On Feb. 6, ten bartenders from across the U.S. will gather in Miami to compete in the Bacardi Legacy National Final. Two winners will advance to the Global Final in Mexico City this May. One of the finalists vying for a spot in Mexico is L.A.’s own Chris Amirault, Program Director at the acclaimed Otium in Downtown L.A.
For Amirault, the road to Miami began last December when he won the Semi-Final at LONO Hollywood. As part of the competition, not only did the cocktail have to taste great, each bartender had to tell the story behind the recipe during the presentation to judges.
Amirault says, “My Legacy is about the melting pot idea of being an American and living in Los Angeles, and running a beverage program at a restaurant that celebrates the idea that all of us Angelenos are so diverse. I myself am mixed race from Boston – my mom is 100% Chinese and my dad is 100% Nova Scotian. For me, I wanted to do something that was emblematic of that and emblematic of my city.”
“When people ask what the beverage and food program is like at Otium, we say it’s ‘quintessentially L.A.’ And part of being quintessentially L.A. – like if you ask everyone in this bar what they had for lunch today, or what they’re going to have for dinner tomorrow, and you had them put a pin on a map, the map would be completely full with pins from all over the world. That’s what it’s like to be an Angeleno, and to me, harping back to that melting pot idea, that’s what it meant to be quintessentially American.”
Amirault captures that quintessentially L.A. global mix in a glass with his Bacardi Legacy cocktail, the Armonía (“Harmony”) – made with rum from Puerto Rico, California limes, yuzu from Japan, coconut liqueur from Mexico, bitters from Trinidad and Tobago.
“The cocktail is supposed to serve as a reminder of when we celebrate our cultural differences and talents and then combine those to collaborate, that’s when you can create something beautiful. So the cocktail part [of the competition] was definitely about, here we have all these different ingredients from all over the world combined together to make something great.”
The Semi-Finalists actually began the next stage of the competition over the holidays. Amirault explains, “In addition to the competition being about your cocktail and your Legacy story and presentation, there’s also a marketing campaign that goes along with the cocktail. How can you prove that not only is your cocktail delicious to this group of people, not only does your story touch this amount of people, but how does this cocktail translate into moving cases, getting people to drink it, and getting people to be excited about the brand?” The promotional campaign presentation will count for a full one third of the total score at the Finals in Miami.
“So basically they give you a very small marketing budget. Very, very small. (laughs) You can do whatever you want, spend it however you like, but basically what we want to see is movement, placements, fun content. It would be like you starting your own company.”
Social media of course, is integral to the promo campaign. Amirault notes, “It can be print, it can be podcast, video, anything honestly. Content is content. And if you have a way to quantify it or show it, social media is probably the easiest way to do that.”
Amirault did some research to see what previous competitors had done. “Most people do the same thing – they buy hats, they buy pins, they make t-shirts, they guest bartend at a bunch of places, they take a bunch of photos of them behind the bar making a drink, making it behind their bar as a video. And I wanted to do something completely different.”
He thought, “How can I market this, but not do it in a cheesy way? How can I take the statement that I had created and then say, how do you inspire collaboration through that?”
Amirault continues, “Obviously the arts was a big thing for me, why I moved out here. I wanted to be an actor – I had written plays, I used to write monologues, Shakespeare – I always had this creative gene. One of my favorite parts about the college experience and going to theatre school was being constantly surrounded by people that were artists in a variety of ways, in a variety of different mediums and being able to have that kind of community to one, bounce ideas off; but two, to really share, to say ‘hey, I do this’ and having somebody else be like ‘wow, I think that’s really interesting, I do this. How can we figure out how to make something inventive, new and poignant all at the very same time?'”
“So what I wanted to do bare minimum for this marketing campaign, instead of just making hats – but I did make hats! (laughs) – I guest bartended a couple times, but I wanted to really show that when you do take your differences and your talents and you put them together and you activate that with other people, so much cool stuff can happen.”
“Harmony is touch. Melting into each other’s ideas, stories and dreams. Exploring to understand a journey which ends in a destination of connection.” ~ Stephanie Kim
“I took ten artists – and ‘artists’ I use as a loose term – any person who uses their creativity in a variety of different ways in my opinion is an artist. I have two musicians, two dancers, a visual artist, a fashion designer, two graphic designers, a photographer, a videographer, and two chefs. The number started at ten and ended up growing to 12.”
