Meet the Miami Rum Shakers: Couple Interviews Part Two

What happens when you mix 20 passionate bartenders, one killer rum brand, and a few incredible dance choreographers? The answer: Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s RUM SHAKER presented by BACARDI®, a 10-week program that’s not only resulting in some seriously impressive performances – some of the Rum Shakers have no prior dance experience –  but a true bonding of the Miami bar community.

For the last three months, these bartenders have been coupled up and rehearsing 3 to 4 days a week in order to perfect their routine before the final show in Miami on March 21st. Last week, they had the chance to really put their performance to the test as they showcased their dances during Tales of the Cocktail’s Tales on Tour in Puerto Rico. Every couple rocked their routines and it’s easy to see they’ve grown together as not only dancers, but bartenders as well.

We took a break with each dancer to find out their motivation behind auditioning for Rum Shaker, what they’ve learned so far, and of course what their go-to BACARDÍ cocktail is after a long day of Rum Shaking.

Here’s part two of our dancer interviews:

Jesus Perez and Cloey Sprecher

Where you’ll find them: Broken Shaker

Hometown: Miami, FL

What inspired you to audition?

Jesus: A big part of what inspired me to audition was that I was going through period of transition in my career, my beloved bar that I had given all of myself to had just shuttered. It was a tough time for me, but I took this as a chance to focus more on myself as a human. Focusing more on myself mentally and physically after completely neglecting it for 2 years. And I have always secretly wanted to be Justin Timberlake.

Cloey: I really wanted to be on the dance team in high school. I tried out twice and never made it so when I heard about this audition I originally scoffed at the idea. But I kept coming across the flyer and it sounded like fun but I didn’t think I would get picked. I eventually decided to go for it because I  made a New Year’s resolution to try new things. Spoiler alert…I made it! Just goes to show you that you can redeem yourself at any age.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shaker?

Jesus: Only previous dance experience I have is in the shower and after two BACARDÍ daiquiris when “Bad Bunny” comes on.

Cloey: I have done musical theater and show choir. I’m from the Midwest, so I’m a killer line dancer. Neither of those helped me with this competition at all.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Jesus: Going back to living that bar life is different.  I had probably woken before 11 am more times in the first 3 weeks than I had in the past 3 years. It’s been a much-welcomed lifestyle change!

Cloey: I really wanted to commit to getting in better shape. As bartenders, we tend to drink a lot and eat late at night, so the workout aspect of this program really appealed to me. I went a month without drinking, started watching what I eat and broke up with my toxic relationship with UberEats. I also started doing exercises every day before bed.

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shaker program?

Jesus: Something I was worried about was committing. Now I know I can commit to something that’s not vital to living, but is still great for me.

Cloey: That I can do anything I put my mind to. Also, even with a professional choreographer I still have two left feet!

What have you learned about your partner?

Jesus: She moved to Miami to be a model. She always wanted to be a cheerleader but never got the opportunity to, so this is kind of making up for it. She made it a point to live outside her comfort zone in 2019 and this is a huge step for her.

Cloey: Jesus and I work together, but this program has really helped me get to know him as someone other than my coworker. He’s got so much going on and he’s super busy all the times, but makes the time to be a kick-ass dance partner. Bless his soul for dealing with my craziness and for always catching me during the part of our routine where I do a blind fall. Oh and on a completely unrelated note: he can’t swim!!

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shaker?

Jesus: Not too many challenges other than late nights at work and early mornings.

Cloey: I’m a super shy person and I don’t have the greatest self-confidence, so I really put myself out there signing up for this. I had to overcome my need to stay in my own bubble and learn to not take myself so seriously.

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shaker?

Jesus: Obviously, going to Puerto Rico was a huge incentive! I’ve only been outside of the Continental United States once. The camaraderie with my new friends is really all I could’ve hoped to gain and then some. Not to mention the sick dace moves I acquired thanks to our coach Casey! Thanks, Casey! 

