Feats of cocktail-making magic are always a privilege to witness; knowing the action supports breast cancer charities only makes it better. Sunday, January 8, I had the good fortune to attend the sixth national Speed Rack competition, hosted at Washington Hall in Seattle, WA. Established in 2011, Speed Rack’s purpose is to celebrate women in the bartending industry: putting the focus on female mixologists while raising funding for breast cancer research. To date, the organization has donated more than $500,000 to breast cancer charities around the world.
For the Northwest regionals, a group of 21 talented young women from the West Coast went head-to-head in speed contests, shaking their way to the top in front of a panel of four judges. The panel included Kathy Casey, founder of Liquid Kitchen, Paul Clarke, executive editor of Imbibe Magazine, Tan Vinh, the cocktail columnist for the Seattle Times, and Charlotte Voisey, director of brand advocacy for William Grant & Sons. The charismatic emcee for the event was Co-founder of Ford’s Gin, Simon Ford.
Off the stage, attendees were treated to a smorgasbord of distilled beverages and swag bags. I personally may have come away from the event with a few new pins for my denim jacket, but chose to decline the free pair of sunglasses and beaded necklace I was offered by one vendor. Representatives from multiple spirits producers were present, including Ford’s Gin, Four Roses, Knob Creek, Jameson, Campari, and special guest: Imbibe Magazine. About 150+ attendees swarmed through the hall at any given time, dispersed over two stories of premium spectator space, with great views of the cocktail-shaking action. The crowd was a healthy mix of Seattle’s best: ranging from hipster techies, to biker babes, to suburban dads. As the event went on, the cheers became louder and more enthusiastic, no doubt lubricated by the free-flowing alcohol and synth-pop beats of DJ Sissy Chablis.
Cocktails chosen for the competition were pulled from a list of 50 accepted industry-standard classic recipes, and ranged from a classic Paloma to a Blood and Sand. The Seattle-favorite, the Last Word, also made an appearance in one of the final rounds. The regional competition was fierce, but in the end Jacyara de Oliveira of Rob Roy and The Hideout came out victorious. In 2015, Jacyara won Miss Speed Rack Chicago in the fourth national tour, and made it into the top 8 over 5 consecutive years. She advances to the national finals in New York on May 21, 2017.
(All photos courtesy of Wagstaff Worldwide. Article written by GSN West Coast correspondent Noel Frodelius-Fujimoto)