Think: Top Chef meets Roller Girls. With a twist of lemon.
Sunday, a crowd of several hundred people packed into Century Ballroom to cheer contestants in the Seattle round of Speed Rack, a national women’s bartending competition. Master “mixtresses” from all over the Pacific Northwest — including representatives from Capitol Hill’s Tavern Law, Liberty and Smith — slung their best and fastest cocktails in pursuit of the title of Miss Speed Rack Seattle.
“We wanted to give women an opportunity to shine at their highest level,” said Tess Mix, twin sister of famed bartender Ivy Mix, one of the co-founders of the competition. “It’s still a male-dominated industry. Some classic cocktail bars only hire men. A lot of women in the field go overlooked, even though they’re just as hardcore and bad-ass as any of the guys.”
Created by and for female bartenders, all proceeds from the contest go to breast cancer education, prevention and research. And, as everyone knows, charitable fundraising involving booze, boobs, and booze-and-boob-related puns is better than all other kinds.
Not a mere contest of speed; contestants are also graded on the flavor, nuance, and artistry of their creations.
At the beginning of a given round, each of the four judges orders a different cocktail (one example: an Old Fashioned, a Singapore Sling, a Daiquiri, and a Last Word). The two contestants then have mere minutes to rack up the drinks in an astonishing flurry of pouring and mixing and shaking.
The judges then sip and critique the finer points of each beverage—kind of like Padma Lakshimi on Top Chef, only a bit sauced. (Or, per the reports of Melrose Market cheesemonger Sheri LaVigne, exactly like Padma Lakshimi).
Audience members were not left out of the booze-fest. Sponsors provided Big Gulp-sized “tastings” of cocktails made from their products. At one point, full-sized coupes of a St. Germain cocktail were passed down to the audience from the stage, for some reason. Nobody complained.
“It’s very empowering and encouraging,” echoed Speed Rack competitor Crystal Bertholic of Bon Bon Lounge in Spokane. “I didn’t win, but I’ve had a great time being part of this event.”
Although local “bartendrixes” represented our ‘hood well, the 2013 Miss Speed Rack Seattle title ultimately went to Lacy Hawkins of Seattle’s (friendly!) arch-nemesis craft cocktail city, Portland, Oregon. Winners in each regional competition will go on to participate in the Miss Speed Rack USA Contest in New York City in the spring.
Seattle may not hold the regional title, but audience members will agree that playing host to the contest is way more fun.