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SUPPORT THE RACK!

May 28, 2012

The Speed Rack Finals in New York City
By Amanda Schuster
Photos courtesy of Speed Rack

On Thursday, May 10th, Yael Vengroff (Miss Speed Rack NYC, and now a Houston, Texas resident) won the title of Miss Speed Rack 2012 to the collective rapture of what seemed like the entire US drinks community, all gathered at the Prince George Ballroom. In the final round, Vengroff narrowly beat fellow Texan Alba Huerta in a tense smackdown.

While the showing on the stage was great, so were the onlookers, other participants, competitors and the audience. Suffice it to say, if there had been some sort of unspeakable catasclysmic event there, much of the country would go awfully thirsty. The biggest names in the bar business were representing as judges, barbacks, and sponsors, not to mention those who attended simply to cheer on their friends and colleagues to support the cause.

The cause goes far beyond Speed Rack’s mission of showcasing some of the best talent possessing XX chromosomes in the country, it also raises significant funds for breast cancer prevention, education and research. To date, $68,500.00. This event, which was created and executed by Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix, two of the founding members of the New York chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), has built a nationwide community while doing an outstanding job of spotlighting the female bartenders who are pivotal forces behind our new golden era of cocktail culture. Without people like them, and pioneers such as bar owners and Speed Rack event judges Julie Reiner and Audrey Saunders, a lot of us would still be consuming syrupy neon sludge from a gun as our only option, and probably not having too much fun where we drink it either.

For decades, women have worked hard to achieve this level of respect in the bartending community. Physically seeing the culmination of this progress together in one place proves how integral women have been to this business. Said Reiner as the night began, “We’ve come a long way, baby! Now there’s so many of you and it’s so inspiring. [I’m] So proud of Ivy and Lynnette.”

In a relatively short amount of time, Marrero and Mix have done a tremendous job assembling this level of talent and garnering supporters. As judge Dale DeGroff pointed out during the intros, “This is the biggest thing [of its kind] in America right now.” Degroff, who is considered one of the most important mentors in the business, has often pointed out that women are key facets of creating successful bar communities with their instinctive talents for creating recipes and cultivating a welcoming atmosphere for guests.

The Speed Rack tour was a guest in 10 key cities around the country. In each town they visited local female bartenders were put to the test to determine which was the fastest and who would travel to New York to compete in the final showdown. Competitors raced head-to-head to prepare four cocktails, one for each of the judges.

Sponsored brands donated the ingredients, and also libations with which audience members sipped along with Speed Rack finale judges Reiner, Saunders, and DeGroff plus Chopped judge, and first time cocktail competition judge, Chef Amanda Freitag.

Top talents also contributed barbacking duties, including Sean Kenyon (Denver), Ricky Gomez (Portland), Jeff Bell (NYC), Dominic Venegas (NYC), Michael Neff (NYC), Toby Maloney (NYC), Steve Schneider-Hadzismajlovic and Daniel de Oliveira (Chicago) while industry instigators Simon Ford and Chris Patino, clad in all white suits, kept the proceedings, er, staying alive, as emcees.

The cocktails were randomly chosen by the judges from a list of fifty standard recipes. Speed counts, but so does flavor and technique. Saunders’ critique can be especially discerning (said of a garnish in Round One: “…it was like the sinking of the Titanic!”), which is why she announced that once the competition is over, she can revert to a more nurturing style of support and encouragement. “How this thing has grown! I’m looking forward to going easier on you. I want to see some of you ladies step up and own your own bars.”

Freitag, who originates from solely a culinary background, was a little concerned for her alcohol tolerance. “I’m honored to be here. If you see me later in the crowd and I’m tipsy, forgive me.” For the record, she was seen later in the crowd, and she held up just great.

The great were separated from the merely great in the preliminary rounds which narrowed the competition down from sixteen to eight. Even a simple Daiquiri, which is, as Degroff called it, a “naked drink,” can show certain flaws, and potentially knock someone out. There were then four qualifying rounds before the two semifinals.

Despite a long, boozy night that lasted over five hours, the crowd kept its enthusiasm burning strong, with snacks from local businesses Viktor and Spoils, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Clover Club and Steve’s Ice Cream, and the palpable energy re-fueled by those working the sidelines. The Ladies of Lillet in particular, among them brand ambassadors Amanda Boccato and Charlotte Voisey, should get some sort of Speed Goddess achievement award for maintaining their roller derby finest (and big smiles to match) throughout the night.

The night ended with a champagne toast (of sorts) to Yael. Congratulations, Yael! And congratulations to every last person who was involved in Speed Rack nationwide. Every last one of you is a winner as it seems impossible that any other industry measures up to the bartending community’s commitment to celebrate the hearts, minds and breasts of so many.

Events

VIVA SANGRITA!!

