Meet Alejandro Russo, founder of Candela Mamajuana

📸 Photo courtesy of Alejandro Russo

Hi Alejandro! Who are you? What do you do?

I am the founder and CEO of Candela Mamajuana. I’ve lived around the world, but now am proud to say I’m a Miami local, sharing each experience of this culture-rich city with my beautiful wife and our child.

I graduated from Universidad Adolfo Ibanez with a B.S. in Business and Finance. I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship, I founded my first company at age 19 and haven’t stopped since. Now, this passion has developed into sharing the spice of life Candela offers. The idea for Candela was born on vacation many years ago in the Dominican Republic when I tasted something I’d never experienced before… a REAL spiced rum. It was the Dominican Republic’s native drink, Mamajuana, known for its smooth, sweet taste of the finest rum, exotic spices, and honey, made with all-natural ingredients and distilled from fresh-pressed sugarcane in its native country.

I asked the hotel if I could take some home, but all they did was hand me some spices, honey, and sugar cane and said to mix it with rum. An authentic bottled mamajuana did not exist! So I went home and spent years perfecting the recipe… and voila, Candela Mamajuana was born! Now, Candela is the fast-growing spiced rum in Florida and leading the way in the premiumization of rum and sustainability.

What neighborhood(s) are you reppin’?

I’m always repping Brickell and Wynwood. I love the high energy in the atmosphere — there’s always something to do, eat and drink. It’s one of my favorite elements of continuing to explore Miami; there’s never a shortage of experiences.

What brings you most alive about the 305?

There are so many different things that bring me alive about the 305. We live in such a vibrant city filled with the best flavors of cultures from all around the world. Everywhere you go there’s such a diverse celebration of people and cultures, and I love seeing how Miami is able to bring them all together. It’s such a unique experience that’s constantly evolving and growing.

I also love how alive everyone in the 305 is. People don’t take themselves too seriously, walking down the street almost everyone is smiling and laughing. We all want to enjoy our life and have fun. When we work, we work, when we play, we play. It’s one of the few cities I’ve lived in that has all those things.

What’s your favorite Miami memory?

I have countless amazing Miami memories, but there’s one that supersedes the rest, only because it’s the most Miami thing I’ve ever experienced: having shots of Candela on Pitbull’s yacht. Yes, you read that right. Doing mamajuana shots on a yacht with Mr. 305 himself. I’m not sure there’s anything much more Miami than that!

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This question is nearly impossible for me to answer, aside from Candela, food is my thing. I spend my days thinking about what I’m to eat next. So, I’d start off my courses with something light, specifically the hummus from Abbalé, it’s amazing. After, I’d introduce a Miami staple to my palate, sushi from Uchi. If it’s sushi, has to be Uchi or Pubbelly. After those light bites, it’s time to carbo-load with the sandwich at Bocadoro and a pizza from La Natural. My grand finale would be the pistachio ice cream from Forte dei Marmi.

Where else would you go on your perfect Miami day?

My perfect day in Miami is simple — it starts by being active; I love a nice jog around Brickell Key. I find it so exciting to watch the city come to life each morning. Then I’ll make my way to the beach and spend the majority of my day there relaxing. But like I said, I’m a big eater, so I would have to stop at Moxy South Beach Hotel for lunch. After lunch, I have to digest and there’s nothing more relaxing than South Pointe Park on a Sunday afternoon.

Once I’ve gotten my sunshine and a little bit of R&R, I always love to go anywhere I can get myself a Candela drink, especially if it’s on the water. I usually find myself at Soho House sipping on a Candela Piña Colada, to continue to unwind. (Pro tip: Ask for an extra Candela floater, you won’t regret it.) If you don’t see me there I’m enjoying a happy hour at the Four Seasons at Surfside or Brickell.

What’s your favorite local social media account and why?

Only in Dade on Instagram is a must-follow. If you live in Miami, it’s where you have to get all of your official information — although I do recommend always doing some fact-checking. Somehow, Only in Dade will become the de facto news source for you; at the very least, it will provide you with never-ending local entertainment.

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

If I could give one piece of advice to locals… easy, learn how to drive. Just kidding, sort of.

I really recommend ditching the tourist hot spots and starting to explore all of the local places to eat and drink. There are so many incredible, low-key places that bring you closer to the true melting pot of culture Miami offers. (Bonus points: they aren’t going to set you back $5,000 for bottle service.) So next time you’re driving around, keep your eyes on the road and open for some of those more obscure locations.

How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?

Being in Miami makes me feel so proud of my product, our whole brand ethos is focused on celebrating the spice that life has to offer and all the different notes of Latin culture. We pride ourselves on being the most fuego brand representing Latin culture; Candela truly couldn’t be based in a better city. It’s basically like we took all the good things Miami offers, bottled it up, and shared it with everyone to celebrate every moment big and small.

Plus, this city continues to inspire our team, with each new activation, event, and celebration. We always have our Candela customers and cultures in mind.

If there was one thing you could change, address, etc. about Miami, what would it be?

There’s not much I would change about Miami. But it would be really nice if someone could fix the streets so it doesn’t flood every time it rains. I’m not sure how much it will help everyone’s driving skills, but it definitely couldn’t make them worse. So, I think it’s something we can all agree on.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

I am really looking forward to the end of the year, I love the whole Art Basel week. The amount of events and fun things to do are endless. It’s so inspiring seeing the creative world come together to celebrate the beauty in art and life. Plus, we’re always looking for a reason to toast with a drink of Candela, so be on the lookout for the parties we’re going to throw. We’re looking forward to it and seeing you.

That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2023.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.