By Jane Applegate
Sixteen of America’s fastest female bartenders are heading to New York City on May 16 to compete in the Speed Rack National Finals at Element, a trendy bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. More than 200 women competed in contests held at bars around the country to make the final cut, according to the organizers.
The contest, which raises money for cancer charities, is the brainchild of Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero (pictured left), respected female bartenders working in New York. So far, they say the competition has raised more than $150,000. The upcoming event at Element, 225 E. Houston St., runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Information is available at: http://www.speed-rack.com
Miss Speed Rack USA wins an all-inclusive trip for two to France and a chance to attend the Cointreau Bartender Academie. The winner will also be offered a scholarship to the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) five-day educational program. (The contest is named after the speed rack—the place where a bartender stores the bottles and supplies she uses most frequently).
Ever wonder why there are so few female bartenders? Like other male-dominated professions, it’s extremely tough to break into the world of bartending. Most women work as cocktail waitresses and never make it behind the bar. It takes years of hard work and help from a mentor to get into the profession, says Speed Rack co-founder Ivy Mix.
“I started bartending at 19 while I was going to Bennington College,” says Mix. During the winter term, she avoided the icy Vermont winters by working in a bar in Guatemala.
“I loved being the social conductor of the bar,” says Mix, who currently tends bar at the Clover Club, one of the coolest bars in Brooklyn. When she’s not working with her friend, Lynnette on Speed Rack events, Mix works as a brand ambassador for Tequila Ocho and Piede Almas, a brand of mescal.
Mix worked for years as a cocktail waitress before Julie Reiner, a respected bar owner and beverage director at the Flatiron Lounge and the Clover Club, gave her a chance to prove herself as a bartender. Reiner also mentored Lynnette Marrero, an actress who started her career in musical theater. Between gigs, Marrero worked as a temp to pay the bills. Tired of temping, she started working in a wine bar and then served cocktails in a martini lounge. Reiner also serves as a Speed Rack judge.
When a reporter for Beverage Girl asked Reiner why there are so few female bartenders she replied, “I guess it’s a very competitive, testosterone-filled, aggressive thing for a lot of people,” adding that the women she’s trained are, “so fast, they are able to multi-task, they’re able to handle things coming at them all at once and not get flustered. She says successful female bartenders are “tough girls” who have to be heard over a crowd.
Reiner initially hired Lynnette as a cocktail waitress, challenging her to learn how to make a new cocktail every day. “Julie gave me a shot behind the bar and I started doing bar consulting.”
Both Speed Rack organizers trained with master distillers and continue to hone their craft. They also belong to Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, a sort of sorority for female bartenders.
I’ll be covering the competition on May 16. If you are in the New York area, we’ll see you there.
If you want to try a cocktail made by a finalist in your area, here’s a list of finalists:
• Shel Bourdon, Phoenix, Arizona
• Karah Carmack, Esquire Tavern, San Antonio
• Ashley Danella, PB Steak, Miami, Florida
• Jacyara DeOliveira, Chicago
• Sheridan Fay, El Gran Malo, Houston
• Elisabeth Forsyth, Blue Box, San Antonio
• Victoria George, Rickhouse, San Francisco
• Amanda Hammond, Niche, St. Louis, Missouri
• Lacy Hawkins, Luc Lac, Portland, Oregon
• Madelyn Kay, Austin, Texas
• Naomi Levy, Eastern Standard, Cambridge, Mass.
• Liz Pearce, The Drawing Room, Chicago, Ill.
• Eryn Reece, Mayahuel and Death & Co., New York City
• Paige Unger, Extra Virgin and Michael Smith’s, Kansas City
• Jillian Webster, Harvard & Stone, Los Angeles, Calif.
• Jaki Winkles, Alambiq Mixology, Miami, Florida
For more interviews and videos about successful women visit:http://www.fabulousfemalenetwork.com