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Female Bartenders Show Their Need for Speed

By Paul Leddy in Food on Mar 27, 2013 8:40PM

Marking its second year in Chicago, the Speed Rack competition completed their national tour on Sunday, March 24.

Speed Rack is a cocktail competition for female bartenders to compete in local markets in a head-to-head battle to make four cocktails that judges pick from a list of 50 standard cocktail recipes. Contestants are judged based on best time but penalties are given for cocktails made incorrectly or off in taste. If that weren’t awesome enough, all proceeds from the competition (tickets, donations, raffle) go to breast cancer charities.

This year, 23 female bartenders competed in Chicago. By the time the doors opened to the public at Cobra Lounge, that group had been whittled down to 8. They were (by best time):

Jacyara DeOliveira - Perennial Virant
Rachael Smith - Bar DeVille/Three Aces
Cristiana DeLucca - Drawing Room
Erin Hayes - The Gage/La Sirena Clandestina
Emeline O’Connor - Malibu Grill (Bloomington, IN)
Liz Pearce - Drawing Room
Jess Keene - Barrelhouse Flat
Mea Leach - Belly Q

Judges included Lynn House (Blackbird), Paul McGee (Bub City/3 Dots and a Dash), Heather Terhune (Chef, Sable), and Peter Vestinos.

The competition was fast and furious (with a little crazy “Harlem Shake” musical interlude to entertain the crowd). The battles finished as follows:


Jacyara DeOliverira (winner) vs Mea Leach
Rachael Smith (winner) vs Jess Keene
Cristiana DeLucca vs Liz Pearce (winner)
Erin Hayes (winner) vs. Emmy O’Connor


Jacyara DeOliveira vs Liz Pearce (winner)
Rachael Smith (winner) vs Erin Hayes


It was down to Liz Pearce and Rachael Smith for the finals. Both women fought hard and even handled a “dealer’s choice” request from Peter Vestinos with aplomb. After the judges gave their scores, Liz Pearce was crowned the victor. She will compete on May 16 in NYC with the competition winners from other cities.