OUT caught up with Calvin Drent - the recently crowned Chicago 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 Calvin had to say about the competition.
OUT: Calvin, congrats on being named the Chicago Champion in the 2017 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic! How does it feel?
Calvin: I am super excited! Not only for a trip to Key West, but also to represent Chicago. I felt like a celebrity the night of winning. My cheeks hurt so much from smiling and laughing.
You were able to get an edge up on the rest of your Chicago competitors with a super creative cocktail, the "Key West Crush". Can you tell us a little bit about the drink, and your inspiration behind it?
I really wanted to make something that I would drink while on a sunny tropical vacation, but with a kick. I used the original Stoli and the brand new Stoli Crushed Pineapple with some ginger beer, sour mix, grenadine and the special ingredient was rhubarb bitters.
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.
Gay bars are home for many people. Its the one space where you can let it all hang out (figuratively and literally). You don't feel the need to look over your shoulder as you kiss your partner, or worry about getting beat up for wearing a rainbow pride flag. I always love going back to where I grew up and hitting up the bars where I learned what it is to be "gay". I think the entire staff (not just bartenders) play a critical role in welcoming everyone no matter who you are or what you identify as in the broad spectrum of sexuality and gender.
As you know, part of your prize for winning the Chicago competition is an all-expense-paid trip to Key West, FL this June. Have you ever been to Key West before?
I have been to Key West a few times. Once was when I was 21 for a week-long vacation with some newly found friends. The other was during a cruise, so that doesn't really count. I love it there!
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?
LOL, OMG, NO! I mean I wish that people would ask me to do that. It would be an awesome experience.
And in Key West, you'll be competing for a chance to win $2,500 to $7,500 for your hand-picked charity, Howard Brown Health. Anything you want to mention on your relationship to that organization, or why you picked it to represent?
When I first moved to Chicago I didn't have a lot of money, I used their services when I needed to see a doctor. Howard Brown does a great job with financial assistance and is very LGBTQ friendly.
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 going to take the political route here and say I can't wait to meet everyone, Just do your best! But then the devil on my shoulder says I hope that my necklace doesn't break while going down the stairs.
Amazing. Well we can't wait to see what innovative cocktails you stir up this June. Good luck, and know that all of Chicago will be rooting for you!