Behind the Bar Bar Talk

Meet the U.S. Winners of the 2019 Legacy Cocktail Competition

Melina Meza and Will Isaza.

Many cocktail competitions look for the most innovative or unexpected recipe. But the Legacy Cocktail Competition, presented by BACARDÍ®, is searching for something far more rare: a timeless cocktail.

Twenty-four bartenders arrived in Puerto Rico with hopes of creating a classic rum cocktail. Who had a recipe that can stand the test of time and become the next Mojito, Daiquiri or El Presidente?

That would be the two U.S. winners: Will Isaza and Melina Meza. These amazing bartenders created cocktails and put on performances that earned them a place in the global finals in Amsterdam.

Get to know the bartenders behind these potentially timeless, and definitely delicious, rum cocktails.

U.S. West Winner: Melina Meza

“A Legacy cocktail is not just accessible to bars around the world,” says Melina Meza, neatly summing up what the Legacy judges wanted. “It showcases innovation and a unique voice.” It also describes her winning recipe, the Nuevo Sol.

“My strategy was to make a cocktail that’s elevated, simple and uses an ingredient you don’t see often,” says the Los Angeles bartender. “I chose to make a grapefruit oleo saccharum. It sounds complex, but it’s a syrup anybody can make at home using grapefruit peels and superfine sugar.”

After a lot of trial and error, Meza paired the grapefruit oleo saccharum with BACARDÍ Añejo Cuatro rum and added dry curaçao, amontillado sherry and fresh lime juice. “I wanted to make sure the Nuevo Sol appealed to the palates of both craft bartenders and the average consumer,” she says.

The Nuevo Sol has been put on menus in more than 10 countries, proving that Meza has achieved her goals. Now it’s a matter of whether Nuevo Sol will emerge as the winner of the Legacy global finals.

U.S. East Winner: Will Isaza

Will Isaza knew his Gloria cocktail was special even before it earned him a trip to the Legacy global finals in Amsterdam. He served it at his bar in Brookline, Mass., and discovered it shared a certain quality with other timeless rum classics. “It’s the kind of cocktail people order over and over again,” he says. “You can’t have just one.”

What was the flavor that Isaza’s guests and the Legacy judges couldn’t get enough of? It’s a combination of sweet and savory, inspired by the traditional Colombian bocadillos Isaza enjoyed with his family. He used house-made passion fruit cinnamon syrup for the sweetness and mascarpone for the savory element, rounding it out with lime juice, coffee liqueur and aged rum.

“Being able to celebrate my family and create a winning Legacy cocktail is an indescribable feeling,” says Isaza. “Family and tradition are a big part of Bacardí. That made me want to tell my story.”