Three Danish Legacy Cocktails
Bacardi Legacy North European finals
On November 8th 2016 the North European finals of the 9th installment of the Bacardi Legacy Competition rolled out in London. Cocktails of Copenhagen joined the Danish delegation to cheer on the three Danish entrants and to peep behind the curtain of the industry’s own efforts to establish what is worthy of legacy.
Few people would oppose that the Bacardi company, founded in 1862 and still family-owned, is an industry giant. Their rum is a staple in a number of legendary cocktails and a ubiquitous presence on the international bar scene – arguably for as long as there has been such a thing.
Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition is regarded among the most prestigious cocktail competitions in the world, showcasing an impressive display of creativity and skill in its roster of competitors. The semi finals in London features three bartenders from each of eleven Northern European countries – Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium. A single winner from each country is selected by an international jury to contend the thirty-five other national winners at the global finals in Berlin in May of 2017. Reflective of the company’s immersion in cocktail history, the competition has one simple yet ambitious goal – to find and celebrate potentially legendary rum cocktails that will stand the test of time.
With this in mind we (Søren Brofeldt and Alexander Banck-Petersen) arrive in London an early November morning along with brand ambassador Marlene Anne Lough and a small group of bartenders from Copenhagen (including familiar faces like Anna Heilmann-Clausen and Ted Dako), here to support their competing colleagues: Kristoffer Geer from Downstairs in Århus, Erwan Le Bonniec from Kester Thomas and António Saldanha de Oliveira from Curfew .
After spending the afternoon talking to the Danish delegation – naturally over cocktails to get into the right mindset (yes, that is how it works) – at the well renowned Dandelyan bar, we depart for the actual event in the early evening, well prepared to try and grasp the momentous scope of the task imposed on the participants.
In its striking simplicity, the objective of Bacardi Legacy is to present an original cocktail that
1) is easily reproducible, using a maximum of six universally available ingredients (one of which must be a Bacardi rum), and
2) has the potential to join the back catalogue of timeless cocktails that is expected at any bar of repute, despite the current menu.
Clearly, legends aren’t born overnight or in the course of a single competition, but the ambiance of the competition, as we chat with the rest of the Danish delegation clearly reflects the commitment to strive for and inspire legacy.
Many famous rum cocktails have great stories and simple recipes to thank for their acclaim, and to succeed in Bacardi Legacy the story of the cocktail’s conception is as important as the quality of the drink itself. The classic daiquiri and the Hemmingway Daiquiri is as much carried by their legendary origins as they are by their taste. The same can be said about the Mojito, that traces its origins back to Sir Francis Drake employing it to combat scurvy amongst his crew.
Three Danish Legacy cocktails
The grandeur of the occasion is not lost on us as we arrive at the venue, One Embankment – a large, sparsely lit club with carpeted floors, chesterfield furniture and an air of reluctantly restrained extravagance. The main floor and the broad balcony surrounding the central atrium is scattered with 36 pop-up bars housing each of the contestants and their cocktails, eager to present their creations to a veritable who’s who of the European cocktail scene perusing the landscape. It is with equal parts excitement and trepidation that we mingle our way around the crowd and quickly locate the three Danish competitors on the balcony.
Erwan has brought El Conquistador – the conqueror. A delicious and well-balanced sour style cocktail:
45ml Bacardi carta ocho
15ml Manzanilla sherry wine
20ml lime juice
15ml clove syrup
10ml aquafaba (chickpea water)
Grated nutmeg on top
Shaken with ice and double strained, served in a Nick & Nora martini glass.
The taste of clove and nutmeg is subtle yet distinct and the use of chickpea water in replacement of egg-white adds a nuttiness that compliments the spices fantastically.
Erwan has sought inspiration in the colonial links of his own heritage (his mother is French and his father is from former French colony Benin) seeking to highlight the positive in the otherwise dark history of colonialism. The Manzanilla sherry wine is produced in Sanlucar de Barrameda, one of the principle ports of departure during the Spanish colonization of the Americas and Cuba where Bacardi was later founded. Additionally the colonization of Indonesia ensured the availability of rare spices in Europe, including nutmeg.
The cocktail will be available on the Fall/Winter menu at Kester Thomas until April.
A few stalls over a sharply dressed Antonio is serving his invention, El Obsequio – the Gift, from a vintage portable suitcase bar.
6 cl Bacardi Carta Blanca rum
1,5 cl Cocchi Americano
3 cl fresh lime juice
2 cl mimosa syrup*
Shake with ice. Serve in a cocktail glass wrapped in paper like a gift.
El Obsequio is inspired by a perfume that Bacardi had special made in 1888 to be gifted to friends and supporters of the company whom had stood by the company through the years. Antonio has taken inspiration from the perfume by incorporating mimosa, which is commonly used by perfumers, and the gesture, and the values of gratitude the perfume transmits, that are worthy of a legacy cocktail.
He has printed the recipe on small, torn notes, copying the exact style and layout of the original Daiquiri recipe by American miner Jennings Stockton Cox), a detail reportedly given notable praise by the judges.
El Obsequio we be available all year round at Curfew – find it in the award winning cocktail section of the menu.
We find the last of the Danish contestants, Kristoffer, suitably behind the wheel of a mobile bar mounted on a Danish Christiania Bike. He is presenting his cocktail, La Tierra – the Earth, a variation over the classic Daiquiri, sporting elderflower and liquorice root. Kristoffer lost most of his sight during his early youth, so he found inspiration in his childhood, in the smells and tastes he knew from his parent’s garden.
