Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The Barcardi Bat
This just happens to be my second favorite logo of all time. Here is the story behind it.
The Barcardi Bat
Piss Off the Bat and He’ll Bomb You
If company legend is to be believed (and it rarely should), a bat found its way onto the Bacardi label in 1862 because the wife of the distillery’s founder noticed a colony of fruit bats hanging around the rafters of the converted warehouse that was their first distillery. The bat was considered a noble and lucky creature by the local Cubans, so it seemed a smart move to attach the symbol to the fledgling rum.
An alternative history, strenuously denied by Bacardi, is that the bat got the nod because every morning distillery workers had to fish the lucky, noble, and thoroughly intoxicated creatures out of the rum vats.
The rum found quick favor in Cuba and spread rapidly throughout the Americas. Prohibition gave it a boost, thanks to Cuba’s close proximity to the U.S. coast, and by the ‘50s the bat was flying high as the best-selling rum in the U.S.
Then came the communists. Despite the fact that the Bacardi family helped bankroll the Cuban Revolution, they were driven out of the country and their holdings nationalized when Fidel Castro seized power. The Bacardi clan never forgave this betrayal, and have used their considerable political and financial influence to make things difficult for Cuba ever since.
Why It Worked: The aforementioned locals not only considered the bat good mojo, they were also largely illiterate. They couldn’t read the verbose Spanish praising the product on the early labels, but they could recognize the bat just fine. When the rum spread to more literate countries, the exotic mammal matched up well with what Westerners thought of rum: nocturnal danger with a hint of vampirism.
Evolution: The prototype bat was a fatter specimen, but aside from the usual streamlining, Bacardi has remained true to the original logo.
Dark Secret: Embittered Bacardi helmsman Jose Pepin Bosch bought a surplus B-26 bomber with the hopes of bombing his ex-pal Fidel’s oil refineries (the bold plan was foiled when a picture of the bomber appeared on the front page of New York Times). He was also allegedly involved in the CIA plot to assassinate Castro.
Claim to Fame: Bacardi was the first “civilized” rum. The founder, Spanish emigrant Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, tamed the raw New World spirit by experimenting with charcoal filtering and oak barrel aging.