OUT caught up with Matt Gutowski from Port Bar Oakland - the recently named Northern California 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 Matt had to say about the competition.
OUT: Congrats on being named the San Francisco Champion in the 2018 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic! How does it feel to win in the 5th Annual Competition in your hometown?
Matt Gutowski: It feels great. The competition was pretty close and I couldn't be happier with the outcome.
You were truly #RaisingTheBar with a super creative cocktail, "Jalapeno Popper". Can you tell us a little bit about the drink, and your inspiration behind it?
The inspiration came from my mother. Growing up, she used to make a homemade raspberry and jalapeno jam and I wanted to recreate that.
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 lucky to have experienced many different aspects of nightlife. As the General Manager, I sort of feel like I come in as a caretaker as well. It really is one of the most important building blocks for our community.
As you know, part of your prize for winning the San Francisco 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 before. I'm super excited to meet the other bartenders from across the country and Canada. It should be a super unique experience.
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, and I could only hope to make Key West and San Francisco proud.
What importance have Pride celebrations had on your life?
Pride is - and has always been - about remembering our past and the journey we continue to blaze as a community.
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?
Good luck and don't f*@# it up!
Amazing. Well we can't wait to see what innovative cocktails you stir up this June. Good luck, and know that all of San Francisco will be rooting for you to keep #RaisingTheBar!