Hospitality Business Magazine

Wanaka bartender to represent New Zealand at global cocktail competition

rsz_bacardílegacy-0034A talented bartender hailing from Wanaka is set to compete in the Global Finals of prestigious cocktail competition Bacardi Legacy, after taking out the New Zealand Finals in February.

James Crinson will represent New Zealand in San Francisco this month with his cocktail, Te Anaka, and compete for the chance to have it crowned the next Bacardi Legacy Cocktail.

Originally from England, James moved to New Zealand to pursue a career as a ski instructor in Wanaka, before realising a talent and passion for bartending at high-end local bar Barluga and falling in love with the region that he now calls home.

The Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition celebrates talented bartenders and their signature cocktails, which must demonstrate the potential to become longstanding classics alongside the world’s most well-known and loved drinks.

Competitors must undergo a rigorous selection process before being put forward to compete in the National Finals, and once selected must pitch their drink to local bars and restaurants to include on their drinks lists and spread the word via social media in the three-month period leading up to the competition.

National winners from 44 countries including USA, Hong Kong, Japan, and Italy then compete over five days in the Global Final, before the judges narrow down a list of eight final competitors and eventually name the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail. “Bacardi Legacy really is a lot more than just a bartending competition,” says James. “It’s also about networking, creating demand surrounding your cocktail, and being able to articulate and present the inspiration behind it to the judges.”

Using Bacardi Carta Blanca, New Zealand-made honey, Fino sherry, lemon juice, and egg white, finished with a spritz of salt water mist, James has crafted a cocktail that represents his hometown, celebrates both modern and classic cocktail trends and has the potential to hold its own against the world’s favourite drinks. “I’ve picked flavours that complement the subtle notes in Bacardi Carta Blanca and balance perfectly with each other, with the end result bright, refreshing and complex at the same time,” says James.

“I’ve also used local ingredients that touch on modern food and drink trends, such as honey sourced from Christchurch, which acts as a natural sweetener instead of artificial ingredients, and adds a complexity to the drink.”

James joins the ranks alongside past New Zealand Bacardi Legacy National Final winners, who have since gone on to make their mark on the hospitality industry – proving that Bacardi Legacy is a competition that can mark the beginning of a successful career in hospitality.

Guy Jacobson, the winner of New Zealand’s very first Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition, was extremely successful on the international stage, reaching the final eight in the 2014 Global Finals. Guy is now opening his own rum bar Cuba Libre on Ponsonby Road in May this year, and 2015 National Finals winner Barney Toy is set to open a bar in London.

Cocktail culture has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, with New Zealand’s hospitality scene constantly growing and increasingly being seen as a viable and promising career option. “Cocktails are relevant no matter where in the world you are,” says James. “It’s exciting to be bringing a cocktail from a small town in New Zealand to the global stage, and showcasing our ingredients, skills and bar scene.”

The Te Anaka cocktail is currently available on the drinks list at some of New Zealand’s most popular bars and restaurants, including Bedford Soda & Liquor, Motel, and James’ resident bar Lalaland.