How One Competition Propelled This Champion’s Journey
Imer Mai can make you about anything you ask for while visiting Umaya Resort. He’s the sort of bartender who knows the best glass for any drink, exactly how every visitor prefers their martini, and what infused spirit best complements seasonal fruits. His journey as a competitive bartender began with The Belize Collection’s first ever Battle of the Bartenders, a fun activity to celebrate World Cocktail Day. A winning bartender emerged from each of The Belize Collection’s resorts, with Rene winning the competition held at The Rainforest Lodge at Sleeping Giant and Bruno grabbing the win at The Lodge at Jaguar Reef. Imer outbested two other Umaya bartenders, winning with his signature cocktail “Sayab” which is Maya for “Inexhaustible Vein of Water and Farming.” This refreshing drink whose main ingredients are tomato juice and local white rum won because of its hidden taste of watermelon.
Imer moved onto the final round of the Battle of the Bartenders where he, Rene, and Bruno competed to win the title of Bartender of the Year. To make the competition as legitimate as possible, the competing bartenders were judged by representatives of the Belize Bartenders Association. It wasn’t a surprise to his colleagues and loved ones when the judges declared Imer the winner of the First Annual Battle of the Bartenders. Across three rounds (Mystery Box, Speed Round, and Signature Drink), Mai demonstrated his abilities, skills, and flair. The winning component, however, wasn’t flashiness or taste. It was intent. Imer’s inspiration behind his signature drink, ‘Mai Legacy’, captivated the audience, and Mai clinched the win for himself and on behalf of Umaya.
However, that isn’t where Mai’s story ends. Soon after he was declared The Belize Collection’s Best Bartender, Mai was invited to compete in the Fifth Annual Belize National Bartender Cup. Impressing the audience and judges with his efficiency, ingenuity, and originality, he continued on his winning streak and was declared the winner of the Belize National Bartender Cup. The national title earned him the opportunity to represent Belize at the 2023 Pan-American Cocktail Championship in the Dominican Republic.
With the full support of The Belize Collection and Umaya Resort, Mai competed against 15 others in the Classic Cup, a tight competition with high levels of scrutiny. Participants lost points for dropping an ice cube or laying the drizzle on a bit too heavily. The regional competition also featured the debut of another signature drink from Mai, ‘Vein of the Mayan Spirit,’ which you can ask him to make you next time you’re at Umaya.
Imer placed 11th overall and looks fondly on the experience, which gave him the chance to meet people from all over the world. Not one to get hung up on the negative, Imer holds onto the informal education he gathered from his peers, learning about different liquors, techniques, and cultures, which are already informing his mixology back at Umaya.
Mai’s journey demonstrates what’s possible when someone hones a craft and receives the necessary support from friends and their workplace. Commenting on his participation at the Pan-American Championship, Mai remarked “Everything happened in the blink of an eye. I come from a humble family. I just followed my dreams and what I love to do. I’ll see how far I can reach.” In committing himself to mixology and maintaining focus, Imer demonstrates what every employee at The Belize Collection strives for, a commitment to ongoing excellence.
You can now try Imer’s ‘Mai Legacy’ at any of The Belize Collection’s resorts, and sample the greatness of a champion. For those eager to try out the ‘Mai Legacy’ before their next trip, Imer has generously provided the recipe below.
Imer Mai Signature Drink
Drink Name: Mai Legacy
- 2 oz Bombay Gin
- 1 oz Pineapple Juice
- 1 oz Infused Syrup (infused with pineapple skin, cloves, anise, allspice, sugar
- 0.5 oz Lime Juice
- Half Bar Spoon of Turmeric
- Add all ingredients to a shaker and stir to properly mix.
- Then add ice and shake well.
- Strain on fresh ice and serve.