Food and Wine recently published an article on the Best Cocktail Bars in the U.S. Among those listed were several Seattle favorites: Good Bar, Rob Roy, Tavern Law, and Canon. The Emerald City has long been a center of culinary culture, but a recent influx of hipster nerds and edgy tech geeks has brought a new demand for ‘classy alcohol’, putting a larger focus on the local offerings.
I had the opportunity to visit one of these bars after a long day at work last week, and imbibe in a drink created by none other than Speed Rack Northwest champion, Jacyara de Oliveira. After her decisive victory in the regional competition, I followed up with her to ask a few questions about bartending, booze, and boobs (proceeds from Speed Rack’s events are donated to Breast Cancer charities around the world).
To begin with, Jacyara is a relative newcomer to the Pacific Northwest. Her origins lie in Chicago, IL where she started bartending about six years ago. Starting off as a bar-back, her introduction to the restaurant and bar industry came through her brother, who also works in the business. She quickly worked her way to the front of the bar, before entering Speed Rack’s first national competition in the Windy City. Though she did not make the finals that year, she won Miss Speed Rack Chicago in the fourth national tour in 2015, and made top 8 for five consecutive years.
When asked about her pre-competition warm-up routine, Jacyara explained that she and several other contestants would practice speed trials together, offering each other tips and planning out bar top layouts for optimum speed-shaking. The camaraderie among the contestants translated well to the stage on Sunday, January 8, with plenty of hugs and high-fives to go around. Only the top 8 out of 21 women made it to the regional event earlier this month.
According to Jacyara, the most challenging part of participating in a cocktail speed contest is getting the drink to come out balanced. “The simpler the drink, the harder it is [to get right].” She explained that drinks such as a martini or sazerac need to be stirred longer to get the right distribution of flavor; this essential step can get cut short when racing against the clock. Other drinks, such as daiquiris, can quickly become too diluted when shaken with too much force, and require a lot of attention.
Aside from her love of mixology, Jacyara also feels strongly about the driver behind Speed Rack: Breast Cancer awareness and donations to charities. Breast cancer has affected her family on her mother’s side, giving her a personal interest in the cause, but she also shakes to support the many survivors she has met through the competition. As she said, “Cancer touches everybody.”
So how did she end up in Seattle? After taking a cross-country bike tour, from New York to Seattle, she decided to toss in her chips and move to the West Coast. A connection to Chris Elford (Canon) and Anu Elford (owner of Rob Roy), opened the door to the local cocktail scene, and Jacyara wasted no time jumping in head-first; she debuted her own cocktail creation, the ‘Yes Queen!’, at Rob Roy this past year. Described as “martini-like” by the creator, the drink is incredibly smooth and light on the tongue, accented by hints of honey, banana liqueur, and absinthe. Citrus-forward on the nose, the only way I can describe the flavor is “the aftertaste of the best frozen chocolate banana you’ve ever had.”
When she’s not on the job, Jacyara enjoys anything from a frozen daiquiri to a dark rum old fashioned; it just “depends on the situation.”
Jacyara represents Seattle and the Northwest region in the national finals in New York on May 21, 2017.
Article by Noel Frodelius-Fujimoto, GSN’s west coast correspondent