On his last visit to Miami, 2 Ounces had the opportunity to talk with David Cid, Master of Rums at Bacardi, about his side project: a podcast and video series called Azucár y Limon, co-founded with Darnell Holguin and Elisa Lopez. Read more about his new venture below.
How did Azucar y Limon get started?
My co-host Darnell Holguin and I met a couple of years before he competed in Bacardi Legacy and made it to the global finals in Germany. Shortly after that, we found ourselves at Tales of the Cocktails in New Orleans. We were talking over drinks and he mentioned he wanted to come up with a media-based project and, coincidentally, I was mulling over a similar idea. So we basically made a pact and said we were going to work on it together. Of course, it didn’t happen immediately because our day jobs took over a lot of our intervening time.
Along my travels, I noticed that most of the bartender educational material I would come across was primarily written in English. So, in addition to learning how to bartend, incoming trainees would have to be fairly fluent in English, which would eliminate a lot of talent. So I thought, why don’t we produce content in Spanish? Maybe that is something we can contribute to the industry.
Once we had our idea, we weren’t sure what kind of platform to use. Since Darnell has quite a colorful personality, we thought of doing videos at first. We bought all the equipment and recorded the first video in January of 2019, which never aired. I hadn’t slept, Darnell was super tired from work and our co-host at the time, Yolanda Baez, had a fever. We had all the gear but didn’t know how to use the equipment or do the post-production. After that, I went on vacation, watched it, and it was just terrible!!! I mean…really garbage! As soon as I came back I said: “guys, there’s no way we can use this, maybe the audio after editing but the video footage…no way!” We looked so drained, our eyes were droopy with dark circles…it was so raw and horrible that it wasn’t worth trying to push it.
After that, we put the idea on hold and took some time to think about what we actually wanted to achieve with the program and what type of equipment was most feasible for us. It wasn’t until June that we recorded again.
How did you come up with the name?
One thing we liked about the name was just the simple idea that, no matter what the spirit in question, the most basic cocktail foundations of it will likely be lime and sugar. In Spanish, this translates to azúcar y limón. But on a more philosophical level, life is about the sour moments and the sweet moments, right? Azucar y Limon communicates that the good and the bad mixed together create something beautiful. Thankfully we had a painter to create the logo, Jess Negron, who’s also a bartender. She actually hand-painted the logo and it really gets across the vibrancy that we’re aiming for.
How would you describe what Azucar y Limon is about?
It’s evolving right now, but we started it off as a medium for us to provide an educational resource on cocktailing and the spirits industry to Spanish-speaking bartenders, sales reps, distributors, and just about anybody who works in the alcohol/cocktails/spirits industry who does not speak English. We wanted them to have a reliable source for learning more about the industry, new products, and techniques without feeling discouraged by a language barrier. As I mentioned, we are still evolving and have a version in audio and another in the video. We are on YouTube right now but we’re using other platforms like IGTV, Instagram feeds with 60-seconds content and 3-minute videos on Facebook. As we looked into other platforms, we saw an opportunity to not focus solely on liquor. For example, Tik Tok is huge but is mostly used by under-aged audiences, so we’ll be talking about juicing and healthy beverages for detoxing. We are looking into creating content for Tik Tok that’s a little bit more fun, a little bit more hip and chic: coffee, tea, smoothies, etc.
What has been the most memorable experience so far?
Shooting live at Tales of the Cocktails was definitely one of the most memorable experiences because it was not only fun but we also earned a piece of humble pie in that we had to accept that we didn’t yet fully know what we were doing. It gave us a chance to step back and really learn how to do this professionally. So, we showed up at Tales, we were officially approved to be there, we were ready to live stream, the camera had wifi capabilities, but the venue didn’t have wifi so the camera couldn’t directly live stream. We couldn’t do it through YouTube either because we had just opened the YouTube channel and there was a waiting period for approval. Everything that could happen, happened for good or bad at Tales. Murphy’s Law! The lighting was off, the noise in the background, we didn’t have a cameraman. So, we literally had the camera on a tripod and I would run to set up the frame, hit record, run back and then activate the audio recorder. Then we’d kick off the show and then do the same thing all over again to shut everything off, but of course, we didn’t know if the camera was still running because it didn’t have an indicator on the front. So we couldn’t tell if it had really recorded or had shut off…we were just going on blind faith. After we were done for the day, we realized the lighting was terrible and we had to go to Best Buy to get new equipment, part of which ended up being incompatible with the camera. It was one thing after another but, in the end, we were able to edit pretty well and get some good episodes out of it.
What has been the most challenging thing about producing Azucar y Limon?
I’d say for most of us it’s finding the time. We all have demanding full-time day jobs. For example, my job at Bacardi entails wearing a lot of hats, so I really have to make sure I deliver at my job in order to have a passion project like this. I have to squeeze all aspects of this project after my 9-5 hours, so to speak. Then Darnell is a co-owner/GM of a bar and that takes a lot of energy. Yolanda, who was the first co-host, was working at the Broken Shaker in New York at the time, and if you know anything about the Broken Shaker, it’s that those bartenders get pretty worn out. They have long shifts, maybe 12hrs, crafting cocktail after cocktail. Now Elisa is part of the show and we also have Elvis Rosario, who wasn’t officially part of the show but is now our dependable behind-the-scenes guy, our camera guy, and the person who checks up on all the details. So, for us to find the time to coordinate everyone’s schedule, and remain consistent about posting episodes, that’s really been the most difficult part. However, there are other challenges like finding someone who can translate Spanish to English that is also able to understand Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican and Nuyorican Spanish…not an easy job!
