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Sitges & Rum - The Sitges Origin of the World Famous Bacardi Brand

Inside the comfortable surroundings of an avant-garde bar in the historic Mercat Vell (Old Market), visitors to Sitges can learn how to make and shake delicious cocktails such as Mojito, Cuba Libre and Piña Colada.  The popular watering hole is part of Casa Bacardi, a fascinating permanent exhibition that explores the connection between Sitges and Bacardi, one of the world’s best-selling rums.

Bacardi logo

The famous drink was the invention of Don Facundo Bacardi Massó who was born in Sitges in 1814.  He didn’t stay in the town for long as in common with many ambitious men of the time, he left Spanish shores to seek his fortune elsewhere.  He packed his bags in 1830 and followed his older brothers to Cuba.

Don Facundo settled in Santiago de Cuba and initially worked in his brothers' general store.  Once he had saved enough money he set up is own mercantile store in 1844.  The shop did well for a while, but suffered following a cholera epidemic in 1852 and from the effects of an economic slump brought on by a downturn in the sugar market.  The business was declared bankrupt in 1855.  Facundo was down, but he certainly wasn’t out.

Drink Discovery

He started to experiment with the process of distilling rum.  At this time rum was considered a cheap and unrefined drink and not a refreshment that would be seen gracing the drinking cabinets and upmarket taverns of the sophisticated set.  Don Facundo resolved to smooth out its rough edges.  Long hours were spent experimenting with numerous techniques, concoctions and brews until he hit upon a winning formula – the first clear, or ‘white’ rum in the world. 

Original Bacardi Distillery in Cuba

The genius of the drinks innovator is revealed in the pioneering steps he took to create the light-bodied spirit.  They included the isolation of a strain of yeast (still used today) to give the rum its unique flavour, and he filtered the liquid through charcoal to remove impurities.  A further step was the extraction of high quality molasses from sugar cane.  In the creation of his ground-breaking alcoholic beverage, Don Facundo also employed measures that had never previously been used in the making of rum such as aging it in oak barrels. 

The first batches of the premium rum were produced in a small tin-roof distillery that Facundo had bought in 1862.  The drink was enthusiastically received by Cuban residents and sales started to soar.  From this humble Cuban backwater, Don Facundo revolutionized the spirits industry.  He had created what is claimed to be the first mixable rum in the world and it ushered in an exhilarating cocktail culture. 

Today, Bacardi is the largest privately held, family owned spirits company in the world, with annual revenues of several billion dollars.  According to the company, more than six million Bacardi Cuba Libre cocktails are enjoyed every day around the world.


That’s the Spirit

Further insights into the history of the white rum and its connection to Sitges can be gleaned by touring the Casa Bacardi international visitor centre.  They include the story of the origin of the famous bat logo.  The emblem was the brainchild of Facando’s wife, Amalia who was inspired by the bats that used to hang in the rafters of their first distillery.   It was a brilliant a choice as according to Cuban and Spanish folklore, bats symbolize good health, good fortune and family unity.  The rum soon became known as “the rum of the bat”.

A visit to Casa Bacardi also includes a look at how Ron Bacardi Superior is made and a few (not all) recipe secrets that have been guarded by generations of the Bacardi family are revealed.  All of the tours conclude in the lounge bar and those who want to create cocktails like a pro can pay for a 3-hour course and receive a certificate at the end.

Casa Bacardi is a permanent tribute to the towering achievements of a famous son of Sitges and how this small coastal town contributed to the history of one of the world’s most popular spirits.

Find out more about Casa Bacardi at http://www.casabacardi.es