“Basically I sit down with them, I talk about my Legacy, talk about the melting pot, this idea of diversity and taking those talents and putting them together. Especially in a world right now where you go on social media, you turn on the news, and it seems like things are a bit divisive now to say the least. And kind of letting that all serve as a reminder why we should come together and why we should use our talents for collaboration and in celebration of that too. They taste the cocktail, we have a little dialogue and I say, ‘do your thing.’ Which is great.”
As this post goes live, the artistic interpretations of the Armonía cocktail are starting to get shared on social media. Amirault says, “The hashtag is #ArmoniaVive – literally ‘Harmony Lives.’ The idea that it’s creating this environment for people to just be creative and allow it to take its form and whatever the hell it is.”
“Originally, “harmony” created images of different skin colors, textures and supported movement in my mind. As I began to see that vision come to life, it became a beautiful and visually simulated video. But something was missing. I realized that harmony cannot exist without conflict. With the final product I wanted to express the idea that within aggression and chaos one side can choose to stop fighting to be right and instead listen and actively fight to understand. No expectations but with every possibility in disarming the fear across from you. Give comfort. Accept love. Find harmony.” – @stephaniekim5
Title: Not One Without the Other Credits: Director/edit @stephaniekim5 DP/edit @kielsthedeal
Artists @_kelsey_landers_ @srivero22 Special thanks to @forgela Music: While We Orbit
A post shared by Chris Amirault (@armonia.vive) on
In an Instagram that previewed her finished Harmony piece, artist Marlo Adelle wrote: “It’s been a long year of creating next to nothing, call it artists block. I’m sure some of you can relate to the sensation of feeling utterly uninspired and how detrimental it can be to your creative process and the quality of your work. This particular piece has kind of an unorthodox story. I felt inspired by the unique narrative of a cocktail designed by a talented friend of mine @chrisamiam. (Yep, a cocktail!) a cocktail created with ingredients sourced from all over the world – Bacardi Gold. Lime. Yuzu honey. Coconut. Angostura and espresso. It’s about collaboration, harmony and creating something more powerful and beautiful because of it.”
“Harmony to me is movement in unison towards a goal, an idea, a movement.” ~ Chef Thomas Bille
“Harmony to me is the opposite of independence. It’s being dependent and in need of others and multiple pieces to create a greater, more beautiful outcome.” ~ Allison Olivia
L.A.-based rapper Henry Canyons says, “Harmony lives in so many different contexts. Life provides such a wide range of experiences, emotions, influences and reactions, that for me, harmony is how I internalize everything. It’s how I find a balance, the sweet spot. In relation to L.A., anything you could possibly want, you can find. The myriad of possibilities, opportunities, cultures, cuisines, languages, etc. is extraordinary. Harmony is that sweet spot of coexistence. I am humbled and privileged to be a part of it; as a contributor and recipient.”
Last month, Amirault put together a kickoff event at Lost Property, featuring three of his collaborators – music was performed by Mike Rossi and Henry Canyons, and art by Marlo Adelle was displayed above the musicians and on the cocktail menu.
With the Feb. 6 Final in Miami quickly approaching, the time window for the artists was short. “Calling in a lot of favors was definitely part of it for sure,” says Amirault. “But what impressed me most about it was their willingness to dedicate their time and really understanding what I was trying to do. They see the idea that this could be something that goes beyond just the competition. I have to put together a marketing presentation with everything I’ve done, all the cases I’ve sold, how many impressions I got, and all the content. It’s been a ton of work but it’s been extremely rewarding, honestly.”
A CULTURAL MOVEMENT
Harmony is movement in unison towards a goal, an idea, a movement. . . . Huge shoutout and thank you to @eugeneshoots, @danz.garcia, and @danlonglosangeles for running around LA with me, building this heavy bar and taking it apart, and helping me create this video. Love to the pumpkin @henrycanyons for the sick track. 18 hours to go. I’m exhausted, but I’m feeling good. It’s the homestretch. Can’t stop now. This is for LA, for the USA. Let’s do this! #ArmoniaVive
A post shared by Chris Amirault (@chrisamiam) on
Amirault wanted to treat Bacardi Legacy more like a cultural movement. “It’s that kind of Grant Achatz / Alinea style of creativity, where you really do have the option if you can pay attention to it. Creativity can literally come from anywhere – as a bartender, it doesn’t have to be ingredients. It doesn’t have to be a spirit. It doesn’t have to be, what foam am I doing on this thing. It can be a song. It can be a poem. It could be a color, it could be a shape, it could be somebody who sat next to you outside the bar while you waited for your Uber one night.”
