OUT editors sat down with the Key West Cocktail Classic 2016 Champion, Rocky Collins. The Dallas native who competed representing the Round-Up Saloon and won an all-expense-paid trip to Ibiza, Spain, reminisces about his wild ride to #1, offering some advice for this year's competition. His philosophy about bartending and life in general, as he puts it, is simple: "A positive attitude is contagious."
OUT: What was it like going to Key West last year knowing you were representing your hometown of Dallas, TX?
Rocky: I was an absolute wreck! The Round-Up Saloon has had contestants qualify several times, so there is a legacy to live up to. Representing Dallas at such a high profile event is a lot of pressure, so I just did what I do best, entertain!
How did you prepare for the grand stage at Key West?
Practice, practice, practice. The best way to come across as confident and effortless is to be REALLY WELL rehearsed. My poor manager, Mark. He worked with me long hours honing my presentation.
Looking back, what was your favorite part about Key West?
While we were there, the tragic events in Orlando took place. The range of emotions that took place in such a short span of time cannot accurately be described. I went from being paralyzed with fear to empowered with confidence. The organizers of the contest and community of Key West as a whole came together so quickly to show a united front of support and love. It was really overwhelming to have been a part of.
There was a lot of talent at Key West, and you rose to the top. Did you find yourself learning from your contestants as well?
Absolutely! I learned so much from the EXTREMELY talented bartenders that hI competed with. I would be a fool to go into something like this thinking that I knew everything. I watched and learned many things that have made me a better bartender.
What was it like going back to your hometown of Dallas Texas as the official champion?
Surreal. I came home to a "Hero's Welcome". The guys that I work with, the community, Dallas in general, a whole world opened up to me. I received a Letter of Congratulations from our City Councilman. And of course, Stoli went above and beyond to throw a truly phenomenal celebration where I got to present a rather large check (literally and figuratively) to my chosen charity beneficiary; DIFFA: Dallas (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS).
It's been a whole year since you took the stage at Key West. What are you up to now?
I'm still throwing a party. Every night that I work, like I said before, I want you to have as great a time as I am. If you had a bad day, come spend some time with me. I will have you smiling and chanting, "5, 6, 7, 8," in no time.
What's your advice for any bartenders competing in this year's classic?
Don't be afraid to be yourself. You go tinto this business because you like people. Let that show.
What's your message to all LGBT bartenders out there?
We as LGBT bartenders have a responsibility. We have the unique position to interact with people from all walks of life. We are to be ambassadors not only for our respective clubs, but for our communities. We get to put a smile on their face and help them forget about their problems, if only for a few monents.
What kind of drink recipes are you mixin' up now?
The "Key West Kitty Kat" has a permanent spot on my shot line-up, and of course, how can you go wrong with anything made with Stoli.
What is your favorite way to drink Stoli Vodka?
On the rocks. Their flavors mix so well, but some times you need to enjoy it the way it was intended.
Rocky Collins will surely be following all the updates on this year's Key West Cocktail Classic. You can stay tuned through OUT's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages!
All prizing for the 2017 Key West Cocktail Classic courtesy of the Key West Business Guild. To apply to compete in the 2017 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, click here.
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