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Meet Victor Borbolla: The NYC Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic 2018 Champion

Victor Borbolla

"It’s my mission to make sure you walk out of my bar happier than when you walked in."

OUT caught up with Victor Borbolla from Hardware Bar NYC - the recently named NYC 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 Victor had to say about the competition.

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

Victor Borbolla: Everything happened so quickly! I completely missed my notice that I had been chosen to compete and actually only found out 24 hours before the competition. I went from not knowing I was competing to winning in such a short amount of time. I kept catching myself looking like a crazy person on the subway back home saying, "I can't believe that just happened." I'm both proud of myself and a little anxious. Last year's winner in Key West is from New York, so I'm hoping to keep the win in NYC.


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

Having such a short amount of time to create a cocktail might have actually worked to my benefit. The time limit forced me to really rely on who I am and the people who raised me. I wanted to dedicate this cocktail to the Cuban women of my generation that influenced me through their culture, food, and even music. The most prominent of ingredients being Guava, which my family loves to put on EVERYTHING!

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.

So many of us in the LGBT community rely on gay bars as a means of finding each other. We use these places to drown out the discrimination we see on the streets, in the news and even at home. My role behind that bar is to help facilitate a fun and safe experience for everyone, including myself. I, of course, serve drinks to those looking for a good time. But it's also my mission to make sure you walk out of my bar happier than when you walked in.


As you know, part of your prize for winning the NYC 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?

Yes! I grew up in South Florida and my parents would take me and my brothers to Key West on vacation. However, this was so long ago. I've never visited Key West as an out and proud gay adult. I'm so excited to experience all that Key West has to offer to the the LGBT community.

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 haven't! How cool is that?! To be named Grand Marshall of any pride parade is such an honor. The closeted young version of myself who visited Key West with his parents is 'yasss'-ing so hard right now.

What importance have Pride celebrations had on your life?

New York City is my favorite place in the whole world. I'm lucky enough to call it home. Pride celebrations in NYC are not taken lightly. We use that week to celebrate, but more importantly to remember those who fought for us to be able to celebrate so freely. Pride celebrations mean nothing without acknowledging those who suffered and sacrificed so much for my generation. Pride is a reminder that we've come far, but we still have more work to do for the generations that come after us.


In Key West, you'll be competing for a chance to win a portion of $20,000 for your hand-picked charity, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Anything you want to mention on your relationship to that organization, or why you picked it to represent?

BCEFA organizes an annual striptease spectacular named #BroadwayBares. It's one of the best nights of the year, and I'm actually participating for the first time this year. Throughout the months of May and June, performers throughout NYC raise money that helps provide lifesaving medications, nutritious meals, health care, counseling, emergency financial assistance and so much more to men, women and children in all 50 states living with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.

Is there anything you want to say to your competitors as you head into the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Finale - June 5th - 12th in Key West, FL?

We're all already winners. Regardless of the outcome, there's no way to not have fun. Plus, I want to taste each and every one of your cocktails! See you soon.

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

To keep up with Victor and the rest of the action in the 5th Annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, visit

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