Speed Rack invaded Tampa last Monday night, leaving the Ritz Ybor soaked with high-speed, spirits-induced competition, as eight female bartenders in the region competed for the title of Miss Speed Rack Tampa. The stage was set with two fully stocked bars facing a judge’s table under bright lights. The floor transformed into a sea of mini-bars for the curious onlookers and dedicated liquor enthusiasts to enjoy.
Created and produced by seasoned bartenders Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, Speed Rack is the first competition paying homage to an up and coming generation of strong women in a male-dominated industry. Speed Rack is a charitable competition created by female bartenders, for female bartenders, and its proceeds go toward breast cancer prevention and awareness.
Like the roller derby of bartending, Speed Rack travels to 10 cities, hosting competitions featuring top female mixologists battling head to head in timed cocktail-slinging rounds. In each city, the winner is crowned Miss Speed Rack, and given a chance to travel to New York City in May 2013 to compete for the title of Miss Speed Rack USA.
Julia Hurst, visiting Tampa’s competition from D.C. after sustaining injuries in a biking accident and unable to compete in her hometown, stood on stage darkening the black paint under her eyes while Jaki Winkles, from Miami Beach, helped make sure the intimidation lines were straight and even.
Judges Charlotte Voisey, Ricky Gomez, Laura Cullen and Andy Seymour, are all nationally recognized in the industry.
“There are so many dudes behind the bar,” said Andy Seymour, the self-proclaimed “Liquid Pimp” juggling the microphone. “We need more ladies representing in this cut-throat industry.”
Tampa’s own Carla Rivera of the Kennedy and Dawn Heidemann of Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supperclub represented Tampa in the quarterfinals, shaking spirits to DJ Coro’s jams but not quite fast enough to put Tampa into the semi-finals. After sexual-innuendo riddled banter amongst the judges, a male strip tease and many over-the-mic boob jokes, Julia Hurst of D.C., Hilary Choo of Miami, Jaki Winkles of Miami Beach, and Ashely Hakkasan of Miami, moved on by concocting perfect classics like the Blood and Sand, French 75, and Cosmopolitan at the fastest times.
“Those of us born in the ’60s, had our first drink in the ’70s, and our first black out in the ’80s, all have had more than one of these,” judge Laura Cullen said of her expectations of competitors. “I’d like a kamikaze, please ladies.”
With Miami coming up on top, Winkles and Hakkasan moved onto the finals, facing the challenge of mixing the perfect Old Fashioned, Gold Rush, Clover Club and a Wild Card cocktail, with Port Wine.
“I know this type of left-field challenge this late in the competition is unheard of,” said judge Charlotte Voisey. “But I know you ladies are more than capable of using your extensive knowledge to create a delicious drink.”
Hakkasan and Winkles raised their hands to signify they were ready, and within two minutes Winkles pushed the red button so hard it almost fell off of the bar, stopping her clock, and moving her drinks to the judge’s table.
Winkles of Miami Beach, Florida was given the title of 2012 Miss Speed Rack Tampa.
“My father was a bartender, and even though he is no longer with me, I know he’s looking down on me,” said Winkles in between post-competition jitters. “I’m going to New York City for him.”