Recreating Classic Filipino Cocktails With Bacardi's First Filipino Maestro de Ron

Troy Arquiza tries some cocktails from Charles Baker's 1939 drinking guide and memoir.
IMAGE COURTESY

This is why we love rum: It gets us loose. One glass of this thing primes us for debauchery. The tropical nature of the drink carries over to the vibrance of the buzz.

With rum, we tend to get some fruitiness and woodiness, along with notes of caramel or butterscotch. It's buttery and toasty, too. Arguably, it's the best dancing partner for wackier nights out. It's just fun as hell, especially if we know how to toy around with it (think cocktails, cuisine pairings, and the like). Just don't talk to us in the morning.

But we don't have to tell Bacardi's newest Maestro De Ron Astrophel “Troy” Arquiza that. Arquiza, who happens to be the first Filipino ever to hold the position, leads a group of blenders at Casa Bacardi's largest distillery in Cataño, Puerto Rico. There, he oversees distillation and aging. If there's anyone who knows how good rum can get, it's him.

Bacardi is known worldwide for its distinct aging process, with the molasses going through a strict screening process and the fermented mixture being distilled twice. Arquiza knows this by heart now, having worked with the company for two decades, both in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. 

Arquiza ended up training under then-Maestro de Ron Jose “Joe” Gomez, who he would later succeed. The former Master Blender retired after 41 years, paving the way for Arquiza.

Photo by YELLOW BRICK MEDIA.

Recently, Arquiza, who was once an Industrial Engineering major at MAPUA University, held his homecoming party at The Spirits Library in Poblacion, Makati to celebrate the milestone. The Maestro De Ron discusssed a little bit of his process, the beauty of rum, and the local brands he admires.

His engineering background informed Arquiza of his understanding of distillery, fermentation, and the like. But it was his palate that cemented his place as the company's Master Blender and global ambassador.

For his work, he says that he, unsurprisingly, has to drink a lot more than the average person. But he doesn't just try Bacardi products, after all. He credits not just rum, but wine, whisky, and more for the richness of his taste palate. "It's like you're building up your book of tastes. The wider your experiences is, the better you can discern."

And rum is not just for drinking, too, Arquiza notes. "Rum is a very versatile spirit. It's one of the most flexible. One of the vital qualities of rum is that it has a little bit of sweetness to it. So in my case, I like dabbling in aged rum. I normally cook it before grilling anything, marinading it. Some of its notes really punch well with the meat."

Arquiza follows a long line of proud Master Blenders and Master Distillers. The title of Maestro de Ron dates back to roughly 160 years age, when Don Facundo Bacardi Massó created Bacardi Carta Blanca, the first mixable rum. 

He also joins the likes of Stephanie Macleod for Dewar's Blended Scotch whisky, Anne Brock for Bombay Sapphire gin, David Rodriquez for Patron tequila, Beppe Musso for Martini vermouth, and François Thibault for Grey Goose vodka.

"Sometimes, I still pinch myself," he states. "One of the most impactful things that happened to me in my career is that I was very fortunate to spend time with the Bacardi family rum blenders. You assume that these people will be snobbish because of the success that they have. But you come to find out that they're just regular people."

He also acknowledges how Filipino rum brands like Tanduay, Kasama, and more help the market innovate.

"Of course, I've tasted Tanduay, and I have much respect for them. Ever since I started with Mapua, we encountered that. Destileria Limtuaco, I encountered them, as well. They put their passion in what they're doing. It's up to us to be receptive to all of these. Sinong magmamahal sa Filipino kung hindi Filipino, diba?

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Notes From Charles Baker's The Gentleman's Companion (1939)

Charles Baker's infamous two-volume set offers us a glimpse of the world's most exotic and bombastic dishes and alcoholic beverages from the '20s and the '30s. It functions as a drinking guidebook, cookboock, and memoir, featuring some stories with drinking buddies Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.

Here, he mentions some classic Filipino cocktails he apparently liked, some of which The Spirits Library recreated for Arquiza's homecoming party. Here's a quick guide to making them at home with Bacardi.

The World Famous Quarantine Cocktail

Believe it or not, the World Famous Quarantine Cocktail was supposedly Manila's most coveted cocktail, edging out the Dry Martini at the time. It can be recreated with BACARDI Carta Blanca, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, Absinthe Mist, an orange, and egg white.

Photo by YELLOW BRICK MEDIA.

BACARDI "Leave It to Me"

The BACARDI "Leave It to Me" cocktail comes from a bar book by a random infantry major who used to be stationed at Fort William Mckinley (Present-day Fort Bonifacio). This drink only needs BACARDI Carta Oro, Luxardo Maraschino, Raspberry Liqueur, and some soda.

Photo by YELLOW BRICK MEDIA.

Pancho Villa

The Pancho Villa is a 1926 cocktail named after Filipino boxing great Pancho Villa, who was the first Asian to win the World Flyweight Championship. We're going to need BACARDI Ocho, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Apricot Brandy, Cherry Brandy, and Pineapple Cordial for this one.

Photo by YELLOW BRICK MEDIA.

About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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