OUT caught up with Daniel Dean - the recently crowned New Orleans Champion in the 2017 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic - fresh off his win. The Cocktail Classic is Stoli's annual competition to find North America's Number One Bartender. LGBTQ bartenders and allies across the U.S. and Canada will compete to represent their home city on the grand stage of cocktail mixology during Pride Week, June 7-11th, in Key West, Florida. Here's what Daniel had to say about the competition.
OUT: Daniel, congrats on being named the New Orleans Champion in the 2017 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic! How does it feel?
Daniel: I am so excited. It's definitely an honor to be a part of the Key West Cocktail Classic. The New Orleans event was beyond fun, I can't wait to see what the Key West event brings.
You were able to get an edge up on the rest of your New Orleans competitors with a super creative cocktail, "Venetian Razberi". Can you tell us a little bit about the drink, and your inspiration behind it?
Well the drink was inspired by a weekend in Key West when I met a guy from Venice. He had some sort of raspberry chapstick on. So you can use your imagination on that. So I decided to bring those elements into the drink and add my own personal flair as well and the rest is kind of history now.
The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic honors the unique legacy of gay bars as original safe spaces and community centers and the role our bartenders have played as hosts and caretakers throughout history. Tell us about what your role as a nightlife professional means to you.
I started working in a gay bar in college and it really has helped shape me as an out and proud gay man. It was before Grindr and all the other apps and so my first experiences were that of a true safe space to find and explore my sexuality without judgment. I honestly don't think I would be as comfortable with myself if it weren't for those early years having a place to feel free to just be me. Now over a decade later I'm so glad that I'm still submerged in that community and get the opportunity everyday to help give that space of freedom and expression to a new generation.
As you know, part of your prize for winning the New Orleans competition is an all-expense-paid trip to Key West, FL this June. Have you ever been to Key West before?
I have been many times. It truly is one of my favorite places. It reminds me a lot of New Orleans. It's a place where you can just be yourself and everyone is so welcoming. I couldn't be more excited to make another trip down.
And if you take home the title, you'll be included as the Grand Marshall of the Key West Pride Parade. Have you ever been the Grand Marshall of a parade before?
I have not. I have been partaking in pride events for years and have had the opportunity to represent many of the bars I have worked at on their floats but never gotten the opportunity yet to be a Grand Marshall. It would just be the icing on the cake to be able to.
And in Key West, you'll be competing for a chance to win $2,500 to $7,500 for your hand-picked charity, The Trevor Project. Anything you want to mention on your relationship to that organization, or why you picked it to represent?
The Trevor Project hits far too close to home for me. I have had a few friends that have taken their own life. I think the gay community has had many hardships from being accepted. Some of those hardships are very difficult to deal with and sometimes sadly some LGBT individuals feel they can't continue dealing with that. I want to make sure that every person, especially in the LGBT community, knows that if they need help that it's available, that they know where they can turn to for that help, and that if even one life is spared I think that is a great accomplishment. I also love the community education work the Trevor project does on signs of depression and thoughts of suicide. If we all are educated on warning signs and how to approach someone showing those signs to stop someone from taking their own life, it would be amazing.
Any advice (or trash talk!) for your competitors as you head into the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Finale - June 7th - 12th in Key West, FL?
I'm not much of a trash talker, but I'm just hoping that the bond of bartending will bring some amazing friendships, and that we bring out the best in each other and have an amazing competition. But with that said I'll be bringing everything I've got including my tiniest speedos.
Amazing. Well we can't wait to see what innovative cocktails you stir up this June. Good luck, and know that all of New Orleans will be rooting for you!
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