US Bartender wins Brugal 1888 Nearly Neat competition

The winner of Brugal 1888’s inaugural Nearly Neat competition has been revealed as Natasha Mesa from Oregon, US, following a global grand final in the Dominican Republic

Winner Natasha Mesa

The competition was created to launch Brugal’s first-ever bartender network dedicated to rum – The Sipping Society – and Mesa, bar manager at cocktail bar Deadshot in Portland, has been named Brugal 1888’s Sipping Society Maestro with her winning Juliaz Cocktail becoming the official Brugal 1888 signature serve. Mesa said: “Being a part of the Nearly Neat global finals was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I got to meet amazing bartenders from all over the globe who continue to inspire me day-in and day-out.”

A global first, the Nearly Neat competition focused on the exploration of the possibilities of almost-neat cocktails. The 10 finalists from five countries were tasked with creating serves using minimal ingredients, simply enriching the delicious warmth of the Brugal 1888 liquid. The concept was inspired by the growing community of rum-sipping enthusiasts and was judged by a team of industry experts, including Julie Reiner and Aidan Bowie. Reiner said: “The Brugal Nearly Neat competition was such a pleasure to judge. I loved the  simplicity of the drinks and the beautiful stories the bartenders told to go along with their cocktails. Brugal 1888  is such a superb rum and it was showcased beautifully in all of the drinks.” 

Sipping Society

As well as competing for the Sipping Society Maestro title, the finalists experienced the opportunity of a lifetime, travelling to the Dominican Republic – the home of Brugal – for an immersive experience of the brand’s history and heritage.  After a trip to the  sugarcane fields to meet suppliers, they visited the Brugal ageing facility to learn how Brugal’s spirit is matured in the heat of the Dominican sun and attended an exclusive tasting with one of Brugal’s Maestro Roneros.

The fifth generation Brugal family shared with the finalists their expertise, passion and knowledge for rum making, which has been passed through the family since 1888. Brugal handpicked the 44 founding members  from the UK, US, Italy, Spain and the Nordics who were then invited to compete in the Nearly Neat cocktail competition. The Sipping Society will now continue to connect and empower industry experts, giving them unique access to rum masterclasses, workshops, exclusive VIP experiences and an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals – sharing preferred serves, inspiration and knowledge. 

Brugal 1888 is a truly extraordinary rum, produced in the Dominican Republic, that combines the rich flavours of bourbon and sherry casks through a double-ageing process. It’s a complex yet balanced spirit that stimulates the senses and evolves in the glass – recommended to be enjoyed sip-by-sip.

For more information contact Pavol Kazimir,