SPEED RACK: The Bartending Competition That Gives Back

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A little bit ago I had the opportunity to attend a "new to me" event called Speed Rack.  Never heard of it? Well neither had I before I was approached about covering the event, so let me enlighten you! Speed Rack is a very cool, all-female bartending competition that raises money for Breast Cancer Research. Created in 2011 by Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, Speed Rack has become an increasingly popular event that boasts female empowerment while doing good.  To date, Speed Rack has raised more than $500,000 for Breast Cancer Research. 

This year, Speed Rack entered it's 6th Season, hosting competitions in Boston, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago & New York.  Speed Rack arrived in Houston back in February and I was super excited to attend.  I'm not an alcohol enthusiast but I do love a great cocktail every now and then, and the speed factor/round robin style of the competition made it even more intriguing. I definitely wanted to see the female bartenders go head to head and race against the clock! 

Speed Rack Co-Founder, Lynette and Ivy
25 female bartenders participated in the competition.  They were from all over the region; Austin, Houston, etc. 4 people, extremely knowledgeable on alcohol were picked to judge the competition: Alba Huerta (owner and head bartender, Julep Houston), Jason Kosmas (founder, The 86 Co. and Employees Only), Anne Louise Marquis (national portfolio brand ambassador, Campari America), and Robin Nance (national brand ambassador, Auchentoshan Scotch). Each round consisted of two female bartenders racing to make 4 drinks that were picked by each one of the judges.  When they finished making the drinks, they hit the buzzer. However, just being the first one done was no guarantee that you would win the round.  The judges sampled all of the drinks and judged on time and accuracy to the cocktail recipe.  If something was off, they added more time to your buzzer time. 

The Judges' Table
Chris Bostwick, Owner of Half Step Austin was the EmCee.

With 25 bartenders, there were a lot of rounds.  Whoever won their first round moved onto the next round and so on.  I had plenty of time in between competitions to check out everything else that was going on inside 215 Grove.  I think every alcohol brand known to man was represented around the event.  Each brand had their own station for sampling.  There were so many brands that I'm really curious how people left this event, without being full inebriated! hahaha. Since I'm not a big drinker, I only tried a couple things here and there. I was mostly interested in the fun goodies that all the brands were giving out! 

I stayed all the way till the end to see who the winner was! I'm very proud to say that local HOUSTON bartender, Elyse Blechman from Tongue-Cut Sparrow won the final round against San Antonio Bartender Zulcoralis Rodriguez. Because Elyse won the Houston competition, she'll travel to New York for the final round at the end of this month! 

Winner Elyse! Photo Credit: Emily Jaschke

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