Cloey: To keep in touch with all of the amazing people I’ve met along the way and to continue to work out and eat better.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Jesus: Learning how to dance has been a huge highlight, as well as seeing my peers outside of a normal bar setting where we’re constantly pumped with social lubricants, and thriving has been great.

Cloey: Seeing the progress we’ve all made together. Our first day of workouts was the worst! Now I think we all look forward to getting our butts kicked

Why is Bacardi the right brand for Rum Shaker?

Jesus: I think BACARDÍ is the only brand that makes sense, without question. Aside from Miami being its headquarters, it really embodies what it means to be a Rum Shaker. It’s Caribbean-inspired, full of fun and flavor. It’s been a part of my family parties for as long as I can remember, fueling endless salsa dancing until the morning hours.

Cloey: I associate rum with the Caribbean and you can’t go to the Caribbean without doing some salsa! Salsa plus a mojito made with BACARDÍ equals a great night!

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail? Flavor?

Jesus: I personally live BACARDÍ 8. Refined and aged enough to sip neat, but versatile enough to kill it in an Old Fashioned or a daiquiri.

Cloey: Classic daiquiri. Don’t mess with perfection!

Sherelle Stephens and Cody Risner

Where you’ll find them: Myxx Bartending / Casa Florida 

Hometown: Miami, FL

What inspired you to audition?

Sherelle: I heard about the audition through the bartending company I work for. I thought it would be fun to audition. Something new! At the beginning of this year, I wanted 2019 to be all about new beginnings and experiences. I literally auditioned for the fun of it, I was shocked when I learned I actually made the cut!  

Cody: The possibility of a trip to Tales of the Cocktail in Puerto Rico.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shaker?

Sherelle: Yes, I’ve actually worked in the nightclub industry as a go-go dancer.

Cody: I did tap dance and ballet as a young child.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Sherelle: I love that throughout the process this program introduced us to not only multiple styles of dance but also different fitness regimens such as Zumba, yoga, and workout classes. I had my first official yoga class within this program and have since started attending yoga classes regularly outside of the group.

Cody: This program has helped me stretch my body better, and use some of the muscles we neglect while working behind the bar.

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shaker program?

Sherelle: I’ve learned that I can take a lot on at one time and still get the job done. No idea is too far fetched and no goal is to difficult to obtain. I’ve had a lot of circumstances occur during my time in the Rum Shaker program, yet I’ve made it a point to commit and now that we’re near the end I am very proud of myself and grateful for the unique experience.

Cody: I’ve learned that I can wake up at an early hour.

What have you learned about your partner?

Sherelle: My partner is the best! Cody is patient, not only with others but with himself. He is also very dedicated and encouraging. During my doubtful moments, he has always encouraged me to push harder.

Cody: She lives far away, but is always dedicated to making our rehearsals work.

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shaker?

Sherelle: Yes many, but the main challenge has been to stay committed with all else going on in my life.

Cody: Working full day doubles and fitting in practice time has been quite the challenge. 

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shaker?

Sherelle: My ultimate goal is to unveil a better understanding of myself and what I am capable of accomplishing. Being a part of this diverse, cultural, and challenging program has helped expand my horizons and allow me to get out of my comfort zone, indulging more into the bartending industry. I am a rather new bartender, so becoming a part of a cultivated industry network is exciting.

Cody: To promote healthier lifestyles for people in the F&B industry.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Sherelle: Of course my favorite part is dancing! Having fun among other individuals who are in it for the same reason as me – to have fun!

Cody: The Zumba classes.

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shaker?

Sherelle: BACARDÍ is a perfect match for Rum Shaker because Rum Shaker is about diversity, culture and most of all fun! BACARDÍ is a fun brand that incorporates different flavors into their one-of-a-kind rum cocktails and alcohol flavors

Cody: Because they have the spirited teams and can handle putting on something of this magnitude together globally in the most perfect way possible.

