NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Stoli® Group USA, LLC, in partnership with the Key West Business Guild, kicked off the return of the world’s largest annual LGBT bartender competition, the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, last night. Now in its fifth year, this is not a typical cocktail competition, as bartenders are judged on much more than the taste of their Stoli-based drinks with creativity, authenticity, knowledge and presentation factoring heavily into the equation, determined by a panel of judges and consumers, who can apply to cast votes on-site at www.out.com/keywestcocktailclassic. Fourteen cities across the USA and Canada will play host to regional competitions with the theme “Raising the Bar,” beginning tonight in Dallas and culminating in New York City on May 16th.
Finalists will win a seven-day, all-inclusive trip to represent their city at the Finale, which will be held June 5-11th in Key West and is scheduled to include celebrity guests: actor and musician Jai Rodriguez, writer and Emmy Award-winner Bruce Vilanch, American Idol’s Latoya London, star of the annual CNN-televised New Year’s Eve “High Heel Drop” Sushi, dance diva Debby Holiday, and Real Housewives of Dallas star LeeAnne Locken. The 2018 Stoli Key West Cocktail Champion will serve as the 2018 Key West Pride Parade Honorary Grand Marshall and receives $15,000 for charity, a celebration and check presentation at their home bar, and a trip for two to either Vancouver or San Diego Pride 2018. The first runner-up wins $5,000 for charity plus a weeklong Grand Canyon Water Rafting Adventure, courtesy of HE Travel, North America’s oldest LGBT travel agency. The charity donations are split between winners’ chosen non-profits and Key West non-profits each bartender is paired with in advance. Last year’s Champion, Kayla Hasbrook, won $7,500 for Planned Parenthood of New York and $5,000 for the Key West Firehouse Museum.
“This year, we are proud to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Key West Business Guild, as well as the 40th anniversary of Harvey Milk being sworn into office; 1978 was indeed an important year,” said Patrik Gallineaux, Stoli’s National LGBT Ambassador and Brand Manager. “The Key West Cocktail Classic recognizes the most innovative bartenders in the country, whose spirit – personally and inside the glass – are reflective of Key West, an island that has been a safe space for so long, and of Harvey Milk, a man whose life opened closet doors for so many.”
Alan Beaubien, President of the Board of the Key West Business Guild, added, “As the oldest LBGT marketing organization in the country, the Key West Business Guild is extremely proud to be able to partner with Stoli for the Cocktail Classic and our June 3rd-11th Pride Week Celebration. For five years, Stoli has shown its support to the LBGT community and to the KWBG through this spectacular event series that this year will give back $20,000 to charity while building awareness and support for the importance of the LGBT culture and community. It is with great pleasure that we welcome Stoli and all participants, friends, and fans of the 5th annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic to Key West, where we are truly and forever, as our motto reads, ‘One Human Family’.”
In addition to recognizing the talents of the industry’s top LGBT bartenders, the Cocktail Classic celebrates the role that gay bars have played as original community centers and the LGBT and ally bar stars who continue to raise the bar for equality today. For more information about the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic including how to apply, rules, guidelines, and all the recipes from our 2017 champions visit www.out.com/keywestcocktailclassic and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @Stoli and using the hashtags: #stolipride #raisingthebar #stolikeywest.
About Key West Business Guild
The mission of the Key West Business Guild is to promote LGBT travel to Key West through marketing and the promotion of specialty events; to support gay-owned, gay-managed, and gay-friendly businesses; to strengthen the Gay community's position within the local community by supporting relevant LGBT issues. The KWBG was founded in 1978 by 8 local gay business owners and has grown to approximately 400 members, which work together to continue efforts to brighten the rainbow over the island, an island now known as Gay Key West. Promotion of events, such as Key West Pride, Tropical Heat and Womenfest, has made Key West a year-round LGBT travel destination. For more information visit www.kwbgonline.org.
About Stoli® Group USA, LLC
Stoli Group USA is the proud importer and marketer of the Stolichnaya® brand of premium vodkas and Stoli® Ginger Beer, ultra-premium elit® Vodka, Louisiana-distilled Bayou® Rum, Kentucky Owl® Bourbon founded in 1879, “Tequila with a Soul” Cenote, super-premium Se Busca Mezcal, Achaval-Ferrer™ from Argentina, and Arinzano wines of Spain. Formed in 2013, Stoli Group USA is headquartered in New York City and is a subsidiary of SPI Group in Luxembourg.