Get your shakers started and your jiggers jiggling, lady barkeeps: It’s nearly time for the return of the US Speed Rack tour, the all-female speed-bartending competition with a passion for record-setting gin-slinging on behalf of a worthy fundraising cause. Founded in 2011, Speed Rack has raised more than $500,000 for charities supporting breast cancer research.
In nine scheduled 2016-2017 events, the top female bartenders in America will go shaker-to-shaker competing for industry glory and the Miss Speed Rack USA crown. The sixth national tour will travel over seven months to eight cities — Chicago (Nov. 14), New York City (Dec. 12), Seattle (Jan. 8), San Francisco (Jan. 29), Atlanta (Feb. 12), Houston (Feb. 19), Boston (Mar. 5), and Denver (Mar. 26) — before crowning a winner at the Speed Rack US Finals in New York on May 21, 2017. To date, Speed Rack has held nearly 50 competitions, including two in the U.K., making Speed Rack the largest network for female bartenders.
Equal parts spectator sport, cocktail bonanza, and charity fundraiser, Speed Rack is served up by Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix, the booze queens who were named among the “Most Innovative Women in Food & Drink” by Food & Wine and Fortune magazines, and were nominated for Wine Enthusiast’s 2016 Wine Star Award as “Mixologists of the Year.”
“Speed Rack has created a community for badass female bartenders across the country and despite being a cutthroat competition, it has boosted their careers in a heavily male-dominated industry,” says Ivy Mix. “Combining speed, agility, accuracy, bar smarts and literally blood, sweat and tears, Speed Rack slaps down the notion that bartending is solely a man’s world. The culture of Speed Rack is also aggressively charitable, which is our motivation for creating a drink-making competition that not only shapes the next generation of women behind the stick, but also gives back in a big way.”
Speed Rack competitors go through a rigorous elimination process. After preliminary cocktail battles, 20 semi-finalists per city are whittled down to eight. Then contestants compete in timed heats to make cocktails culled from a list of 50 classic recipes in front of an audience and panel of judges. The US judging panel includes cocktail luminaries such as Julie Reiner, Dale DeGroff, Paul Mcgee, and David Wondrich, as well as editor Kate Krader, and chef Josh Habiger.
The finalists from each city will join the Speed Rack founders for an educational trip to both the Jameson Distillery in Ireland and the Altos Tequila Distillery in Arandas, Mexico to witness the distilling process. The newly crowned Miss Speed Rack USA will win a scholarship to the five-day program at BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource).
Additional sponsors include Auchentoshan Scotch, Bacardi Rum, Fords Gin, Four Roses Bourbon, Stolichnaya Premium Vodka, Anchor Distilling, Fratelli Branca, Knob Creek Rye, St-Germain, Cointreau, Del Maguey, and Grand Marnier USA. Charity beneficiaries have previously included SHARE Cancer Support, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Susan G Love, and The Helen David Foundation.