Who would be the top 3 people you would like to interview on the show?
The key people we wanted to interview, we were fortunate enough to have been able to do so. One of the most important to me was Alex Valencia because he’s someone who has been around for a very long time in the NYC industry, one of the toughest cities in which to establish a brand name and to build your career. And Alex really rose through the ranks, he now owns 2 restaurants, La Contenta and La Contenta Oeste, and he’s about to open a third. One of the main things we wanted to achieve through our interviews is to inspire Latinos who don’t speak English.
Many of the people we profile didn’t start out speaking English themselves, began by washing dishes and now own their own businesses, now are influencers, now get paid thousands of dollars to show up to speak to people and give their insights into the business. So Alex was one person I really wanted to interview because of that. In terms of people I haven’t interviewed yet, I’d say Nectaly Mendoza in Vegas. He’s the owner of Herbs and Rye and now he has another steakhouse concept called Cleaver in Vegas. His story is very interesting too and I’ve known him for years. He worked hard and bought a restaurant that in no way compares to what it eventually became. This is a Mexican kid that really made it happen for himself and he’s still very much Latino and celebrates his heritage. There are some spirit producers I’d like to interview as well. We’re not just going behind the bar or restaurant but also bringing attention to the people behind the liquid. So I’ve met amazing masters of rum and maestros tequileros that I’m looking forward to having on the program. It’s hard for me to name them because there are so many. From Barcadi alone, there’s Joe Gomez and Manny Oliver (who was my first mentor). There is Francisco Alcaraz and all that he was able to achieve with the initial vision they had for Patron. All these are stories worth telling because, at the end of the day, behind the liquids, there are some fascinating human beings.
Some brands get legitimately chastised because of their size or price points, some have earned a bad reputation, either because of their business model or their decisions vis-à-vis sustainability and serving their local community. But many brands live by the Golden Rule and put real effort into taking care of their community. At the helm are great human beings who care about the people they work with, who care about the environment and are making products that are selling in the billions of dollars, but they still remain humble folks. I haven’t met one that was egomaniacal. Ego is a problem because the ego is self-serving and, in the hospitality world, your mission is to serve others. This matters to us. Azúcar y Limón is about three people who have chosen to take time out of their lives to bring the content that we hope adds value to peoples’ lives in terms of their career. But as we look to evolve, we also want to reach the general consumer, which is why we are doing posts like “La Piña.” The consumer may not know that the pineapple symbolizes hospitality and that it has all these nutritional attributes, so we want to add value to their experience too. It takes hard work and it takes money since we are not profiting right now. This is about passion and when you do something with passion, you just make sure to do it right.
Where do you film your episodes?
The show is based in New York and we shoot in NYC since Darnell and Elisa live in the city, but we’ve already had the opportunity to do some live appearances at bars like Limatour Roma, Mexico City. I’m well-traveled, thankfully, and I set aside a fund for the show, so I have miles and I have my own funds, which give me a little bit more freedom to travel there and back. It also works out to be cheaper for me to go to NYC than to bring Darnell and Elisa somewhere else. When we did the shoot, and guest shift, in Mexico City, we each had to pay for our own travel to Mexico. So we all sacrifice a little out-of-pocket because we really believe in what we’re doing. We try to shoot multiple pieces of content when we’re together, so we might shoot an interview, then a cocktail video and some photography. This way, whether we end up using all of it or not, at least we have enough content in case we can’t manage to meet for another 3-4 weeks. We also try to create content during our day-to-day lives to see if it’s worth adding to the Instagram page.
How do you work as a team?
At the moment I’m the one doing the editing and managing the social media accounts. Although Darnell would love to do it and be more involved, he just has too much on his plate right now. Elisa is currently developing short format content. For example, when we created the pineapple video, she gathered all the information and I just put it together along with some of the photography. I create the video, but she does all the homework. In the case of IGTV, I do the editing but they are in front of the camera, so they have to write their script in their heads because we want to be very organic. They also execute the cocktails on camera, which is not always easy. It’s often 10 to 12 takes to create one minute of footage. They are also creating the cocktail content and recipes as well as performing in front of the camera. Eventually, I’ll be delegating more to them and we’ll hire an editor. Both Elisa and Darnell will have access to manage the accounts as well.
What’s next for Azúcar y Limón?
We’ll be expanding to other platforms, like Tik Tok and YouTube, and also transitioning to full beverages, not just alcoholics. I think part of what comes next is also our live appearances. We did a pop-up guest shift at Limatour Roma in Mexico City, and have already received multiple requests inside and outside of the US to bring Azúcar y Limón to a restaurant or bar to do a pop-up behind the bar, or an episode on sight. We hadn’t thought about guest shifts but we’ve received invitations for them in Hawaii and another in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Just last week, we also had a chef reach out to us who wants to do an interview episode as well as a guest shift, so we’re really excited about that! Right now, our only plan for income is merchandise, such as t-shirts and caps, but we’ll still be donating part of the profits to cantineros, for example, many don’t have health benefits. We’re still working through the concept.
Where can we find Azúcar y Limón?