5 cl Bacardi Carta Blanca
1.5 cl St. Germain
1,5 cl Suze
1.5 cl liquorice root syrup
2 cl lime
Shaken and topped with tonic served in a rocks glass – garnished with grated liquorice root.
A light and aromatic cocktail with clear notes of elderflower accompanied by the round, earthy flavor of the liquorice but somehow spared of the overpowering sweetness usually associated with the two ingredients.
It is available on request at Bar Downstairs (Åboulevarden 35, 8000 Aarhus C) and will be featured on the spring menu as well.
A good story filtered through hospitality, showmanship and craftsmanship
Among the guests are also judges from the participating countries including a familiar face, Kirsten Holm from Copenhagen’s longest running cocktail bar, K-Bar, representing Denmark in the assessment panel. She explained that she and her fellow judges spent the day prior to the event assessing the contestants live. Although the judges were not allowed to score the contestants from their own countries she is impressed with the Danish candidates and relayed truly high praise from the judges who adjudicated Antonio, Kristoffer and Erwan. It was a tough field of competitors with especially strong performances from Finland and the Benelux.
It is hard to not feel impressed (with a hint of national pride) by the accomplishment that it truly is to stand out in the array of skill and innovation represented in the evening’s competition.
Perusing the assortment of competitors our own general impression is one of incredible quality and attention to detail.
We stumble upon a true manifold of variations over the classic combinations, some exotic, some subtle – but we also have quite a few first-time experiences.
On the main floor for example we meet Martin Bieringer from Germany presenting his creation – The Square – a counterintuitively delicious chocolate lemonade with a dash of Angostura Bitter and a hint of anise.
On the balcony Eetu Topo from Finland (who later in the evening would go on to win the Finnish spot in the global finals) boldly proposes a new category celebrating the Scandinavian culinary tradition – the Pickle – defined as 1 part base spirit, ½ part lengthener, 1 bs natural vinegar and 1 bs caster sugar served over any pickled ingredient. He himself serves a Rum Pickle of Bacardi Carta Oro, Chardonnay, white wine vinegar and caster sugar over a pickled olive. The experience can be summed up as initial skepticism followed by surprised delight and fascinated interest.
Every single competitor has put an impressive amount of work into the presentation of their cocktails, and browsing at the different stalls, it is clear that there is as much emphasis on showmanship and presentation as on the cocktails themselves. At a glance this duality seem slightly at odds with the objective of the competition emphasizing the legacy potential of the cocktail rather than the skill and eloquence of the maker.
Kirsten later explain that contestants where judged on eight parameters with the most important being taste, but she emphasizes that in any cocktail experience presentation is an important element that cannot be separated from the quality of the cocktail itself – a cocktail is a luxury purchase that should be a part of an overall luxurious experience so that nothing detracts from the enjoyment of the experience as a whole.
This might be one of the quintessential things that sets the cocktail experience apart from many of the other options for how to spend a Friday or Saturday night – the product offered is the sum total of the experience itself, not the individual components that makes it.
Additionally, it highlights the exceptionally broad mix of skills required to succeed in the business: The hospitality, showmanship and craftsmanship displayed behind the bar; the ingenuity and creativity put into creating the menu, and the sheer managerial skills required to stay level-headed in a busy establishment with a commitment to excellence.
As with the Hemingway Daiquiri or the Mojito the cocktails and their legendary inventors are linked and the story of the cocktail becomes the story of them – that’s what Bacardi is looking for. And there is no denying it – a good story filtered through hospitality, showmanship and craftsmanship is an appealing combination.
The Danish rum champion
As the strike of ten approaches, the crowd grows expectant and slowly congregates in the central atrium, awaiting the announcement of the national winners. Every national roster is presented in short video compilation followed by the winner’s announcements, nicely summarizing the overwhelming diversity of all the stalls we have visited over the previous three hours.
About halfway through, the three Danish competitors appear on the screen and Antonio is announced as the winner who will go on to represent Denmark at the global finals. Although we had struggled to fully assess the qualitative differences between three cocktails as different as the El Obsequio (Antonio), El Conquistador (Erwan) and La Tierra (Kristoffer), we think Antonio’s win is well deserved.
The competition is over but as the night still winds up and subsequently our mental capacities slowly winds down, we reflect on the nights experiences and agreed that, if there should be a takeaway from our trip it is that we, as consumers (and now international men of opinion), would do well to perceive cocktails in the way the industry itself sees it – as an experience rather than a beverage.
Kirsten concedes that, although there definitely are Copenhagen based bartenders who are well capable of delivering great service and craftsmanship, you are still hard pressed to find a bar with a full roster of tenders capable of delivering this experience consistently. This, primarily, is due to the scale and relative youth of the Copenhagen market, leaving room for improvement when compared to metropols like London or Berlin. The impressive performances of our Danish competitors is an important indication that Copenhagen – despite its relative size – sports a formidable and innovative bartending community that will continue to explore whatever room for improvement there may be, pushing the quality of the Cocktails of Copenhagen, for all of us to enjoy.
Interested in cocktail competitions and what it takes to win? Read about Scandinavia’s best Linie Aquavit cocktail that won “Linie The Journey” or the Danish representative for the global finals of the gin competition “Beefeater Mixldn”. Or sign up for our monthly newsletter to have news about future competitions delivered straight to your inbox.