“We have so many movements within the bar community that are extremely positive – Speed Rack for breast cancer [research], or Art Beyond the Glass where we’re helping other artists in our backyard achieve their goals. I know that a lot of people are always inspired by that event specifically, and are like, ‘Oh man, I gotta get back to my creative side!’ And I think this is a great way to invite people to do it – not just in this small period of time, this competition, but why not make the movement?”
So does Amirault see Armonía growing as a platform beyond Legacy? “It started just because I had to do it for Bacardi, and the more I thought about it, the more I got into it, the more I started to unpack my feelings about what that cocktail means, what the presentation means, and how all of that affects me in my daily life, and how I can manifest that and allow other people to get it, you know?”
“I mean, I was an actor, I could go up there and try to ‘act’ the crap out of it and make it a thing, but it’s truly something – I went back and rewrote my whole presentation after this movement, and I finished it finally two days ago. I feel like it’s super genuine, more genuine than I could ever imagine, because this is something that I think is good for me, it’s good for us, it’s good for the community.”
In early January, this year’s Bacardi Legacy U.S. and Canada Finalists took a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico for three days of distillery tours, rum education and media training. During that trip, Juan Coronado (Bacardi Brand Ambassador, North America) said something to Amirault that he’ll never forget: “Bartenders are not just in charge of managing your bar operations, techniques, cocktails, all of those things. You’re also in charge of managing your community in front of you. The guests, the patrons.”
Coronado had opened Amirault’s mind to the possibilities, and he shares his thoughts in a rapid stream of consciousness: “What if a bartender could manage the community by inspiring other people in the community to do things for the betterment of the community? If it’s about collaboration, if it’s about unity, if it’s about celebrating diversity, if it’s about taking all the things that make you you, and putting that with somebody else and seeing what happens, that’s fucking beautiful. It’s like a fucking relationship, right? When you have a relationship – true love – that’s what that is, that’s what that transference, that share of energy is, that’s that confidence, that’s literally taking two people and putting it together. And we still celebrate that on a daily basis, when we see something marvelous like that we’re like, ‘oh my god, that is the most incredible thing in the world.'”
As to whether there’s potential for Armonía post-Legacy, Amirault says, “The goal obviously would be – gathering more content, once all the content is finished it will be up on Instagram. But what’s next, how do we throw another one of these? I won’t have a budget for the rest of that, (laughs) so it’ll be even more creative to think of partnerships there!”
He adds, “I would love for there to be a continual celebration of joining these things together. Bartenders back in the day were people that brought people together, because we used to travel a bunch. There weren’t saloons, you didn’t go to the bar to see this person, the bartender was always traveling and there for people – again creating this idea of community. Being able to do pop-ups here and there, being able to talk to people in other fields, it’s amazing. You learn stuff, you share it, it’s great.”
As he prepares for the National Final, Amirault looks back and thinks that Legacy was a really interesting way to bridge the “two lives” that he had. “When I first moved out here I was very much about the acting, then the bartending came and those two were kind of jostling with each other for a time and obviously the bartending part won, and I’m very thankful for that. I think I found a unique way to take that and kind of combine those two things and pull other people into that. We should be creating more.”
The Armonía is currently available at Otium. The recipe is after the jump, so you can sip Los Angeles in a glass at home.
Created by Chris Amirault
- 1.25 oz Bacardi Gold
- .5 oz lime juice
- .75 oz Yuzu Honey
- Barspoon Kalani Coconut Liqueur
- 3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Garnish: espresso tuile
- Combine rum, lime juice, yuzu honey, coconut liqueur, and bitters in a shaker with ice and shake well.
- Strain into a rocks glass over ice and place espresso tuile over ice as garnish.