Last year I didn’t think much about Speed Rack, a female bartender competition that raises money for breast cancer research. Until the weekend of the event, when Facebook informed me that seemingly every bartender in town was participating. Even the ones who don’t usually do events. And even the dudes—they were busy bar backing.
Speed Rack returns this Sunday, February 16, at Century Ballroom in Capitol Hill. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door and buy you an eyeful of the competition, plus an array of snacks and drinks from event sponsors.
Tavern Law GM Amanda Reed participated last year and is doing it again this weekend. So I asked her—of all the events out there, why is this one such a big damn deal for industry folk?
In short, it’s a good cause, and the relatively new Northwest leg benefits from buzz from other cities' renditions. Judges are highly legit (in Seattle we've got Anu Apte, Audrey Saunders, and Robert Hess). Plus it's a rare event that celebrates the talents of female bartenders in a way that isn't cheesy.
A preliminary round whittles more than 20 female bartenders from Portland to Vancouver down to eight competitors, based solely on speed. These remaining ladies face off on stage, making cocktails from memory. At this point they’re judged on both speed and accuracy. As Reed puts it, “you could be way faster than the person next to you, but if your drinks are all crap, you’re going to accumulate more time."
Spirits rep and man about town Rocky Yee also notes that Speed Rack is an excuse to let the boob jokes flow freely, all for a good cause.
Competing from Seattle: Missy Cross of Sun Liquor, Alena Harbin of Agrodolce and Golden Beetle, Amanda Reed of Tavern Law, Elizabeth Powell of Liberty, Missy Berens from the Sexton, Tara McLaughlin from Artusi and Spinasse, Boka's LaShann Ross, and Kathleen Manley of Rob Roy.
Here's the event website with ticket details. In addition to bar backing on Sunday, the gents have their own event planned for Monday at 5pm at Sun Liquor Distillery. And yes, it’s called Speed Sack.