The story of Bacardi has been described as a ‘pistol-packing salsa dance of modern history’, but for most people the brand is all about good times in the here and now. If they don’t first encounter it through classic drinks such as the Mojito or the Cuba Libre, many discover the rum through the easy-drinking spiced Bacardi Oakheart or the rum’s many flavoured variants.
Although many people know what Bacardi is, a light smooth rum whose variants, including overproof (Bacardi 151), Raspberry (Bacardi Razz) and the gold Carta Oro, can be almost as popular as its bestselling white Carta Blanca, few realise that it is also the largest privately-owned drinks company in the world. The company’s portfolio is vast and includes popular brands such as Grey Goose, Bombay, Drambuie and Martini.
Read on for five shots of Bacardi’s unique history:
Charcoal and Cognac
Don Facundo, the distillery founder, was a man of great ideas and two of these defined the Bacardi style and taste forever. One: they charcoal-filtered their product, and two: they used a Cognac yeast for their fermentation. Both of these innovations created a much smoother, lighter and more flavourful drink than other rums of the time.
Cuba, libre! Where is Bacardi really from?
You’ll see the words ‘Puerto Rican Rum’ on Bacardi bottles because its Cuban distillery was ‘expropriated’ by Fidel Castro in 1960 – a fancy way of saying that he decided to pinch it for national use. The family therefore to its second operational base, in Puerto Rico, but leaving Cuba meant abandoning a century of turbulent family history. Don Facundo’s son Emilio Bacardi, for example, was twice imprisoned thanks to his opposition to the ruling Spanish government and his desire for a free country – a Cuba libre. Yet after freedom was achieved in 1898, he was soon made mayor of Santiago de Cuba. Nor was he the only Bacardi family member to take office: in 1949 Jose Pepin Bosch – a notorious playboy, incidentally – was made Cuba’s Minister of the Treasury. This may have been helped by his open financial backing of Fidel Castro – a man who clearly didn’t stay grateful for long.
The logo: the world’s most famous bat?
Sorry, Batman, but Bacardi’s black, open-winged fruit bat logo was world-famous long before the Caped Crusader came into being. Don Facundo himself invented the logo, which at the time symbolised self-confidence, brotherhood and discretion.
Hemingway and Havana
Author Ernest Hemingway’s love of a drink is legendary. His Cuban house, just outside Havana, featured a table-top bar that is still covered in dusty bottles to this day. One of these is Bacardi: Hemingway fell in love with Cuban rum during his three decades on the island, developing a particularly fondness for the frozen Daiquiri. He was also a big fan of another famous drink….
The Bacardi Mojito: Cuba’s traditional cocktail
The Mojito, a blend of white rum, sugar, mint leaves, soda water and lime, is a traditional Cuban drink: some even believe that it was invented as early as the 16th century. During Prohibition, Americans would visit Cuba on booze cruises and, alongside a love of the colourful, warm, riotously musical country, acquired an enduring taste for the refreshing Mojito, which is now one of the world’s most popular cocktails.