Dry January is over, and just in time for Speed Rack, a high-intensity bartending competition coming to Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on Feb. 13.
The contest features an all-women lineup of mixology mavens stirring up cocktails as fast as they can to impress a panel of expert judges. The winner of the Denver round earns a spot in the Speed Rack final, which takes place during the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans this summer.
New York City industry veterans Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero founded Speed Rack in 2011 to showcase the female (and female-identifying) bartending talent that was otherwise absent in the country’s most well-known cocktail lounges.
“You’d go around to the ‘best cocktails bars in the world’ and there weren’t a lot of women in them. And the idea was why not? And when we asked, the response was, ‘Well, we don’t know any,’” Mix said.
So the two decided to create a space where women could literally take centerstage and showcase their chops. Over the last decade-plus, Mix and Marrero have seen representation grow behind bars across the U.S., but they maintain there’s still work to do.
“We fight for diversity in bars. The people competing in Speed Rack are at the top of their game. Not just people who bartend — this is their life and livelihood and career,” Mix said. “Like so many places, once you get to the tippy top, there’s not a lot of diversity. So we need to diversify. At the end of the day, you have a more hospitable experience for those coming (into the industry).”
On the morning of the event, Speed Rack will host a preliminary qualifying round where 20 bartenders from the South and Southwest will compete for eight finalist spots. Colorado has a sizable showing with 10 ladies in the preliminary lineup, repping establishments such as Death & Co., Mile High Spirits, and Somebody People/Everyday Pizza. (See the full lineup below.)
During the open-to-the-public competition, two bartenders at a time will go head-to-head and create a classic cocktail as quickly – and accurately – as possible. Recipes will be selected at random from a pool of cocktails previously disclosed to competitors. The rounds will continue until there are just two bartenders left and one is crowned winner.
While attendees won’t get to try the cocktails made on stage, they will get to sample libations from sponsors with booths onsite and buy drinks from the Cervantes’ bar as they watch the ladies shake and stir. That includes some nonalcoholic offerings, too, Marrero said. Colorado’s own DJ Cyn will cater tunes throughout the event.
Tickets to Speed Rack cost $25 at speedrackdenverseason11.splashthat.com and 100% of proceeds benefit organizations dedicated to fighting breast cancer.
Here’s who you could see competing during Speed Rack:
- Tamara Bouma of Happy Accidents in Albuquerque
- Regan Capozzella of Brooklyn’s on Boulder Street in Colorado Springs
- Kennady Christensen of Alibi Bar & Place and The Green Room in Salt Lake City
- Sabrina Cookson of The Fifth String in Denver
- Thumper Cooper of The Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City
- Mandy Darias of Mile High Spirits in Denver
- Desiree Fromm of Pearl Diver in Nashville
- Michelle Glancey of Gold Point and Room for Milly in Denver
- Summer Goff of Death & Co in Denver
- Emily Horn of Somebody People and Everyday Pizza in Denver
- Samantha Hunsaker of Pigtails Downtown and Coabana in Phoenix
- Callie Isaac of 503W in Colorado Springs
- Dominique Jackson of KHLA in Phoenix
- Beans Magaña of Platform 18 at Century Grand and MercBar in Phoenix
- Molly Martinez of AstroPub at SpaceX in Brownsville, Texas
- Krista Orlebeck of Pony Up in Denver
- Ella Rodel of Golden Moon Speakeasy in Golden
- River Spickard of Altar Spirits in Santa Fe
- Savannah Ward of Milonga Room in Austin
- Becky Rose Wesnidge of Sky Bar in Aurora
Speed Rack comes to Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom (2637 Welton St., Denver) on Feb. 13 from 5 to 9 p.m. Tickets to Speed Rack cost $25 at speedrackdenverseason11.splashthat.com. Entry is restricted to those 21 years old and up.
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