Speed Rack is basically the female bartender version of Top Chef, minus the rampant corporate branding and ruthlessness. The global mixology competition, the first of its kind designed to highlight and celebrate women in the field, makes a stop in Chicago this month, spotlighting top talents from across the city to see who will advance to the finals in May, also in Chicago. The best part of all? Even though there’s ultimately only one technical winner, the fact that the competition raises money to fight breast cancer makes it a real win-win for everyone. Here’s what you need to know about this cocktail spectacle.
The next leg of the national Speed Rack tour takes place January 27 at Thalia Hall, with 24 local bartenders vying for victory and the chance to ultimately be crowned Miss Speed Rack USA 2020. The event is organized round-robin style, meaning bartenders shake it out head-to-head for a panel of judges. The goal: to see who can make their cocktails not only the fastest but also the tastiest. It’s a fine line, and when that clock’s ticking, a lot harder than it sounds.
This year’s lineup was selected via online applications, and it represents a wide cross-section of bars and styles in Chicago, from tiki spots and speakeasies to seafood restaurants and ramen shops. Participants include Hannah Egger of Boleo and Income Tax, Kathleen Roll of Ludlow Liquors and Sportsman’s Club, Amy Bird Lou of the Victor Bar and Love Street, Ashley Smith of Secret Sound and Aviary, Caitlin Patterson of Good Fortune, Evangeline Avila of the Violet Hour, Harley O’Grady of Ramen-san, Marina Holter of Blind Barber, and Meghan Short of Gilt Bar, among others.
As the event moves through different legs, bartenders will be tasked with creating four industry-standard classic cocktails utilizing sponsor brands such as Altos Tequila, Fords Gin, Haku Vodka, Knob Creek Rye, Fernet Branca, Heineken, Chartreuse, and St-Germain.
As you might have guessed, the event is quite a thrill to behold, and it’s precisely the kind of friendly competition that’s enjoyable to watch and support—especially since 100 percent of ticket sales goes to Pink Agenda, a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for and awareness of breast cancer research and care. Tickets can be acquired here.
In the spring, the Speed Rack finals returns to Chicago on May 3, with details (and competitors, obviously) TBD.
Details: January 27, 6 p.m., at Thalia Hall; $25