Ask a Bartender: 17 Questions with Ivy Mix of Clover Club
When she’s not bartending at Clover Club — one of Brooklyn’s most revered craft cocktail bars — Ivy Mix is busily traveling to major cities around the country, running her increasingly popular charity bartending competition, Speed Rack.
Speed Rack is a double shot of entertainment — good drinks and a good charity — as well as a double entendre: the all-women challenge pits female bartenders against each other as they race against the clock to create their alcoholic concoctions, and all the proceeds benefit breast cancer charities.
Although she started it as a "cheeky joke" a couple years ago, Mix has taken a small idea and turned it into a soon-to-be-worldwide success, with the most recent addition of the United Kingdom contest (the second one is already being planned for this year) and Australia (also in the works), as well as future plans for a Europe leg.
Mix is currently working on the third season of stateside Speed Rack, which kicked off recently in New York and is traveling to Miami and Austin later this month.
The Daily Meal: So, Ivy, what turns you on about bartending?
Ivy Mix: I started bartending when I was younger in Guatemala. Later, I started working more with cocktails. I originally fell in love with bartending because it was social, and I could be around people and socialize for a job; I could also do it anywhere in the world, which meant I could travel. Then I started cocktail bartending, which was more creative, and I got to integrate my arts background.
TDM: When did you realize you wanted to make this your career?
IM: I have been bartending since I was 19, starting in Guatemala. I think I knew I wanted to do it as a career when I realized that it was more creative and that I was having more fun working my bar shifts than I was working in galleries.
TDM: Where/when was your first gig? How many bartending jobs have you had?
IM: Café No Sé in Antigua, Guatemala, in 2004. And I have no idea… a lot.
TDM: Do you think there’s still a social stigma about bartending being a "boys’ club"?
IM: I think that that whole "boys’ club" thing is maybe not as stark as it used to be. Those boys are my boys, too. If it’s all of our club, I’m cool with that.
TDM: You’ve been at Clover Club for the last two years. What do you enjoy most about bartending there?
IM: I love Clover because I think it’s truly one of the best bars in America. It’s a local bar, and it’s also a destination. Cocktails are guaranteed on point, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t just order a small beer and a whiskey and enjoy yourself.
TDM: Clover Club has made quite a name for itself the last five years. In what ways do you think it stands out from other Brooklyn bars?
IM: Julie Reiner (my boss) has done an excellent job hiring the appropriate staff and having her influence shine through. We are a family there, and a damn good family.
TDM: What’s your input on the cocktail program?
IM: I submit cocktails for the menu during each change. It’s a great way to take pride in what we’re serving people.
TDM: What are some of your favorite cocktails on the menu?
IM: Love the Clover Club [gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry syrup, and egg white], goes without saying. I also love [fellow Clover Club bartender] Brad Farran’s No Country For Old Men [Carpano Antica, tequila, mezcal, lemon, Crème de Cacao, mole bitters, habanero shrub]. It’s not currently on the menu, but you should order it anyway.
TDM: What spirit is sexiest to you? Why?
IM: Mezcal. I think it goes without saying.
TDM: For you, which spirit is the most versatile?
IM: Hmmm. Good question… I would have to say either tequila or gin. Not any one is the same and depending on the botanicals in the gin or the terroir of the agave, you can take different notes and make different cocktails.
TDM: When the tables are turned and you’re the guest, do you order the classic cocktail or the spot’s specialty?
IM: Depends what I’m in the mood for and if I’ve been there before. I usually like to try out the gambit, but nothing beats a Negroni [gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange twist].
TDM: It’s 4 a.m., and the bar is closed. What’s your poison for your own post-shift cocktail?
IM: Sherry or mezcal.
TDM: Let’s talk about Speed Rack, a national — excuse me, now international — high-speed, female-only bartender competition and breast cancer fundraiser that you started, what, about three years ago. What inspired this?
IM: Speed Rack is my baby brainchild. I co-founded it with Lynnette Marrero, my partner, and now here we are. The inspiration was that we weren’t seeing that many women in bars and wanted to change that, or at last draw the women out from the rocks they seemed to be living under. While we were at it, we wanted to push that pun further and drink for a good cause so 100 percent of our proceeds go to breast cancer-related charities.
TDM: Ten U.S. cities — from Boston to San Diego — were included in last year’s competition, and you also headed to London that summer, which took the charity to an international level. Did you imagine this would escalate so quickly?
IM: I had no idea. It started off almost as a cheeky joke, and now it’s my full-time job. I couldn’t be happier!
TDM: So, how did it go in London?
IM: It went fantastically. For right now, we simply have the U.K. winner, but are working on what we might do if this goes global (fingers crossed!).
TDM: What are your hopes for the competition moving forward?
IM: I hope we continue to be innovative and exciting and that our cause gets more attention.
TDM: I hear the quasi motto is, "Let’s save some boobies!" I bet that’s a big draw to the competitions…
IM: Who doesn’t like boobs?!