OUT caught up with Spencer Luster from Pardon My French - the recently named San Diego Champion in the 5th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic - fresh from the 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 Spencer had to say about the competition.
OUT: Congrats on being named the San Diego Champion in the 2018 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic! How does it feel to win in the 5th Annual Competition in your hometown?
Spencer Luster: Pretty freaking amazing! It was cool to get to have a fun night in front of our entire community! We're like a big family out here in San Diego, so it really just felt like a big party with a bunch of friends!
You were truly #RaisingTheBar with a super creative cocktail, “Ruby Slipper”. Can you tell us a little bit about the drink, and your inspiration behind it?
The first time I tried Stoli Crushed Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka, I was crazy about it! I knew that whatever cocktail I made with it needed to be super simple. The last thing I wanted to do was to cover up the amazing flavor of the vodka. Just a little lemon juice and elderflower liqueur are used to compliment the amazing flavor that Stoli already created.
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.
I'm a very unique individual and my biggest role in our community's nightlife venues is to show everyone around me that it's okay to be completely different and to be yourself without being afraid or ashamed. When people look at me they see pride and strength and fearlessness. I want to help everyone I can feel like they can be that person for someone else to look at, too.
As you know, part of your prize for winning the San Diego 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 been once before about 7 years ago right after I turned 21. I'm most looking forward to re-visiting the bars I went to last time. I was new to everything and all by myself when I was in Key West the first time, and I really felt like the the staff at all of the places I went to looked out for me.
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've never been a Grand Marshall of a pride parade. But you better believe I'll be ready for the task with one killer costume and all of the sparkle I can sew on to it!!!
What importance have Pride celebrations had on your life?
Being raised in a small southern town in Georgia, there was never anyone quite like me around. I spent a lot of time feeling like I stood out too much and there was no one I could completely connect with. Going to my first Pride celebration in a big city brought tears to my eyes. It was the first time I got to see people like me be out and proud of who they are. Seeing them shower each other with love was flooring to me.
In Key West, you’ll be competing for a chance to win a portion of $20,000 for your hand-picked charity. Anything you want to mention on your relationship to that organization, or why you picked it to represent?
I'll be supporting two charities, actually. The San Diego LGBT Community Center, which is always doing everything they can to help and educate our community. And the San Diego Gay Mens Chorus, which I am so proud to be a part of. We're the emotional support system in our community. Whether times are good or bad, we take great pride in always showing up.
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 cannot wait to meet you, fellow competitors! I've already seen videos of a lot of you and I think we're all going to have so much fun together. Let's put on a show for all of Key West to see!
To keep up with Spencer and the rest of the action in the 4th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, visit OUT.com/KeyWestCocktailClassic.