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Catching Up with Kayla Hasbrook, the 4th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Champion

Kayla Hasbrook

She gives us a preview of what's ahead in the 5th Annual LGBT cocktail competition. 

In preparation for the premiere event of the Fifth Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, OUT sat down with 2017 Champion, Kayla Hasbrook. After fangirling over her winning cocktail, "No Sleep Til Sunrise," we wanted to get her perspective on what to watch for in this year's biggest-ever North American LGBT cocktail competition.


Above, Kayla rides down Duval St. as Grand Marshall in the Key West Pride Parade.

Read excerpts from our conversation below:

OUT: Last year you were amazing and your finale performance was so fun to watch. In a few words, how did it feel to win that cocktail classic and win for your hometown of New York?

Kayla Hasbrook: Winning for NY was really exciting. There was a lot of great talent that showed up to the national level, as well as the regional level of the competition. To be able to go to Key West and compete - that was amazing and there were a lot of really talented bartenders there!

That's awesome! Now, post-win, what is your favorite way to enjoy Stoli Vodka? Are you mixing up anything new?

If I'm out at a bar or a pub, it's always Stoli Ohranj and Soda. It's really simple. But, currently I am heading up a beverage program at new restaurant in New York called Scampi. Our feature vodka cocktail on the menu is Stoli Premium with lemon, Aperol, Prosecco, pomegranate and tarragon. Think of it like an herbal take on an Aperol Spritz, with Stoli Premium Vodka.

Wow- that sounds delicious! So tell us, when you were competing in Key West, how did you feel you were able to differentiate yourself from all this amazing talent that was there?

Well to start, I was one of only three girls to compete. And even on the national level, I think I was one of only ten females to compete in the competition. I was definitely the minority in that way. I think that what set me apart was the fact that I rehearsed my presentation, as far as jiggering goes, and made sure everything looked really tight and was measured. It was definitely a fun competition, but I took it very seriously - not to say that everyone else didn't, but I practiced a lot.

What reaction did members of your hometown community and your friends have to you winning this title?

They were all really excited- and I don't know that they were surprised! I have a lot of really great friends and family back home, and so when I told them I was going to Key West to compete, they sort of expected me to come back with a win. For women, for New York, and for the community, I was really happy I was able to make that happen.


Above, Kayla celebrates her win with her competitors at the 2017 Main Finale.

Looking forward to all these awesome 2018 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic competitors who are about to compete in their local competitions, what is some important advice you can share?

First of all, make a delicious cocktail! Number two, focus on the story, because when you get up there it is simply not enough to just make a drink. Ideally, you are going to be telling the judges and the audience a story about why you are making the drink. And then, practice, practice, practice. There are tons of videos and resources online, or talk to people who have competed in other bartending competitions. Practice makes perfect.

While you were in Key West, what was the most exciting part about being out and about in that beautiful place with all these fellow competitors?

When we first arrived, we did a sunset Catamaran cruise. That was where we got to meet everybody. Everyone from all the cities, and their "plus ones" came together. There was a DJ and we all just got to dance and hang out and really enjoy being with one another before we had to get super competitive.


Above, Kayla kicks off the Finale Week in Key West with the Sunset Cruise of Champions.

You and Stoli made an amazing donation to Planned Parenthood with your winnings. How did you come to choose Planned Parenthood?

Well, with the potential of defunding Planned Parenthood in the current administration, it just seemed like something that was really relevant. Reproductive health is a genderless issue, as both men and women use resources like Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has also paved the way in a lot of HIV detection and prevention, so it seemed like a great cause for gay people, for men and for women in our community.

Absolutely, and it was. Now looking to this 2018 competition, do you expect to see any cocktail innovations presented this year? Have you noticed any market trends?

For me, I think the people are definitely focused on fresh ingredients and things that are locally sourced. So I expect to see a lot of that in the competition. Maybe things that are local to Key West. I'm hoping to see a little bit of Tiki in the competition this year, so maybe some really fun over-the-top, celebratory garnishes!


Above, Kayla's Winning Cocktail: "No Sleep Til Sunrise."

I am very excited to see how it all pans out and to see what people bring to the table. Thank you so much for taking the time today!

Thank you so much!

To find out more about the Fifth Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, to apply to compete, and to RSVP to an event near you, visit

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