There are few things more driven than a bartender with the prospect of winning a trip to Tales of the Cocktail. Combine that with the level of competitiveness witnessed in past years at the annual UK Bacardí Classics Softball Tournament, and you've got the makings of a fierce contest. And some serious grazes from over-enthusiastic base sliding.
On a somewhat grey afternoon in June in London’s Finsbury Park, the assembled bartender-athletes were all aware of this ultimate prize, courtesy of Bacardí: a trip for the entire winning team to New Orleans this month to face up against the winning US team at the World Series – not to mention a visit to Tales while they’re there.
Now in its fourth year, Bacardí Classics has become an essential event in the trade calendar – a chance to share a drink, catch up with mates, and get involved in some old-fashioned rivalry on the field.
Back in the 20s and 30s, the Bacardí company was a sponsor of Cuban baseball, and matches would be accompanied by Bacardí rum and Hatuey beer. It’s this spirit that brand ambassadors Shervene Shahbazkhani and Metinee Kongsrivilai are keeping alive, in a London field far away.
The opening round eliminated half of the eight teams (including the media team, whose innings against West London will never be mentioned again). Dogs invaded the pitch, as did a pink gorilla, while spectators and eliminated competitors were entertained by some increasingly intense softball.
The semi-finals pitted JJ Goodman's Late Night Venues against Jake Burger's West London team. In spite of Joey Medrington's effortless ability to hit the ball repeatedly out of the park, West triumphed to take their place in the final.
Olly Brading’s Central London team achieved a decisive victory in their semi-final against Sarah MacKay and Rich Woods' food-led team, putting Central into the final against West.
The day's deciding match was a hard-won battle, culminating in a tie-breaker, but Central were ultimately the victors on the day, scoring 25 runs to 22.
‘The day was epic. Everyone was on great form (even those who hadn’t been to bed), and it was, first and foremost, lots of fun,’ said The Cocktail Trading Co’s Elliot Ball. ‘The actual final was stressy as all hell and got dragged out Mighty-Ducks style. Ultimately, though, Reece nailed a killer catch, and West reacted with outstanding dignity. Top fun all round.’
A league of their own
The other teams:
No nondescript lager and hot-dogs at this softball game... Hosts for the day, Bacardí brand ambassadors Shahbazkhani and Kongsrivilai arranged to serve Hatuey beer shipped especially from Miami for the occasion, alongside pre-mixed Bacardí cocktails by Craft Cocktail Company. Bacchus Sundays provided some much-needed nachos and Cuban sandwiches.