Each year, BACARDÍ invites bartenders worldwide to submit cocktails for the BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition, the largest single-brand cocktail competition in the world.
This year’s winner was recently announced in Berlin, though before the announcement, 38 talented bartenders from countries ranging from Argentina to the United States were treated to a week of workshops and fun. The finalists were then whittled down to eight before the winner emerged.
This year’s victor was Ran Van Ongevalle, who works at his family’s own The Pharmacy Bar in Knokke Heist, Belgium, where he created his winning cocktail, Clarita. It was inspired by “heritage, family and tradition,” said Ran. His father and sister opened The Pharmacy in 2013, and Ran joined them the following year.
Here is what Ran told Chilled after the competition.
“I made my very first cocktail five years ago. It was not shaken nor stirred just a bunch of things thrown together in an inappropriate glass but boy, was I proud! I don’t remember what I put in there, but I bet it wasn’t that tasty. I remember sending it to my dad … very excited! I assure you my drinks are better thought-out now, though.
“My father used to run a big fashion store with my mother when I grew up, so you could say I was raised in fashion. After 25 years in business, my father decided he wanted a new challenge and started working as a waiter in a bar/restaurant. You can already imagine what people thought of him suddenly working in a completely different industry. But he slowly worked his way to becoming bar manager in the casino in Knokke where my oldest sister eventually joined him as a bartender. One time, my father was in need of a bartender and he asked me to come and ‘try it out.’ After that first night, I knew this would be the job I would do the rest of my life. I was amazed and surprised about the knowledge my dad had and the flavors he came up with; for me it was a completely new world. When I was asked to become head bartender at a new place in Ghent, Belgium, I immediately took the chance. It was a very interesting start, and because I had not much experience, I was forced to train and spent every minute learning the tricks of the trade.
“The more I learned, the more I became passionate. My father and sister then opened The Pharmacy in Knokke, and I decided to go and join them as a bartender shortly after. Since then we have been running The Pharmacy as a family.”
– Ran Van Ongevalle
Ran’s winning cocktail is certainly an intriguing mix of flavors. It was partly inspired by a recent trip to Spain’s Sherry Triangle with his girlfriend, whom he met when she also came to work at The Pharmacy as a bartender. “We visited a lot of bodegas and tried a lot of different sherries and we both fell in love with the whole culture around it,” said Ran. “Reading about the birth of BACARDÍ 8 and it being finished in sherry casks was a sign that it was meant to be! The chocolate note is a reference to a big part of our Belgian heritage: some of the best chocolatiers of the world come from Belgium. I was first introduced to the saline solution in my drink by my dear friend Remy Savage of the Little Red Door in Paris, and since then I’ve been fascinated by the use of salt in drinks. The olive oil garnish is a reflection of my interest in food. I’ve been working a lot with chefs in the past and shared some ideas with the greatest chefs we have. The effect olive oil has on the tongue as a saliva-stimulator is just a very interesting combination with the power that Clarita has.”
“This was my favorite of the eight in the final round. There were some wonderful cocktails, but Ran’s had an elegance and simplicity that I think is indicative of trends we are seeing currently for beautiful stirred drinks. His use of Amontillado sherry really enhanced the BACARDÍ 8 rum. He’s created a dry but well-balanced drink that I would not hesitate to order again and again.”
– New York Bartender Julie Reiner, one of the judges
As a result of his win, Ran will get a year’s support from BACARDÍ to nurture his career, including the chance to create and serve Clarita in some of the world’s greatest bars. Next year marks the tenth year of the BACARDÍ Legacy competition. It’s never too early to start refining those cocktails.
Clarita (Winning Cocktail)
Created by Ran Van Ongevalle, Belgium
- 2 parts BACARDÍ Gran Reserva 8 Anos Rum
- 1/3 part Lustau Amontillado Sherry
- 1 bar spoon Crème de Cacao
- 2 dashes absinthe
- 1 dash Saline Solution
- 3 drops Olive Oil (for Garnish)
Preparation: Stir ingredients in a coupette glass. Garnish with 3 drops of olive oil.