Before Don Facundo Bacardí Massó created his unique BACARDÍ rum in Santiago de Cuba more than 152 years ago, Cuban rum was a crudely made drink known as aguardiente or “fire water.” Most were so unimpressed by its fiery flavor that it was used for medicinal purposes rather than for drink. When Don Facundo bought a tin-roof distillery in 1862 and began manufacturing a light, smooth-bodied rum, the drink was extremely well received, and by 1888, the company had been appointed “Purveyors to the Royal Spanish Household.”
Emerging Worldwide Cocktail Culture
Cuba’s struggle for independence in the late 1800s brought American soldiers to Cuban soil. These soldiers saw a commanding officer enjoying a mixed drink of Coca-Cola, BACARDÍ rum, and lime, and all followed suit, toasting Cuba’s independence with the words “Cuba Libre,” or “Free Cuba.” At about the same time, the Daiquiri was invented by Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer working in Cuba. Made with lime, sugar, BACARDÍ rum and ice, the Daiquiri found popularity in the United States. The Cuba Libre and the Daiquiri made a significant mark on the emerging cocktail trend, and were enjoyed all over the world within a few decades.
The United States banned the sale, production, and importation of alcohol in 1919, only four years after Bacardi opened a bottling facility in New York. Since the company could no longer sell BACARDÍ rum to Americans in the U.S, it invited Americans to Cuba, positioning the country as a tropical island escape complete with lively night life and superior rum. This extremely successful marketing campaign brought 90,000 tourists a year to Havana by 1928, many of whom frequented the black and gold Art Deco bar in the newly constructed Edificio Bacardi.
Shortly after Prohibition ended, Bacardi won an important court case in the New York Supreme Court that stated “a BACARDÍ cocktail must be made with BACARDÍ rum,” a landmark decision that kept competitors from eroding the Company’s name recognition.
Before private industry was nationalized in Cuba, the president of Bacardi , José “Pepin” Bosch, was becoming increasingly wary of the autocratic Cuban government under Fulgencio Batista. Because of this, Bosch moved critical documents and proprietary formulas to the company’s facility in Nassau, Bahamas. When Bacardi’s Cuban assets were seized in 1960, the company lost 90% of its sales volume. While a devastating loss, Bosch’s sagacity meant that the Cuban government did not obtain trademarks, formulas, the proprietary yeast and other assets that would have almost certainly meant ruin for the company.
Bacardi Limited and Acquisition
By the late 1970s, BACARDÍ rum had become the best-selling premium spirits brand in the world. Manuel Jorge Cutillas, company president in the 1990s, reorganized the five independent international Bacardi companies operating from Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and the United States into one, renaming it Bacardi Limited. Streamlined through this consolidation, the company was ready to take global competition to a new level. Cutillas launched a campaign of acquisitions, acquiring the remaining stake in the Martini & Rossi group of companies, and later the DEWAR’S Blended Scotch whisky and BOMBAY SAPPHIRE gin brands. With these acquisitions, Bacardi Limited transformed from a rum company into a spirits company, and became the largest privately owned spirits company in the world.
Consumers in 160 countries worldwide drink 7.2 billion cocktails per year made with BACARDÍ rum, a spirit that has received more than 550 awards in its 152 year history. To celebrate the 150 year milestone, close to 600 members of the Bacardí family gathered in Puerto Rico and unveiled a bust of family patriarch and company founder Don Facundo Bacardí Massó. They also planted a coconut palm at the Puerto Rico distillery to replace the original palm that stood by the first distillery, which withered and died in 1960. As a final commemoration of the anniversary, eight master blenders of the Bacardí family created a limited-edition rum.