Stephanie Krawczyk ’15 was outside walking her dog in February when she got a notification that the United States Bartenders’ Guild had posted a reel to its Instagram page.
At the time, Krawczyk, director of restaurants and bars at the Lido House hotel in Newport Beach, California, was a top 100 finalist in a bartending competition called the USBG (United States Bartender's Guild) presents World Class sponsored by DIAGEO. She hoped this random notification would relay the news that her non-alcoholic spritz cocktail recipe landed her a spot in the top 30—and it did.
“I opened my phone, and I was watching for my name,” Krawczyk said. “Then I saw a little tiny photo of me pop up and I thought, ‘no way!’ That was how they told us initially.”
A native of Easthampton, Massachusetts, Krawczyk started working in restaurants the day she turned 16 when she accepted a position at Roberto’s, a Northampton eatery owned by her neighbor. She originally enrolled at Suffolk University with the goal to become a lawyer, but ultimately transferred to the Isenberg School of Management and graduated with a degree in hospitality and tourism management.
“I grew up working in hospitality and fell in love with the industry and the ability it has to change people’s days,” Krawczyk said. “Hospitality is so intimate and emotional—you really can make people’s lives a little bit better.”
The summer after Krawczyk graduated from UMass Amherst, one of her mentors helped her secure a job as a seasonal bartender at the Nantucket Yacht Club. At the end of the summer, she took a bartending job in Big Sky, Montana, at the Yellowstone Club, and worked there until heading further west for a restaurant manager position in San Diego, California.
“It was extremely high-volume—we did about $45,000 a day in sales,” she said. “But I really missed being behind the bar, interacting with guests and having the creative freedom to do my own things with cocktails.”
Krawczyk moved north to Orange County and became a bar manager for Nordstrom’s restaurant division. “I had the freedom to do and make whatever I wanted to,” she said.
Krawczyk became a head bartender at the Lido House in 2018 and was promoted to restaurant manager in 2021. She advanced to senior food and beverage operations manager soon after, and in 2022, she took on her current position as the hotel’s director of restaurants and bars.
“It’s been pretty cool to see my career come full circle in such a short period of time,” Krawczyk said.
At the Lido House, Krawczyk has full autonomy over the cocktail menus for two of its businesses, The Mayor’s Table Pacific Pub + Kitchen and Topside Roof Deck. Those menus change around four times a year, and Krawczyk partners with the hotel’s owner and executive chef to pair her cocktails and vision with the menu. She also oversees food and beverages at the hotel’s pool and is responsible for the general finances of the hotel’s food and drink business.
“I still have a lot of creative freedom,” she said.
While her passion for hospitality is innate, Krawczyk said her UMass education and the connections she made as a student have been invaluable in her career.
“UMass gave me a strong foundation for the confidence that I have in myself to go out in the world, move across the country, and do what I love,” she said.
Krawczyk first submitted a recipe to the World Class U.S. Bartender competition in 2019 but did not make it further than the top 100. This year, she created a zero-proof spritz made with Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits that catapulted her to success.
Since making it to the top 30, Krawczyk has been preparing for the rest of the competition. She’s slated to attend the national finals in Austin, Texas, on May 16–18, where she will compete in three timed challenges.
The first is a sustainability- and community-focused task sponsored by Ketel One called “Garnished with Good,” for which Krawczyk will create a zero-waste raspberry peach cordial and team up with Marriot to promote women behind the bar.
The second challenge, sponsored by Johnnie Walker and called “Walk with Me,” asks contestants to think of a public figure who is doing good in the world and create a drink with their work in mind. For this test, Krawczyk is creating a scotch cocktail and tying in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which supports the wellness and empowerment of young people. For the final trial, Krawczyk will have to create eight cocktails using a given list of ingredients in 10 minutes.
Once the top five bartenders are chosen, they will compete in a blind challenge before one is crowned the U.S. champion. After that, the winning bartender advances to the World Class Global Finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“It’d be great to win, but I’m not cutthroat. I’m not going to keep my recipes close to the chest,” Krawczyk said. “I will share anything people want to know. Sometimes, people take these things too seriously, but I want to have a good time doing what I love. It’s important to me to uplift other bartenders, creating camaraderie and cohesion rather than animosity and tense competition. Building up the community and educating each other will always be more important to me than winning anything.”