What is your go-to Bacardi cocktail? Flavor?

Sherelle: A classic for me is the Dragonberry flavor, it’s my “true blue” when it comes to the many flavors of BACARDÍ. Also, you can never go wrong with BACARDÍ Superior.

Cody: BACARDÍ Ocho Old Fashioned.

Kristina Popova and Kat Frisk

Where you’ll find them: Purdy Lounge / Sweet Caroline

Hometown: Miami, FL

What inspired you to audition?

Kristina:  I love to dance! 

Kat: I loved the vibe of the Thirsty and BACARDÍ team who approached me one night while I was working to tell me about the program

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shaker?

Kristina: Yes. I’ve been trying different dance categories. From gymnastics and ballet to street dance and Latin.

Kat: I was a cheerleading instructor.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Kristina: Well, I’m extremely active and I dance all the time, but this is the first time in years that I’m a part of a group. And I love it.

Kat: I am more organized, have a better routine and in better shape!

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shaker program?

Kristina: I miss being a part of a group and that I’m not doing enough with my dancing.

Kat: I am out of shape and more of an introvert these days.

What have you learned about your partner?

Kristina: She is amazing and we have a lot in common. We started connecting the very first week and I was so happy when they told us that we will be dancing partners.

Kat: She has a strong personality and is a very free spirit who just wants to dance and have fun!

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shaker?

Kristina:  I think getting out there and being part of something bigger was a great step for me! 

Kat: Managing my time has been the biggest obstacle.

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shaker?

Kristina: I’m just really happy to be part of another awesome BACARDÍ bartender program! 

Kat: Meeting new people and getting back into shape doing something I love!

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Kristina: Bringing my dancing experience to a different level and rehearsing with my group.

Kat: Learning the choreography.

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shaker?

Kristina: When I say Rum Shaker, I’m thinking about tropical. When I say BACARDÍ, I’m totally thinking about tropical! So they are perfect for each other!

Kat: When you say RUM everyone thinks BACARDÍ! It’s a no brainer.

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail? Flavor?

Kristina: Classic Mojito. 

Kat: Strawberry Mojito. 

Jonny Cann and Natalie Garcia 

Where you’ll find them: Kiki on the River / Jada Coles

Hometown: Miami, FL

What inspired you to audition?

Jonny: My love for dance and movement. Wanting to be a part of a very progressive experience with the BACARDÍ brand. I also find interesting personalities and some “outside of the box thinkers” when it comes to meeting other bartenders. Knowing this was for bartenders, I auditioned to befriend and network with other like-minded people.

Natalie: My best friend from high school begged me to try out on her behalf (Veronica Chaparro) because she didn’t qualify as she’s a brand ambassador. I had also just joined USBG so saw this was an opportunity to get more involved in the bar community as well as a fun way to get active and get involved more.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shaker?

Jonny: Yes indeed. I’m also planning on putting together an “All Levels Dance Class” in Miami when we finish the Rum Shaker experience. You guys should come rock out in class too! It’s going to be a blast!

Natalie: Growing up I danced different genres from jazz, tap, ballet, and cheerleading.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Jonny: Helped me get back into doing an activity I’m passionate about (dance). I’ve met some great new friends through the program. Helping me stay on track with my health and physical fitness.

Natalie: Overall I’ve become more aware of the foods I eat because the things we eat supplies the energy necessary to keep up with everyone! Realizing how important being active is and necessary especially with our long hectic lifestyle and schedules

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shaker program?

Jonny: I could be taking better care of my body, stretching, and overall fitness.

Natalie: Trying to juggle going to school, and graduating with Honors, managing life outside of work and studies, an internship working as an event coordinator with Rose Gold Collective, trying to find and discover the next step in my career path, and getting to know who I am, this experience and all those who I have crossed paths with honestly couldn’t have come at a more imprinting moment in my life. This entire experience has helped me grow and continues to each day just as an overall better human being, seeing how we all do the same job, but how different and impactful our personalities differentiate us as individuals. I am forever grateful for the family I have gained.

