It’s May and that means that it’s once again time for the fastest cocktails, shaken or stirred. The finals of the annual Speed Rack competition, the all-female bartending contest that pulls in some of the best mixologists from around the country, take place Sunday, May 22 at New York’s Webster Hall. In addition to making for a thoroughly entertaining evening of bartending-as-sport (as well as featuring some excellent cocktails for spectators), Speed Rack serves as fundraiser for breast cancer research and, to date, has raised over $350,000. Pick up a ticket that will get you into the show as well as provide you with unlimited cocktails here for just $30.
Now, as Speed Rack is coming right on the cusp of the summer drinking season, we wanted to know what all the bartenders think we should be using in our cocktails. Here, the finalists’ thoughts on some unexpected ingredients that will greatly improve your warm weather beverages and how to use them.
Madelyn Kay – VOX Table; Ms. Speed Rack Texas
“I'm crushing hard on Alessio Bianco vermouth right now. I mostly use it by putting it in a glass then putting said glass to my face, but it would also be delightful in a wet gin martini or maybe lightened out with some soda and fresh herbs.”
Christine Wiseman – Break Room 86; Ms. Speed Rack Nashville
“My number one ingredient for summer that consumers might not have is Chareau Aloe Liqueur. I’d use that as a base for a delicious spritzer or if I want to pump it up, add some tequila or gin in gimlet or a French 75 variation.”
Emily Yett – Herbs & Rye; Ms. Speed Rack Las Vegas
“One summer ingredient I love is the plum. As a fan of iced tea, I would make a simple ice pick (usually vodka, iced tea and lemon juice) with sherry, aromatic bitters, black tea, and fresh sliced plums.”
Lacy Hawkins – The NoMad, Clover Club; Ms. Speed Rack New York
“If you don't have any Cocchi Americano Rosso in your fridge, go get some immediately. It works as an aperitif or addition to any cocktail. It has floral and berry flavors, but with a spicy and subtly bitter finish. I really enjoy it in a highball with soda water and a squeeze of lemon. Or, it makes an incredible 50/50 martini using a citrus forward gin like Tanqueray 10 or Martin Millers and a grapefruit twist to finish.”
Alicia Walton – The Sea Star; Ms. Speed Rack San Francisco
“I've really been enjoying the products from Lo-Fi Aperitifs. They feature a sweet and dry vermouth, along with a gentian amaro. All three can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, and are great for mixing as well!”
Genna Barone – Franklin Café; Ms. Speed Rack New England
“I would recommend Amaro Nonino! It is a digestif from northern Italy. It is great on ice by itself on a warm day, or perfect with some bourbon, aperol, and lemon, in a Paper Plane for a refreshing cocktail.”
Haley Holman – Capitol Hill's Canon Bar; Ms. Speed Rack Seattle
“A summer cocktail ingredient I’d recommend is Stiggin's Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum. It makes my all-time favorite daiquiri. Mix the rum, lime and sugar, and you have the perfect summer cocktail.”
Marissa Huth – Bordel; Ms. Speed Rack Chicago
“I have found myself particularly interested in working with La Quintinye Vermouth Royal lately. It's a vermouth made with white wine, botanicals and Pineau de Charentes - which gives it some really unique qualities. Pineau de Charentes is a spirit made by mixing and aging grape juice and cognac, and is adored by many bartenders. The Extra Dry vermouth is my favorite.
It's a great way to make low ABV cocktails - which are also becoming more popular as a way to drink more responsibly and for longer periods of time. I personally would enjoy this with other apertifs - like Suze, Aperol or Soda.”