As the only all-female, speed bartending competition, Speed Rack is changing the world of bartending by placing the spotlight on female mixologists from across the country. Eight cocktail gurus are heading to the sixth annual Speed Rack National Finals in New York City after beating out nearly 200 bartenders in head-to-head, round-robin style, timed and judged, regional competitions which took place in top cocktail cities ranging from Chicago and Boston to Seattle and San Francisco.
On May 21, the eight contestants, along with eight wildcard participants, will compete in timed heats to make rounds of cocktails, selected from a list of 50 accepted industry-standard classic recipes, as judges rate each drink based on prep time and accuracy. The winner receives the coveted title of Miss Speed Rack USA and will represent the United States at the Jameson Bartender Ball, among other prizes.
Founded by Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, Speed Rack’s goals have always been to both promote female bartenders in a commonly male-driven spirits industry and to raise money for breast cancer research, education and prevention. Since its inception in 2011, Speed Rack has raised more than $550,000 worldwide for breast cancer charities, while showcasing the talents of top female bartenders in America and abroad.
After six years of Speed Rack competitions, this year marks the launch of Speed Rack Empowerment and Educational Day on May 22. According to its site this special day is, “Created to offer impactful programming focused on empowering women and members of the spirits industry, this event will feature seminars that share the same goal of supporting women in the community and helping them build their careers and future.”
Paste: Why do you think it’s important to shine a spotlight on women mixologists?
Ivy Mix: I think it’s important to shine a light on those who want it. We created Speed Rack because the image of a mixologist was frequently of a mustachioed man with a cap and vest on, and women weren’t part of that image. We created it to say, “Here I am! Hiding behind this guy with the beard and the man bun! Give me a job!” Women needed this platform to stand on and be seen. We were always here, but it’s like no one knew.
Lynnette Marrero: I think it is always good to shed light on any group that is traditionally marginalized. The best thing about Speed Rack is we started this as a platform to raise women up, and the industry and community have embraced the women and the concept in greater ways than we could possibly have dreamed.
Paste: Why do you think it’s also important to give back to causes?
IM: People drink, and they pay to drink. Brands also host events, and people go to them for free. We wanted to combine the two and make all of our proceeds go to charity. If it’s possible, why wouldn’t we do it? It’s not hard to raise money for a cause, more people should do it! We’ve raised over $500,000 in six years.
LM: We are so fortunate to have a job that is highly valued in the fundraising space. So many charity events have a beverage component. We actually found one of our largest organizations (SHARE) we contribute to via a charity event, where women chefs and bartenders create a tasting event for their gala. In so many ways it is important to give back.
Photo courtesy of Speed Rack
Paste: What’s your favorite part about Speed Rack?
IM: I have the awesome opportunity to travel the world and see some of the most amazing bartenders demonstrate how excellent they are at their craft. It has made me a better bartender, and that is priceless.
LM: Meeting all of the incredible ladies. We just recently launched in Asia, and we are building an incredible global community. They all become friends and become each other’s network.
Paste: Why is it important for women to look out for each other in the industry as opposed to compete?
IM: Speed Rack is a competition, but really we are more of a network. For lack of a better word, Speed Rack is like a sorority. We wanted to create a network of women across the world, so we can lean on each other within this industry.
LM: The best thing is our ladies compete against each other but they are completely supportive of each other as well. It is important to use your success to raise up others and to give them opportunities. The more women we encourage to be at the top the game, the more diversity naturally will also occur, and THAT is true success for any industry to have various voices to help it be the most successful.
Hailing from California, Chelsea is an inquisitive dessert enthusiast and Golden State Warriors fan. Since graduating from Columbia University, she has amassed a colorful professional background, with experiences in industries that include news production, radio, public relations & media communications. Upon realizing that her true passion revolves around traveling the world, immersing herself in new cultures and eating, she is now a full-time freelance journalist, based in New York City. Chelsea’s work has been featured on Thrillist, The Daily Meal, Yahoo! and MSN, among other nationally recognized outlets. Follow her on Instagram and her blog .