Dade Duke will testify, there’s something to be said for determination. For four consecutive years, Duke competed in Dallas at the regional level of the Stoli Spirit of Key West Cocktail competition, the only contest of its kind for the LGBT community. Unfortunately, each year he managed to be passed over by the judges. And then February happened. “I think the reason I won regional this year is because I was more relaxed this time around,” the happy-go-lucky barman recalls. “I was doing it just to have fun.” But mostly, Duke was confident in his artistry. His cocktail, The Key Westerner, combines Stoli vodka, muddled cucumber and basil, and lemonade accented with ginger beer. But Duke didn’t stop there. He served his libation in a mason jar and garnished it with a pineapple wedge cut in the shape of Texas. The cocktail made the judges swoon, earning Duke a spot at the national competition in Key West in mid-June, where he brought home a trophy for 2nd runner up. “It was a wonderful experience,” Duke says. “They put you up in a nice hotel, take you on a sunset cruise on a catamaran, and put you in the Pride parade.” Sounds pretty festive, and we’re sure it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned behind the bar?
I’m more respectful of everybody that comes in. When you’re a bartender you realize how much you have in common with people you may not have related to before. I never hung out with drag queens or younger people before I became a bartender, but now I do.
What’s the biggest misconception about bartenders?
That we go home with a different customer every night. When you’re bartending, you get home at six in the morning. No customer is waiting for you that long. Even if they did, you wouldn’t want to do anything with them after you’ve been sweating on your feet for nine hours. Trust me, all you want at that point is a shower, a breakfast burrito and bed.
What’s your worst bartending habit?
When I’m busy, I get this really focused look on my face and my mouth hangs open. People start to ask if something’s wrong with me, or if I’m mad, but I’m just concentrating hard on getting drinks out. So, I‘ve learned to sing when I’m in the weeds, because it animates my face. Oh, and I dance a lot.
What’s your biggest customer pet peeve?
Have your drink order and method of payment ready. That’s the worst, when I get to you and you’re hemming and hawing. Use the time you’re waiting in line to get your order together.
What’s the best part of the job?
The social interaction. It feels like you’re the center of the party, and I love that. On a good night, when people are living it up and you’re right in the middle of it, it’s a great feeling.
And the worst?
The hours are tough. It’s hard on relationships. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who understands.
For more info: The Round-Up Saloon is located at 3912 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, TX, 75219; (214) 522-9611.
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