OUT caught up with Kimber Bering -- one of our favorite competitors from the 2016 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic. 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 - 11, in Key West, Florida. Here's what Kimber had to say about the competition.
OUT: What initially inspired you to get involved in Stoli's Cocktail Classic?
Kimber Bering: Well, a friend of mine won a past Stoli competition and told me I should enter. So I came up with my cocktail, The Paisley Park martini, and entered. After reading about all of the charity work Stoli does, I was sold.
How was your experience in the 2016 Grand Finale in Key West?
Everyone at Stoli made my trip to Key West absolutely magical. I didn't let anyone know, but at the time of the competition I was homeless, couch-surfing with friends until I could get on my feet. The competition gave me an avenue to destress from my situation, cope with troubles I was having emotionally, and recollect myself.
Overall, the entire grand finale trip was an INCREDIBLE experience. I don't think any of us cocktail classic champions from around the country were expecting to connect as much as we did, and the Key Wet locals were so hospitable and fun to hang out with for a week.
I came out to the world as transgender several months after the Stoli Key West Classic, at the end of November, 2016, and my Stoli family has been so supportive. I couldn't ask for more!
Is there any moment from the event that's stuck with you?
The last day we were on the island, we all woke up in the morning looking forward to the Key West Pride parade, only to find out about the tragedy at Orlando's Pulse nightclub. For me, it took a few hours to even process and understand the severity of what had happened hours before.
Later that night, all the Key West Cocktail Classic competitors came together and celebrated life and unity at a vigil for those affected by the devastation. It was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.
The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic honors the legacy of LGBTQ bars as some of the original safe spaces and community centers, and celebrates the role bartenders have played throughout that history. Has your experience working in the world of LGBTQ nightlife had a personal impact on you?
Absolutely, I have experienced so much working in LGBTQ nightlife given that I've lived my entire young adult life as a bartender. I represented The Abbey in my extension of Stoli's Los Angeles competition, and working there has been an amazing experience. I love getting to know people from different walks of life, and hearing stories from individuals of all ages. I owe much most of my social skills and ability to connect to bartending in the LGBTQ nightlife scene.
Are you looking forward to taking part in any future Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic events?
I would LOVE to be a part of future Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic events! Judging or performing my music at the finale would be amazing! I just need the invitation first, haha!
What would you tell someone who might be thinking about competing in the Stoli Key West Classic next year?
DO IT! It is such a rewarding experience, and not to mention so much fun!
What're you up to now?
I've actually been working on my music, and have a single that will be out in the first weeks of June titled, 'JUICE'! It will be available on Spotify and iTunes, if you want to check it out!
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