What have you learned about your partner?

Jonny: She’s open-minded, hard-working, determined to do her best in all that she does. Outside of Rum Shaker, she has a very busy schedule. I never heard her complain once, and every time I see her she has a vibrant and progressive energy. Great person to be around, and she’s also cool AF!

Natalie: Jonny has taught me the overall perspective of being comfortable in the unfamiliarity of what the unknown. Rum Shaker came to me at a very delicate stage of my young adult life you can say. In so many great and positive ways I don’t even know where to begin. As I’m currently pursuing my degree, completing an internship, all while working full time my biggest struggle has been to find balance in nurturing and growing from the inside. Jonny has awakened exactly that for me, helping me realize that I’ve been struggling mostly with myself not giving my body the proper love and attention it deserves. Jonny has lived in many different states, but Jonny has also lived in Bali, an in a treehouse. Jonny started dancing when he was a young adult and actually moved to New York to pursue dance training more seriously. He also loves Pho! An entrepreneur. Self-starter and inspiring self-motivator.

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shaker?

Jonny: Improvement with my personal organization to balance the Rum Shaker experience and personal life.

Natalie: Last week I was in a car accident so pushing through the pain and aches of my body this week has been a real challenge not only physically, but mostly mental as well. As I don’t want to disappoint myself, I don’t want to disappoint my team, but most of all my partner as this isn’t only competition for me, but for him as well!

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shaker?

Jonny: Fully having a great experience, with the outcome of great memories with good like minded people I can call friends. Also, using this as a platform to be better connected to people and great brands like Bacardi, to potentially be a part of other creative opportunities in the hospitality space.

Natalie: To expose me to new opportunities to expand my career portfolio with all the leading organizational partnered companies and to find my happy.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Jonny: Seeing the majority of everyone coming together as friends, supporting each other with great energy. Also, watching many people who aren’t trained dancers, come together with an open mind, and progress so well!

Natalie: Being paired with complete beautiful individuals that were all strangers to me in the beginning. These same strangers in a short time have become influential parts of my growth. Getting to build and be part of such a magical bond, that can not be explained in words, but can only be felt.

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shaker?

Jonny: Because of their genuine hard work to add value to the industry. They clearly represent a way of adding value more than just selling alcohol. BACARDÍ is a brand that people know will provide a great experience, whether it’s in a cocktail or something for the community!

Natalie: BACARDÍ is a symbol of family, relaxation, and bliss. That is exactly what the Rum Shaker experience has been. Through this time I’ve gained a family who has brought such an ease to the stress of day to day life. These past 3 months have been absolute bliss. I am forever grateful and honored to have been chosen.

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail? Flavor?

Jonny: Simple go to: mojito with mint, very little fresh lime and very little sugar. When I’m feeling fancy, BACARDÍ Ocho Old Fashioned!

Natalie: BACARDÍ Ocho is always my go to, either in a classic Negroni or modern age new Old Fashioned you can never go wrong, but sometimes I like my cocktails to hold a more nostalgic feeling and if it reminds me of chocolate milk well I’m there! A little mixed cocktail I enjoy playing around with is my BACARDÍ Ocho BedSnack with BACARD Ocho, cinnamon and dark chocolate syrup, vanilla bitters, orange juice, coconut water and mint.

Maria Camila Ruiz  and Nick Velasquez


Where you’ll find them: Casa Florida / Sweet Liberty

Hometown: Miami, FL

What inspired you to audition?

Maria Camila: I always try to bring “balance” and “positivity” in my life. When I saw Tales of the Cocktail and BACARDÍ were doing this program, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to achieve that.

Nick: I was a dancer before I was a bartender, so I couldn’t actually believe anyone put together a program that encompasses both.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shaker?

