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Meet Jaime Ortiz II: The Dallas Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic 2018 Champion

Jaime Ortiz

"When you learn to accept yourself no matter what, you can be happy."

OUT caught up with Jaime Ortiz II from Station 4 Dallas - the recently named Dallas Champion in the 5th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic - fresh off his win. The Cocktail Classic is Stoli's annual competition recognizing North America's brightest Bar Stars. LGBT bartenders and allies across the U.S. and Canada compete to represent their home city during the Key West Pride Week Finale, June 5-11th, 2018. Here's what Jaime had to say about the competition.

OUT: Congrats on being named the Dallas Champion in the 2018 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic! How does it feel to win in the 5th Annual Competition in your hometown?

Jaime Ortiz II: It truly is an honor to have won the competition this year in Dallas. It was a tough one to beat, and any one of my competitors was just as deserving. The first week after the event was sort of a blur until the next competition happened and I got to see my first competitor for the Key West Finale, and then it became real and the nerves starting kicking in.

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You were truly #RaisingTheBar with a super creative cocktail, "Key West Flaming Orange". Can you tell us a little bit about the drink, and your inspiration behind it?

The drink is a mix of my take on Florida's culture and what people have always believed my personality to be, not necessarily flaming, but the Latin fire that I guess can come out.

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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.

Those that have paved the way before me really deserve the recognition, but the moment it really opened my eyes was when the Pulse Nightclub tragedy happened. The fear of going to work was front and center and we had to go through safety drills because of it. Then the fear of whether our customers would even come out, would they feel safe? The Sunday night after was a surreal moment. People came out and you could see and feel the sadness in the atmosphere. You could also see the pride outshine everything else. We were not scared away or pushed back into the darkness.

By remaining hopeful and having faith that no matter how dark our day gets, we can find sanctuary in knowing that there is always a place to be you, an open ear to listen to, and a seat with your name on it. The presence can now be felt and seen, showing the true nature of family connection within our community is tasked with maintaining that serenity and comfort that we provide, and the strength we portray.

That's beautiful. Part of your prize for winning the Dallas competition is an all-expense-paid trip to Key West, FL this June. Have you ever been to Key West before? What are you most looking forward to as part of this trip?

I have never been to Key West or to Florida. I'm always looking forward to seeing other cities and their culture/scene. I have heard many interesting stories about Key West. Like, are there really chickens just running around freely? When I travel, I try to make it a point to visit the Aquarium everywhere I go, so looking forward to doing that too!

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And if you take home the title, you'll be named Grand Marshall of the Key West Pride Parade. Have you ever been the Grand Marshall of a parade before?

I have not, and I will be honored to represent Stoli and the Great State of Texas!

What importance have Pride celebrations had on your life?

You witness and learn that people come from all walks of life. Pride celebrations honor that journey, that struggle, and the diversity that make up our coommunity. When you learn to accept yourself no matter what, you can be happy, and you really can live and love.

In Key West, you'll be competing for a chance to win a portion of $20,000 for your hand-picked charity, the Marine Conservation Institute. Anything you want to mention on your relationship to that organization, or why you picked it to represent?

I have a strong love for the sea, so my pick is the Marine Conservation Institute. I believe there is still so much to be learned about our vast oceans, but we as humans are taking advantage of it or are unaware and not taking care of what is our greatest mystery and gift. I want there to be something for future generations to go and explore the wonders and beauty, and to become inspired as I was as a child.

Is there anything you want to say to your competitors as you head into the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Finale - June 5th - 11th in Key West, FL?

I'm excited and stoked to be in Key West and to meet my Stoli competitors. While we may be competitors during that time, I hope to go away making lifelong friends and to uphold the motto of Key West by adding them to my One Human Family.

Amazing. Well we can't wait to see what innovative cocktails you stir up this June. Good luck and know that all of Dallas will be rooting for you to keep #RaisingTheBar!

To keep up with Jaime and the rest of the action in the 4th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, visit OUT.com/KeyWestCocktailClassic.

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