2017 U.S. BACARDÍ® Cocktail Competition Winners to Shake Things Up at Global Finals in Berlin

By Mae Velasco, Associate Editor

The finalists at the 2017 USBG BACARDÍ® Legacy North American Cocktail Competition shook and stirred things up in Miami on Feb. 13. These 12 behind-the-bar brawlers went head-to-head as they all took at shot at creating the "next generation of classic BACARDÍ rum cocktails that will stand the test of time."

The judges, BACARDÍ Global Brand Ambassador Dickie Cullimore; 2014 Legacy Global winner, Tom Walker; and president of the United States Bartenders Guild, Pam Wiznitzer, scored each innovative cocktail on its balance, flavor, quality of ingredients, aesthetic appeal, enduring popularity, and story.

We saw some hard hitters in the mix rise to the occasion, such as Pouring Ribbons and ABC Cocina bartender Kayla Hasbrook of the Big Apple and Seattle's Cameron George of Barrio, but only two took the throne as the kings of cocktails and qualified to fight for the Legacy Crown at the international finals in Berlin: Congratulations to West Coast winner, Ryan Wainwright, and East Coast winner, Darnell Holguin! 

“Darnell Holguin and Ryan Wainwright’s winning cocktails are the perfect representation of the BACARDÍ spirit and truly embodied what a timeless classic rum cocktail should be,” Ian McLaren, Director of Trade Advocacy for BACARDÍ, said. “As one of the most highly regarded competitions in the industry, The Legacy Cocktail Competition not only features the best of the best bartending talent, but serves to help foster career growth amongst the participants and help them make their stamp in cocktail history. We are thrilled to welcome both Darnell Holguin and Ryan Wainwright into the BACARDÍ family and wish them the best of luck in the global finals.”

The two national finalists will be traveling to Berlin in May, representing the United States in this global drink-for-all. The 12 U.S. contestants are no doubt skillful and artisans in their craft, but Foodable was curious to discover what social media had to say. Interested in seeing how Foodable Labs scored these acclaimed bartenders? Take a look at the table below! 

How the Data Works

Foodable Labs, through the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), analyzes more than 167K restaurant and hospitality brands and over 220MM global restaurant consumers across 500K foodservice locations. For these scores, each mixologist was measured on a 300-point system based on the following categories (on data pulled from August 2016 to January 2017): drink sentiment, bartender knowledge, and presentation.

2017 USBG Bacardi Legacy North American Cocktail Competition Finalists

RANK Bartender/Mixologist City Score
1 Ryan Wainwright Los Angeles 262.43
2 Alex Chien Chicago 261.08
3 Vincent Toscano San Francisco 259.66
4 Will Isaza Boston 259.64
5 Kayla Hasbrook New York City 258.17
6 Darnell Holguin Washington, D.C 252.09
7 Cody Henson Miami 251.05
8 Donna Francis Las Vegas 250.08
9 Cameron George Seattle 249.33
10 William Patton New Orleans 229.18
11 Rebecca Burkart Dallas 225.67
12 Topher Hartfield Kansas City 221.49

West Coast Winner: Ryan Wainwright — Overall Foodable Labs Score: 262.43

It's no surprise Ryan Wainwright was named one of the reigning champions, especially because he topped our Foodable Labs ranking with a score of 262.43. Although he is director of bar programs at Bombet Hospitality Group Ponte and Faith and Flower Punk of Dessau, he certainly never saw it coming, being raised with a strict Christian background that prohibited alcohol and in a household where he was made to attend Fundamentalist schools that painted liquor as liquid evil. Who would have thought this man who didn't have his first taste of booze until he was 20 would become a nationally-renowned BACARDÍ bartender?

His winning cocktail, the "Playa Fortuna," is what he calls a "slice of Puerto Rico."

RECIPE:

  • 1.5 parts BACARDĺ Superior
  • 0.75 parts Lime Juice
  • 0.75 parts Coconut Syrup
  • 0.25 parts Falernum
  • 4 drops Hydrated Cream of Tartar
  • Garnish: Edible Marigold Flower

East Coast Winner: Darnell Holguin — Overall Foodable Labs Score: 252.09

Representing the East Coast and formerly of Bathtub Gin in New York City, Darnell Holguin proves that it's more than a social ranking that makes a winner. While he may be No. 6 based on social data, he came out on top at the competition. This mixology master is no stranger to recognition, either, as he was a finalist for New York's Best Bartender 2015. In spite of all the skills he has acquired throughout his more than a decade of experience, he still considers "dancing behind the bar" his ultimate bartending superpower.

His winning cocktail, "It Was All a Dream," was far from just a dream — his dream to become a recognized artisan became a reality. 

 RECIPE:

1.5 parts BACARDĺ 8
2 parts Orange Juice
1.5 parts House-made Passion Fruit Condensed Milk
1.3 parts Averna
0.25 parts Allspice Dram
Garnish: Mint Spring

Honorable Mention: Alex Chien — Overall Foodable Labs Score: 261.08

He may not have been a BARCARDÍ national finalist, but this all-star mixologist hailing from the great culinary city of Chicago still ranked high at No. 2 with an impressive score of 261.08, just barely two points behind Ryan Wainwright. Alex Chien of fourchien — which, aside from its clever and witty nomenclature, offers bar consultancy, event coordination and idea foundry services — once won a competition after crafting a cocktail in 12 minutes from surprise ingredients. If that doesn't make a bartender innovative and brilliant on his feet, what will? His cocktail, the "Bendicíon," is his commitment to encourage others to "be bold, be you."