Maria Camila: Nothing formal.

Nick: I was in dance classes growing up as a kid. Before bartending, I lived in New York City and spent time pursuing dance.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Maria Camila: This program has changed my lifestyle in many positive ways. Discipline is the most important. Discipline to wake up 2 hours early every day, so I can have ready my lunch and dinner for the day. Drive 3-4 days a week for practice and be mentally and physically prepared for it and still have time to work and personal life.

Nick: Entering Rum Shaker, my health was at an all-time low. I was in a cycle of intense work weeks and little to zero self-care. I am definitely confident now to say I am the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. Something along the way clicked, and I think I caught a fitness bug or something.

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shaker program

Maria Camila: This program makes me understand how important it is for me to have a schedule and a balanced life!

Nick: I have learned that I can handle a lot more than I thought. Before the program, I didn’t have any spare time for extra meetings or training sessions – and I still don’t – but I think Rum Shaker is all about shocking your system… digging beyond the sometimes tedious cycle of bar life.

What have you learned about your partner?

Maria Camila: He’s so genuine, calm, and he has a special light. He dances better than anyone else, and that made me realized I have to force myself every rehearsal to be better and better so I can keep up with him.

Nick: I’ve been lucky enough to dance with two different partners through this experience. Once Ivan became too injured to dance I stepped up and became Camila’s new dance partner. She’s got a drive and passion in her that shows in her dance moves! 

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shaker?


Maria Camila: I feel any competition or program you have the opportunity to be in, will teach you something new about yourself. I never thought that I was going to be part of one, to be honest, I love people but I’m shy sometimes as well. When we started it was a little hard for me because this program has people with all type of dance experience. Some of them were dancers before, other ones have danced all their lives and some of us never dance at all. 

Nick: My bar is open very late, so I really had to organize myself mentally to be able to pull this program off. I am glad I did.

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shaker?

Maria Camila: Winning has never been the main focus. I want to know myself better, to see how far can I come and how hard I can work to pursue my goal that is basically having discipline, balance, and to have a positive experience throughout this competition.

Nick: I think I already met my goal. I wanted to meet like-minded and kind humans that work in bars around me. Everyone is so cool, I can’t believe it. I also wanted to change my lifestyle, and Rum Shaker was the push I needed. My favorite part of the program is the fitness classes. 

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Maria Camila: Working out with all my homies and close friends and of course learning our routine! I love dancing! It’s the best way to express yourself in a beautiful and elegant way.

Nick: My favorite part of the program is the fitness classes. I really like suffering with my friends — their cries fuel me.

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shaker?

Maria Camila: I see BACARDÍ as the most important rum brand in the world. They are not only family-owned, but also there’s something about this brand that makes us feel that we are all a big family, and it’s the same way I feel about the other Rum Shaker. Dance is very special, you have to connect with your partner and with the other dancers as well. You’re not dancing alone, or competing alone, you need your dance family to be aligned with you and to dance with you in order to succeed. Also, Puerto Rico has a huge dance history the same as BACARDÍ. I don’t think another brand would be able to execute a dance program with such success like BACARDÍ.

Nick: Dance at its core is about expressing a feeling that transcends words, literally doing what moves you… what better brand than Bacardi to represent that?

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail? Flavor?

Maria Camila: I’m a huge fan of all tropical cocktails. If I’m missing the Caribbean I’ll drink a mojito, or if I’m thirsty I’ll drink a daiquiri but I have to say if I want both in one, I’ll have a BACARDÍ 4 piña colada. Also, when I’m having a bite, I always prefer a spirit-forward cocktail so, I don’t overstimulate my palate, like the Presidente #1 cocktail with BACARDÍ Carta Oro.

Nick: My favorite BACARDÍ cocktail would be a classic daiquiri with BACARDÍ Ocho – because I am a simple, sweet man – but I like nice things.


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