New York bartender wins big in Key West
He came down to Key West. He mixed up a new drink.
And he became North America’s No. 1 bartender, according to a vodka company.
A New York bartender wowed the judges at the Key West Cocktail Classic over the weekend, one of many events that took place during the 2019 Pride festival in Key West.
Sam Benedict was declared the winner of the final competition, held in the 700 block of Duval Street on Saturday, for his creation, the Key Key.
The Key Key combines Stoli Vanil, the juice from tiny yellow Key limes, coconut milk, pineapple juice, simple syrup, egg whites and bitters.
“Never having been to Key West, I had to do a lot of homework, and Key lime pie was my first stop,” said Benedict, who tends bar at Club Cumming in New York City. “I started messing around with Key lime flavors and this is what I came up with.”
Stoli vodka sponsors the event and is Stoli’s North American champion in the vodka brand-sponsored contest. Benedict won $10,000 for his hometown charity, Gays Against Guns, and $5,000 for his chosen Key West charity, Habitat for Humanity.
Benedict and other finalists were chosen during two elimination rounds that featured 14 regional champions competing on the outdoor stage.
Judges included Lance Bass, the former NSYNC singer, “American Idol” finalist LaToya London, comedy writer and actor Bruce Vilanch and Key West drag queen Sushi.
They evaluated the cocktails on their appearance, aroma, balance and taste, as well as the bartender’s showmanship.
Key West’s Pride featured a week’s worth of parties, dances and contests and a big parade down Duval Street on Sunday that included Mayor Teri Johnston, City Commissioners Clayton Lopez, Mary Lou Hoover and Jimmy Weekley and local businesses and charities. Benedict served as one of the grand marshals.
Pride 2019 also included a special underwater planting of a flag that incorporates the rainbow flag and the “Conch Republic,” which is Key West’s alter ego, on an artificial reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The flag went up Friday on the 523-foot-long Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, which sits about seven miles south of Key West. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the sinking of the vessel. The rainbow flag will stay on the Vandenberg throughout the summer.