CRUSH CHATS TO Denzel Heath
We chat to Mixologist Denzel Heath about his Bacardi Legacy cocktail ‘The Lennox’.
The Bacardi Legacy competition is a platform for talented Mixologists to showcase their talents to the world. It has become one of the most important cocktail competitions in the world and is judged by an unrivaled panel of industry experts, renowned for their distinguished palates and years of bar tending experience. We chat to mixologist and SA national leg winner, Denzel Heath, about his winning formula.
Tell us a bit about the competition and how you ended up entering…
Bacardi Legacy is a Global Cocktail competition held annually in 38 different countries. Bartenders are offered the opportunity to create a cocktail that will become their legacy and will stand the test of time, alongside the great classics like the Daiquiri and the Mojito. In May 2015 contenders from all over the world will present their legacy cocktail in Sydney, Australia to a panel of esteemed judges, amongst other grueling challenges, in hopes of clenching the global title to be known as the Bacardi Legacy Global Ambassador.
This year marks my second year of competing in Bacardi Legacy, as last year I failed to win and compete at the global finals in Moscow, Russia. Every bartender would like the opportunity to shine on an international stage and leave a legacy that will never be forgotten. I simply could not leave it there. This year I came back, and pushed my creativity to its boundaries, I studied, read, made and remade cocktails for a number of months… and thus The Lennox was born.
Tell us a bit about you and your background…
I have been working a s bartender for 15 years this year and am the head of training for Thirst Bar Academy, a bartender training school based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have had the honour of working and studying my trade abroad, most notably in New York, and have represented South Africa 5 times in international cocktail competitions, in countries like Mexico, France, Trinidad and Tobago and Mauritius. But none as prestigious as Bacardi Legacy – the ultimate test!
What inspired your drink?
There is a famous quote that says “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Furthermore, it is also said that “the graveyard is the richest place on earth… there you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”
When thinking of entering Bacardi Legacy I found myself trying to find the meaning of a legacy? By definition, a legacy means anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. So I started to think about whom I am, where I am in my life, where I was going with my trade and how I would be remembered on that faithful day when my time runs out… a sobering thought, but also a bit too serious! Immediately I started to think of my humble bar beginnings and the incredible men, woman and bars that sculpted me into the bartender that I am today. People with a zest for life. Places where people could escape reality and be released from the world outside!
Bartending had become too serious for me. It became boxed in and repressing my creative side. Subdued by the expectations of my peers and fellow craftsmen. I decided to obliterate my fears of being self expressive and non-conforming! To create something built on the dedication to my craft, my passion for service, love for hosting people and a drive to create something unique. The same characteristics that ring true of the man, Don Facunda Bacardi, that expressed these same characteristics through his beautiful spirit, Bacardi Rum. The first of its kind – created to bring people together and to celebrate life! Pushing the boundaries of creativity and focused on quality.
The Lennox is Passion, Dedication and Bravery. It represents above all things, facing ones fears and the blinding realization that when one puts one’s mind, heart and sweat behind a dream, that dream can become a reality. Most of all, The Lennox is fun.
Is this drink you in a glass?
The drink that personifies the bartender… I would like to think so! It is a unique and hopefully new taste to most consumers – refreshing and fun! In creating The Lennox, I wanted to explore the fun side of the drinking experience. In its most basic of terms, The Lennox is a riff of a classic banana daiquiri, but with more complex flavor notes. This is the part where I can go on about the intricacies of Bacardi Gold rum due to its barrel aging in American oak, the under tones of the tannins in the sherry that compliments the rum and the delicate nuances of raisins and bananas that come together on the tongue… but that’s not me and that’s not The Lennox! The Lennox is fun and it is meant to be drunk with friends, while having witty repartee and a good laugh at the seriousness of today’s world!
Where does the drink’s name come from?
Most people, when first hearing the name, wrongfully assume that the drink is name after the famed boxer Lennox Lewis. Furthermore do to some of my marketing events for the drink, called the Bacardi Bar Brawls, where I challenge other bartenders to outsell me in a single shift. But in actual fact, The Lennox is the name of the very first cocktail bar I managed at the tender age of 21. Here I fell in love with the craft of making fun drinks, but more importantly, I realized that I wanted to serve people as a profession, rather than sit behind a desk and become an accountant. Sadly, The Lennox, the cocktail bar, does not exist anymore, but the cocktail lives on and will hopefully stand the test of time!
What is the next step in the competition… do you compete with the same drink or do you need to create something new?
The next step is marketing. Over the next 3 months I will be doing a number of events all over South Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Cyrpus. Each competitor is expected to market his/her drink on a number of different platforms and I have chose to do so through a number of events, trainings and promotions. Another foundation to my marketing plan is that I have international bartenders from all over the world and different types of bars, making and presenting The Lennox on my main social media platform, www.facebook.com/mybacardilegacy. And some of my upcoming events include the Bacardi Bar Brawls at The Landmark Bar in Bryanston and the bar at the Fire & Ice Hotel in Melrose Arch featuring bartenders like Dom Walsh, Gareth Wainwright and Evan Weinberg. I am currently touring Muscat in Oman and will be in Cyprus doing a guest shift at (in)Theory bar. Busy, busy, busy!
What has been the most fun about the whole experience?
This answer is twofold. Getting together with the top bartenders in South Africa in February this year and now the world in May, to compete to see whom is the best, is most definitely an addictive experience and one that I thoroughly enjoy. But preceding this I would have to say is the opportunity to expose my inner most self through creative expression and then seeing the satisfaction on the faces of my patrons as they take that first memorable sip of The Lennox…
Can members of the public try your drink somewhere?
The Lennox can also be sampled at The House of Machines in Cape Town, Anti Est in Johannesburg and Lucky Shaker in Durban to name but a few. Furthermore, if you have a group of friends, colleagues or simply cocktail cravers that would like to taste The Lennox, feel free to get a hold of me on my social media feed and I will try my best to facilitate a tasting!
And lastly… is it true that people tell bartenders their woes? And if so whats one of the strangest/funniest stories you’ve been told?
Ohhh the bartender is a psychologist to many and as such, we cannot break bartender-patron privilege… But what I can tell you, is that stories we do hear range from awe inspiring to downright dirty and highly confidential… From business deals, to bad affairs. From family feuds to financial status. We hear it all!