March 30, 2012

The Ocho Tequila Competition is Back
By Francine Cohen

While the literal translation of sangrita is “little blood”, for many drinkers looking for a tequila accompaniment (or a morning after cure), sangrita is a delicious Mexican blood transfusion. The traditional Jaliscan partner to a fine Tequila, and a great palate reviver, is, in its most traditional form a recipe that calls for tomato juice, orange juice, lime juice, and a spicy element, either hot sauce or fresh or dried chilis.

Tequila Ocho and the Bon Vivants believe Sangrita is much more than that. For them Sangrita is a seamless blending of tart, sweet, spicy, and savory. They say, “When made with love, imagination, and paired with the right tequila, it becomes a ritual, and is a transcendent drink experience. We believe this pairing is the best way to enjoy Tequila Ocho.”

The brand and the gentlemen of Bon Vivants (and the lovely Ivy Mix) charge you with this exquisite task: Craft your finest, original, thought and palate provoking Sangrita to pair with one of the 3 Tequila Ocho expressions currently available in your market.

The guidelines: You are not restricted to the traditional recipes for Sangrita. Rather, we encourage you to think outside the box. Be innovative, while using the parameter of the collective, tart, sweet, spicy, and savory as your only guideline. Regional contests will be held this year in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Boston with the finals being held in New Orleans. Use your imagination and technique, and you may find yourself as a regional finalist, or better, as a national finalist.

The prize: The VIVA SANGRITA! National Champion will be escorted south, to the highlands of Jalisco, to visit the home of Tequila Ocho and experience all this amazing spirit has to offer, in the place of its birth.

The fine print: PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR RECIPES TO – www.vivasangrita.com Submission deadline is 12am PST on April 7th 2012.

Features

HENDRICK’S GIN’S ENCHANTED FOREST OF CURIOSITIES

January 18, 2012

Or how one brand took the juice out of the bottle for a tangible experience
By Vincenza Di Maggio
Photos by Fine Young Man Productions

Have you ever taken Lewis Carroll’s advice and tried believing in “as many as six impossible things before breakfast?” You probably have without even realizing it; for instance, during your brainstorming meeting as you fiddle with your pencil and try to “think outside of the box,” racking your brain for creative ways to market your brand to an audience.

Well, here’s some inspiration for you… Imagine an enchanted forest growing inside of a warehouse, occupied by a bar built inside of a tree trunk measuring nearly 10 feet in circumference, a bearded lady serving cocktails out of a wishing well, a flourishing garden of giant sized mushrooms, a fountain of flowing water infused with cucumbers and rose petals, and wood sprites frolicking about, all the while paying no mind to the fact that it is snowing… indoors… as sparkling butterflies flutter from tree to tree.

Impossible, right? Think again.

Hendrick’s did it. The delightfully curious Hendrick’s Gin (www.hendricksgin.com) – named the world’s best gin by the Wall Street Journal (www.online.wsj.com) – took creative thinking to a whole new level and proved that no idea is too outlandish.

Hendrick's Brand Ambassador, Jim Ryan

Anything is possible. So believes Joanne Birkitt, Senior Brand Manager for Hendrick’s Gin who explains, “We created the concept for the Enchanted Forest of Curiosities last year as a unique way through which to invite consumers to experience a journey into the world of Hendrick’s. That journey is intriguing, unexpected, peculiar and, of course, filled with Continue Reading…

Events

A GIRL AND HER CANS

June 9, 2011

Content New York’s fastest female bartenders are raising money for breast cancer research and you can help
By Francine Cohen

Russian hands and roamin’ fingers used to be the sole purview of boys trying to get some action in the back row of the movie theatre, but now it’s time for the girls to put their hands to the test.

And for a good cause. Join 16 of New York City’s fastest mixtresses in combating breast cancer as they reach for the well and put their speedy drink making skills and drink knowledge on the line at Speed Rack, the inaugural edition of the national speed bartending competition created by Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero of LUPEC and presented by LushLife Productions (www.lushlifeny.com).

In addition to promoting women in an industry dominated by men, Speed-Rack connects top female talent with industry partnerships while raising funds for breast cancer, one of the biggest risks to women across the globe. Marrero notes, “Speed Rack is the perfect opportunity to unite the national LUPEC family. The competition embodies the fun aspect of LUPEC, along with our appreciation for cocktails. Adding the judging element to the drinks based on skill adds a new dimension to speed competitions. In line with other competitions, charity is a huge part of this event and raising money for breast cancer research is most important.”

Mix adds, “Speed Rack started as a joke I had with a bartender in San Francisco about getting women to double shake on camera about a year ago. Now it has morphed into this awesome competition to promote women and help save women. I got Lynnette on board and now things are really moving forward. I am so excited to have you ladies on board, not only are we going to raise money but we’re also going to have a blast.”

An all star-lineup of bartending talent representing some of the city’s most desirable watering holes competitors will be blasting out drinks as called out by a team of judges Continue Reading…