OUT caught up with Josh Pocock - the recently crowned Washington, D.C. 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 Josh had to say about the competition.
OUT: Josh, congrats on being named the Washington, D.C. Champion in the 2017 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic! How does it feel?
Josh: It feels great. I've been working in the LGBT community for about 5 years now and this really makes me feel a part of it more than ever!
You were able to get an edge up on the rest of your DC competitors with a super creative cocktail, "Purple Haze". Can you tell us a little bit about the drink, and your inspiration behind it?
Well I wanted to do something fun and unique to really catch the eyes of the audience and what better way to do that than with a color changing drink?! I'm usually a whiskey drinker, but when I do drink vodka its often Stoli blueberry or raspberry, so I decided to incorporate both of those into the drink. The color changing aspect prevented me from using juices, puckers, and things that would cause a pH change because of the special dye I made that changes colors based on pH. So that's why I decided to do a martini, it's primarily all vodka so I didn't have to worry about other ingredients interfering with the color change. So that gave me the idea to improve upon the classic and beloved lemon drop martini and to make a blue raspberry lemon drop, which also worked perfectly with the purple coloring of the drink. The dry ice and sugared rim definitely added the extra flare to the drink and really made it an eye catcher and helped tie it in with the tropical theme.
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.
So about five years ago I was offered a job as a barback in a LGBT bar in Washington D.C. At the time I knew very little about the community but was curious to learn more about it. Over the years I have fallen in love with this amazing community and have made lifelong friends in it. I have learned so much about the community and truly understand the importance of how gay bars aren't just bars but are safe places for people in this community. This makes me and others that work in the LGBT nightlife much more than just bartenders. We are therapists, a shoulder to cry on, a place to vent, a friendly needed smile, and the list goes on. I love that I can be there to help people and to help them feel safe and accepted. I see the struggles that people in this community face and it's such a great feeling to know that I can have a positive impact on them!
As you know, part of your prize for winning the DC competition is an all-expense-paid trip to Key West, FL this June. Have you ever been to Key West before?
I have! I've been twice before and it's honestly one of my favorite places to visit. It's such a fun atmosphere to be in!
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 but it would definitely be an awesome and honoring experience if I do win it!
And in Key West, you'll be competing for a chance to win $2,500 to $7,500 for your hand-picked charity, Whitman-Walker Health. Anything you want to mention on your relationship to that organization, or why you picked it to represent?
I would choose to donate to Whitman-Walker Health in Washington D.C. because they are huge part of the community in this city. They have been around since the late 70's and have been here helping battle the HIV/AIDS epidemic in D.C.
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 honestly just really excited for the experience and to hopefully come home with new friends from around the country. But... I'm definitely coming to compete, too, so watch out!
Amazing. Well we can't wait to see what innovative cocktails you stir up this June. Good luck, and know that all of Washington, D.C. will be rooting for you!
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