A competition called Speed Rack puts the best female bartenders front and center— and raises money to fight breast cancer.

Kate Krader
December 29, 2014

Throughout January, F&W will spotlight the top women in food and drink. Nominate the women who inspire you using @foodandwine and #FOODWINEWOMEN and they could be featured next. Here, a look at the Speed Rack competition, which puts the best female bartenders front and center—and raises money to fight breast cancer.

Two women in pink t-shirts stood on stage, surrounded by glasses, shakers and bottles of booze. At a table with three other judges, I watched anxiously as the crowd counted down to zero. This wasn’t a weird Hunger Games–style contest; it was Speed Rack, the amazing, all-women bartending competition. Launched in 2011, Speed Rack was created by two bartenders, Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix, to highlight women in the industry and raise money for breast-cancer research.

“Lynnette and I sat down over chicken wings and beer during the Super Bowl,” says Mix. “We had the same philanthropic ideas and girl-power notions.” There are now Speed Rack competitions in eight cities around the country and in Europe.

Back on stage, the timer sounded and the two contestants began furiously shaking cocktails with one hand and stirring with the other while the crowd cheered. The women worked so fast, I lost track of the drinks. Was that my brandy sidecar being strained? After two minutes, the competitor on the right punched the buzzer. She had made four very different drinks (including an exquisite sidecar) in the time it takes me to fix one G&T. I felt like I’d witnessed some sort of cocktail miracle, but it wasn’t ultimately record-breaking. The fastest Speed Rack time belongs to Caitlin Laman, who made a Negroni, a Hanky Panky, a Rob Roy and a Singapore Sling in just 1 minute and 39 seconds. speed-rack.com.

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