Behind the Bar Stick People

The Quest to Find the Next Classic BACARDÍ Cocktail at the Legacy U.S. Finals

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Amazing bartenders presented timeless and delicious cocktails in Puerto Rico.

The Legacy Cocktail Competition, presented by BACARDÍ®, has been searching the U.S. for bartenders with a rum cocktail that can be enjoyed in every corner of the globe and across generations—drinks that will be as known as the Mojito, Daiquiri and El Presidente. After going through hundreds of submitted recipes, 24 talented bartenders were invited to Puerto Rico to compete in the national semifinals and finals.

The group of bartenders arrived from cities as large as New York and as small as Flagstaff, Ariz., with experience in high-end cocktail bars, steakhouses, Mexican restaurants and more. The diversity of the bartenders goes beyond style and experience. In Puerto Rico, bartenders of all ethnicities, orientations and identities were welcomed into La Gran Familia de Bacardí.

It’s too bad that only two could advance to the global finals. But crowning the winners was just one of many highlights from this action-packed trip to the home of BACARDÍ. Discover all that made the finalists’ experience in Puerto Rico as unforgettable as the winning cocktail.

  • The Action Begins

    Jamal Robinson.

    Puerto Rico is the perfect setting for cocktails and competition. And the bartenders didn’t wait long to combine the two. The day after the bartenders arrived, the semifinals began with the West Coast bartenders serving their drinks to the judges. Two-thirds of their score would be determined by the taste and presentation of the cocktail.

  • Promoting a Legacy

    Melissa Markert.

    Meanwhile, the East Coast bartenders were giving presentations on how they went about marketing their Legacy cocktail. Because Legacy is all about creating the next iconic cocktail, the competitors needed to show they were sharing their recipe with the world. The West Coast bartenders gave presentations the following day. And the whole group proved they’re as innovative promoting their cocktails as making them.

  • Cocktails Mix Well with Culture

    In Puerto Rico, cocktails aren’t enjoyed on their own. Classic rum drinks are woven into the culture, paired with nights spent salsa dancing and sampling authentic food. The bartenders got to experience this during a salsa lesson at La Placita de Santurce, San Juan’s iconic town square. It was a chance for the bartenders to bond and have some fun before the finalists were announced.

  • An Inside Look at the World’s Greatest Rums

    José Gómez.

    All the semifinalists of Legacy are highly skilled at mixing classic rum cocktails. So it was a treat to get to know the man in charge of blending some of the world’s best rums, Maestro de Ron Bacardí José Gómez.

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  • Blending with a Master, Like a Master

    Master blender Jose Gomez led them on an immersive tour of the distillery, concluding with an exercise where the bartenders could blend their own bottle of BACARDÍ.

  • The Bartenders Clean Up Well

    The group went to the beach the morning before the finals, but tanning and swimming weren’t on the agenda. They joined Chelonia, a conservation organization working to protect sea turtles native to Puerto Rico, to help clean up the beach. A different kind of fun than dancing salsa, but the bartenders didn’t need any encouragement to give their full effort. It was a chance to join BACARDÍ in its mission of looking after the island.

  • The Stage Is Set for the Finals

    The national finals happened the evening before the group returned to the mainland. Timothy Deehan, Antonio Gonzales, Kayla Hasbrook and Melina Meza competed for the chance to be named the West Coast winner. William Benedetto, Peter Hannah, Will Isaza and Melissa Markert represented the East Coast. The finalists had time to further refine and develop their Legacy cocktails with the BACARDÍ brand ambassadors who mentored them throughout the competition. This level of mentorship is not something you see in many competitions, which is part of the reason all the cocktails were so remarkable.

  • The Winners Are Crowned

    Melina Meza and Will Isaza.

    The finalists didn’t face off at a typical bar. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico hosted the event in its breathtaking courtyard. It was the perfect environment for the finalists to showcase their masterpiece cocktails. The judges chose Melina Meza as the West Coast winner for her timeless and delicious Nuevo Sol. Will Isaza emerged as the East Coast because of his instantly iconic Gloria.

    Stay tuned to see how Isaza and Meza fare in the global finals. One of them could earn a place in cocktail history books.