With over ten years in the industry, Iain Griffiths (above, left) knows his drinks. Having previously been behind the bar of such iconic bars as Black Pearl (Melbourne), Eau de Vie (Sydney), and Bramble (Edinburgh), he can now usually be found at Dandelyan as New Business Development Manager for Mr Lyan Ltd. leading the company alongside Ryan Chetiyawardana and Robin Honhold on their numerous innovative bars, products and projects. We caught-up with him to get the latest on his progress in the Bacardi Legacy competition.
How did you first get into bartending? Was it a happy accident or something that you always wanted to try?
As a third generation bartender I think there was always something that attracted me to it I guess, but it was my mum who told me just as I turned 18 that ‘if I was going to spend every weekend in a bar anyway, I may as well get paid for it.’ That and the money: you make solid coin in Australia, so it definitely had that attraction at the beginning.
Where did you start out?
The local sports members club clearing glasses and wiping ashtrays. Eventually got myself on the bar pulling pints and always checking if they wanted ice in their spirit mixers. They did the odd cocktail (think Chocolate Mudlsides & Midori Splices) and eventually I wound up doing a fair bit of that, with the first cocktail I ever made being a Fluffy Duck – some ghastly advocaat concoction. After a few years of that whilst attempting other ‘real’ jobs, I gave in, moved to the centre of Brisbane from the suburbs, and started running clubs. Still to this day I consider my time spent in nightclubs some of the most important work I did as far as skill set and life experience goes. But then clubs are still where I prefer to spend nights off, so that probably has a lot to do with it…
Have you done many competitions in the past? What was it about Bacardi Legacy that appealed to you?
I’ve done a few yeah, but never to the involvement level of Legacy – mostly just the typical rock up on the day and blast a drink ones. The appeal was in the fact that I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve with my marketing campaign. The Switchel Academy is a real chance for me to take the money Bacardi allocates us, and truly re-invest it in the bartending community.
What are you hoping to bring to the table?
A contemporary classic in the form of the Carta Switchel, and a fresh approach to the whole notion of a marketing campaign with the Switchel Academy.
I think the cocktail treads that fine line of having a strong historic reference point, but still being original and not just ‘X classic with two dashes of Y’ so hopefully a lot of bartenders will still get excited to make it and spread the word.
For the marketing campaign, it’s not really my style to simply beat my own chest over a cocktail so going into this knowing I had a brand new take of what could be achieved with the marketing spend, and something that delivered more than just a hyped up social media campaign for said cocktail. I’m really excited to dive in and see what can be achieved. I’m nervous as hell since I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m getting pretty used to that feeling through our everyday business approach.
We know a lot of time and effort goes into developing the drinks at White Lyan and Dandelyan – did you take the same approach to your cocktail for this comp?
Definitely. In fact I’d say this was an extra challenge as I really had to hark back to a previous mindset and approach – these days if a drink needs something extra we just go and make that ourselves, but that doesn’t really work for a competition like Legacy.
Tell us a bit about your cocktail – what made you choose this style and these particular ingredients?
A Switchel is a 17th century recipe that was created in the sugar cane colonies by the harvesters. It called for vinegar, spice, sugar and water. I found this a really intriguing story and so used it as the inspiration and creative force when creating the Carta Switchel. Using a blend of Bacardi Rums just made sense, it’s an age old practice in cocktails as it allows you to champion many profiles different spirits can embody, with the Carta Oro, it’s been rested on toasted white American oak which I think plays brilliantly with the dashes of vinegar to really lift the drink out of the glass.
A winning Bacardi Legacy drink has to strike that balance of approachable, replicable and yet still truly creative, I’ve given this drink my all and think it’s landed square in the middle of that triangle – here’s hoping it has what it takes to see me succeed.
Have you had a lot of advice and input from the rest of your team?
Massively. The team at Dandelyan has suffered through MANY failed trials at getting the Carta Switchel to where it is today, all the while remaining positive and giving some very frank advice which is what I value most. Of course I’m pretty lucky to call someone like Ryan a brother and creative counterpart, and so this has been tackled much like any other project where we always reach out to each other for their opinion and thoughts. All in all, like everything we do, it’s a team effort and I’m eternally grateful for the folk I get to call co-workers across both bars and the whole business. They’re selling the crap out of this drink for me, too, which is pretty rad.
What would winning mean to you? What are you hoping to gain from the experience?
Winning is, well the motivator to why any person goes in a competition, so ultimately it means everything. But on the experience side of things, stepping well outside my comfort zone (both in terms of drink and campaign) is something I have always enjoyed, it pushes me to consider what more I could do within the bars, business and larger community. Whilst it also doesn’t do much for time spent sleeping, I hope I can leave an impact on the global industry & competition so that both the Carta Switchel, and the Switchel Academy, are remembered for challenging how you can go about creating your own Legacy.
5 minutes | serves 1 | easy
Bacardi Carta Blanca 25ml
Bacardi Carta Oro 25ml
grapefruit 25ml juice, plus twist to serve
sugar syrup 12.5ml
Fernet Branca 4 dashes
cider vinegar 4 dashes
mint 1 sprig
Pour all of the ingredients into a tall glass over crushed ice and churn to mix everything together really well. Garnish with a mint sprig and grapefruit twist.
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