Bacardi held the finals of its 9th annual Bacardi Cruise Competition on Friday night at the Gale Hotel in Miami, with the industry judges naming Liisi Kütt from the Estonian Tallink & Silja Line the 2014 Bacardi Cruise Competition Bartender of the Year.
Kütt, who bartends on the M/S Victoria I, beat the five other finalists, with her winning cocktail the Summer Fairy, featuring Bacardi Melon, Martini Prosecco, apple juice, lime juice, simple syrup and geranium flowers. The four industry judges, Marc Plumridge, Bacardi Travel Retail’s
Global Brand Ambassador; Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of Cruise Critic; Julio Cabrera, Miami’s Regent Cocktail Club bartender; and Michael Pasternak, Travel Markets Insider’s Executive Editor; focused their judging on innovation, creativity, inspiration and craftsmanship as demonstrated via taste and aroma, creative use of Bacardi ingredients, originality of name, appeal and presentation.
Inspiration was a key aspect of the judging process as contestants had to share the story behind their ‘Inspired Cocktail’ and how their travels on cruise and ferries had inspired and evoked the creation.
Zachary Sulkes, Regional Manager Bacardi Travel Retail Americas, explains the strategic focus for 2014: “This year, we’ve had tremendous support from our cruiseline partners and the mutual benefits of the competition will continue to grow as we work together to create standards of excellence in a year-round program of activities. The finalists and, especially Liisi as the 2014 winner, are all amazing role models who inspire their colleagues and create aspirations for others to achieve the same level of professionalism. The Bacardi Cruise Competition is by far our biggest commitment in our ambition to enhance the on-board cocktail experience for guests with positive advancement in the onboard cocktail experience.”
From a shortlist of 25 semifinalists, the final 6 contenders comprised 5 individual recipes chosen by a panel of Bacardi judges, plus the final recipe the People’s Choice – which was chosen by consumer cruisers via Cruise Critic, which registered almost 40,000 votes across the 25 semi-finalists.
Kütt won $5,000 and now moves on to Las Vegas where she is competing in Bombay Sapphire’s “Most Imaginative Bartender” Competition.
The other finalists were Brian Bent from Carnival Liberty; Allan Garcia from Norwegian Sky; Joeped Garrido from Norwegian Getaway; Loana Luncean from Carnival Sunshine; and Vera Restarovic from Carnival Conquest.
Sharing their views of the evening competition, judges Cabrera and Plumridge commented:
“I was really impressed with these bartenders. Creating cocktails on-board can be challenging as access to tools and ingredients is not as easy as in a downtown bar.
“They have shown impressive creativity and technical understanding in their innovations. Cruise isa bar world that’s developing fast and the Bacardi Cruise Competition is a great initiative to raise thegame and respect the professionalism of these important people inthe guest experience,” said Cabrera, himself an award-winning mixologist.
Marc Plumridge, Global Brand Ambassador, Bacardi Global Travel Retail, added: “There’s no doubt that the most inspirational ingredient in a great cocktail is the bartender. Their skill in balancing flavors with excellent presentation and a warm and professional service is what we as brand owners want to nurture most strongly. The Bacardi Cruise Competition gives us a unique opportunity to connect with the onboard bartender community and to set new standards of excellence for the profession, recognizing the craft and passion of the very best.”