Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic carries 'Visibility' theme for 6th-annual event in 2019

Sat. February 2, 2019 3:13 PM by Ross Forman

patrik gallineaux

photo credit // stoli group
The annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, which is the world's largest LGBT bartender competition and show, will have a "Visibility: Making it Loud and Clear" theme for 2019.

"In 2019 World Pride will be celebrated in June in New York City, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising," said Patrik Gallineaux, who is the Global LGBT Ambassador and USA Manager, Stoli Group. "The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic strives to bring visibility to our community in the spirit of Stonewall, and each bartender must in some way define an element of their presentation that represents standing out or courageously bringing a new spotlight to something previously unseen."

This year marks the sixth-annual event, which kicks off March 6 in Dallas with the first regional competition. There will be 16 cities represented in the competition, including Key West. This is one more than last year and two less than the record 18 that competed in 2017.

The Dallas event will tentatively be filmed for an episode of "Real Housewives of Dallas."

The Chicago night for local bartenders to shine – and win a trip to the finals in Key West – is May 11 at Sidetrack. "It wouldn't make sense without Chicago," he said. "Sidetrack, our host venue, has been a part of this since day one and I always so look forward to the time I get to spend with the amazing people of Boystown."

Joe Lewis (Berlin) was the Chicago representative at the 2018 finals in Key West.

"Lewis was an absolute joy and represented Chicago with creativity and style, (and) his Stoli Shark Bite cocktail definitely tickled my fin," Gallineaux said.

The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic has awarded $55,000 to date to first- and second-place North American winners to hand off to their chosen hometown charities as well as partnered non-profits in Key West, Gallineaux said.

To showcase the "Visibility" theme of 2019, bartenders can interpret the theme in multiple ways, Gallineaux said. For instance, "a cocktail/presentation can be inspired by a person, place, film, or song that has stood out to them as bringing visibility to and really defining its genre.

"One could also pick 'Madonna' or 'Lady Gaga,' or any artist (from movies, TV, shows, etc.) who did something 'Loudly and Clearly' and made a new and significant impact on pop culture."

The 2019 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic culminates June 5-9 in conjunction with Key West Pride.

"We are always looking for new ways to involve the audience, and also to make the scoring as fair and inclusive as possible," Gallineaux said. "This year, we are adding a 'text to vote' mechanic which will allow all audience members to vote for best bartender presentation at a certain point in the show. Also, we are keeping the opportunity for up to 100 members of the audience to sample each bartender's cocktail and vote for their favorite based on recipe and taste, but this year it will be a blind sampling, meaning, the intent is for the audience to be able to know the cocktail name and ingredients, but not to know who actually created the cocktail."

Gallineaux said the 2018 event was "the most passionate to date."

"While every (year) has been exceptional, the 2018 (regional) champions exuded the meaning of the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic to the hilt. The theme was, 'Raising the Bar,' and these Bar Stars certainly did."

The 2018 North American champion was Jo McDaniels from Washington, D.C.

"We had more familiar faces back in 2018 than ever," he said. "The people are what really make this program so rewarding. In addition to the amazing new bartenders we meet every year, seeing so many brilliant co-hosts, judges, and talent join us again across all cities on the tour made it feel like the biggest homecoming. And to have in Key West such luminaries as Bruce Villanch, Jai Rodriguez, LeeAnne Locken, Sushi, LaToya London, Jennifer McClain, and Debby Holiday all together is a dream."

The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Pride Week Finale from 2018 will be featured on this season's premiere episode of "Don't Be Tardy" (Bravo TV), starring Kim Zolciak. "It was an experience, that's for sure," Gallineaux said.

-- Gallineaux said that, after the success of the 2018 limited-edition Harvey Milk Tribute Bottle, there may be a follow-up edition in 2019.

-- "As always, a huge thanks to our important partner, the Key West Business Guild, and our unsung hero, Greg Tromba of HE Travel. Greg may be the most patient and talented LGBT agent in the country; HE Travel and Greg have made sure each and every bartender, judge, Stoli Guy, and celebrity guests gets to and from Key West in style and on-time. We couldn't do it without them."