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Time to buy tickets for Speed Rack national finals, May 8

Houston bartender Alba Huerta (The Pastry War) competes at the 2012 national Speed Rack Finals. This year's finals take place May 8 in New York City.
Houston bartender Alba Huerta (The Pastry War) competes at the 2012 national Speed Rack Finals. This year's finals take place May 8 in New York City.
Robert Haynes-Peterson

Speed Rack—a national bartending competition celebrating female bartenders and promoting breast cancer awareness—comes to NYC on May 8 for the 2014 national finals. Pitting 16 craft bartenders from around the country (eight regional finalists and eight wild cards), the rock-and-roll-influenced event combines classic cocktail know-how with high-pressure, timed cocktail production before an esteemed panel of judges.

"Speed Rack was a way of testing craft bartenders on their skills of execution under pressure," says co-founder Lynette Marrero of the three-year-old event. With industry luminaries like Julie Reiner (Clover Club), Dale DeGroff (The Cocktail King), Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club) and Charlotte Voissey (international brand ambassador for William Grant and Sons), the event is no local flair contest, though one might be forgiven for thinking so given the raucous environment.

The event attracts a large crowd of both industry insiders and thirsty casual drinkers, given that your ticket includes access to cocktails by sponsors such as Auchentoshan Whisky, Beefeater Gin, Altos Tequila, Absolut, Jameson, Del Maguey Mezcal and dozens more. People cheer on their favorite bartenders while some of the city's most prominent male bartenders act as barbacks, cleaning up competition stations, refilling ice buckets and providing clean glassware.

"Speedrack definitely united the industry," says Marrero. "Guys were proud to back the Rack and be a part of the celebration of women." But the event isn't only about mad shaking skills. Ticket proceeds, along with a well stocked silent auction and a rowdy live auction have raised over $200,000 for breast cancer awareness and research charities. "Many people helping had a personal interest in the cause."

"For those outside the industry, many people initially respond to the cause, but they quickly learn that the event shows that craft bartending can be a fun, rock-and-roller-derby-style skill set. People are so impressed to see the intensity with which the women work, and how amazingly they handle the pressure."

The prizes are no small potatoes either. The 2014 Miss Speed Rack SA will receive an all-inclusive trip for two to the Anjou region of France, a tour of the Cointreau distillery with seminars, education and classes through the Cointreau Bartender Acadamie. She will also receive a scholarship for the very intensive five-day Beverage Alcohol Resource program in New York City.

This year's finals take place from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 8th at Stage 48 in Hell's Kitchen (605 West 48th St). Tickets cost $30 in advance and $35 at the door and can be purchased at TicketWeb. For more information, visit

This year's judges include Reiner, DeGroff and Kate Krader of Food & Wine Magazine. Pernod-Ricard's Chris Patino returns for emcee duty. Contestants for the 2014 national title include:

  • Elisabeth Forsythe (Blue Box) Austin, Ms. Speed Rack Texas 

  • Mia Mastroianni (Soho House West Hollywood, LA) Ms. Speed Rack San Diego
Caitlin Laman (Trick Dog) Ms. Speed Rack San Francisco
Liz Pearce (The Gage) Ms. Speed Rack Chicago
  • Shannon Ponche (Mayahuel and NiteCap) Ms. Speed Rack NYC
  • Angel Teta (Ataula, Portland, OR) Ms. Speed Rack Seattle

  • Paige Unger (Extra Virgin, Roeland Park) Ms. Speed Rack Kansas City

  • Jaki Winkles (Miami Heat, AlambiQ) Ms. Speed Rack Miami
  • Victoria George (Rickhouse) San Francisco Wildcard Winner
Lacy Hawkins (BAR) New York City Wildcard Winner
  • Jojo Martinez (J. Martini Bartender Services, Houston) Texas Wildcard Winner

  • Carisa Cola Lynch (Bar Rossa, Eudora) Kansas City Wildcard Winner

  • Julia Momose (The Office and The Dawson) Chicago Wildcard Winner
  • Amanda Reed (Tavern Law) Seattle Wildcard Winner

  • Tina Ross – Harvard & Stone (Los Angeles) San Diego Wildcard Winner
Oxana Vladimirovna (Blackbird Ordinary) Miami Wildcard Winner


Thirsty for more? Check out National Spirits Examiner or NY Drinks Examiner.
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FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author's own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author received no comps or samples in connection with this article. Author has been invited to attend the 2014 Speed Rack Finals as media, but unfortunately is not able to cheer the ladies on this year. You should go.

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