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Women Speed Demons Shake Their Cocktail Shakers For Charity

By Paul Leddy in Food on Apr 9, 2014 7:30PM

Liz Pearce wins the 2013 Chicago Speed Rack

In the cocktail world, speed and consistency are some of the most important skills a bartender can have. Walk into any River North cocktail joint on a Friday or Saturday evening and you will see that the best bartenders are the ones that wrestle the ticket machine into submission each night. It doesn’t matter if you are male or a female bartender, if you can’t ride the wave, it will crash over you.

On Sunday April 13, Chicago will be able to watch some of the best female bartenders in the city ride that wave into a possible trip to New York.

The Speed Rack Competition makes its final stop on an eight-city tour to test the mettle of some of the best female bartenders in Chicago. This is the third year for Speed Rack, which raises money for breast cancer research (they have collected $150,000 so far) and, along the way, throws one of the best parties of the year.

After attending last year, we thought we would offer a quick primer for those who are attending Speed Rack for the first time.

Before the public is allowed in, the 20 participating bartenders will compete in a speed round. Each of them will be required to make the following cocktails in the fastest time:

Honey Suckle (rum, honey syrup, lime)
Fitzgerald (gin, lemon, simple syrup, angostura bitters)
Boulevardier (bourbon, campari, sweet vermouth)
Margarita (tequila, lime, simple syrup)

It isn’t too pretty during this round; the importance is on speed and using the correct ingredients. The top 8 times will move on to the next round. The record for making the four cocktails was set in San Francisco this year when Victoria George posted a scorcher time of 38 seconds. Will any of the Chicago bartenders break that record? After seeing some of the bartenders practice this past week, they definitely have a chance to beat it.

The 20 contestants this year are:

Emily Bohn — Maple Tree Inn, Chicago
Jacyara de Oliveira — The Sportsman's Club, Chicago
Cristiana DeLucca — Bangers & Lace, Chicago
Brenda Eval — Three Dots & A Dash, Chicago
Erin Hayes — Three Dots & A Dash, Chicago
Susanna Hoyt — The Silver Dollar, Louisville, KY
Jess Keene — The Barrelhouse Flat, Chicago
Allie Kim — Sable, Chicago
Paige Lane — King + Duke, Atlanta, GA
Mea Leech — RM Champagne Salon, Chicago
Danielle Lewis — Celeste and Pour Souls Mixology, Chicago
Shannon Lewis — Hubbard Inn and Chop Shop, Chicago
Julia Momose — The Office, Chicago
Whitney Morrow — Drumbar, Chicago
Jenna Murray — Celeste, Chicago
Emmie O'Connor — The Rail and Malibu Grill, Bloomington, IN
Liz Pearce — The Gage, Chicago
Nina Pilacoutas — Trenchermen and Maude's Liquor Bar, Chicago
Rachael Smith-Volbrecht — Bar Deville, Chicago
Amy Starr — NAHA and Brindille, Chicago

When the public comes in, the real competition begins as the women compete against each other in single elimination rounds. Four judges, which will include Paul McGee from Three Dots and a Dash; Charles Joly from The Aviary; Chef Zoƫ Schor from Ada Street; and Bridget Albert, Regional Director of Mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits, each pick a cocktail (from a pre-approved 60+ cocktail recipes) for the contestants to make. The bartenders are tested on speed but have time added for technical mistakes such as taste or garnish. The winner will travel to New York to compete in the National competition on May 8.

Videos from the competition last year can be found here.

Guests, as part of their admission, will be able to enjoy food and cocktails and be able to win several items available in a raffle.

Speed Rack Chicago will be held at 3 p.m. at Joe’s Bar (940 West Weed Street). Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door and can be purchased here.