinks”, and one technique he demonstrated was the ’10 second mojito’. He used a pre-made, flavored ice lolly placed in a glass with soda water and mint leaves to act as quick service technique that he claims will encourage customers to order cocktails more often.

The third seminar was based on touch and was led by Japanese bartending legend Hidetsugu Ueno, who showcased a variety of ice carving techniques which had every mobile phone and Instagram account working overtime. Ueno also shared his secrets behind bar hospitality, highlighted by the Japanese culture of ensuring that a customer’s change is hand delivered rather than placed on a tray. The veteran also revealed that he helps himself to the free stirring spoons in Starbucks every morning to use in his bar.


Following the announcement of the new Bacardi Legacy champion and just before another night of free-flowing rum and deep Berlin house music, Bacardi family member Enrique Comas announced that the 2018 competition would take place in Mexico City, so until then, Auf Wiedersehen.

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