Speed Rack, the all-female national bartending competition now in its seventh year, will make a stop in D.C. on Monday night.
Formed in 2011 by NYC bar vets Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, the annual bartender battle picked Union Stage as the venue to host its Mid-Atlantic finals this year. Marrero and Mix started the competition because they spotted a lack of community amongst females in their profession and wanted to spotlight the best in the bar business while giving back to an important cause: breast cancer research, education, and prevention.
The goal is to raise $1 million this year for breast cancer charities (so far $700,000 has been raised). In its first year, Speed Rack raised over $69,000. Entry costs $25, and guests get the chance to sip on various punches and drinks from local D.C. brands.
Each year, the tour visits eight top cocktail cities, culminating in the national championship (this year, it’s slated for the day after the James Beard Awards in Chicago on Tuesday, May 8). In 2015, the tour expanded globally to Canada and continued efforts in the U.K.
“Speedrack is an opportunity to come together with an amazing group of women (and men) to support a cause that we should all get behind,” says Jessi Weinstein, beverage director at Hank’s Oyster Bar and one of 26 competitor signed up for Monday night.
Other notable local women competing include: Suzy Critchlow (Columbia Room), Megan Barnes (Espita Mezcaleria) and Kapri Robinson (Reliable Tavern).
“It’s a moment to learn and grow as bartenders but also as a community of caring, compassionate and fast-as-hell ladies,” Weinstein tells Eater. “It’s nerve wracking to put yourself out there and compete and there’s a lot of pressure, mostly internal, but also a ton of love and undying support.”
The Mid-Atlantic competition kicks off at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 19.
For the bartending hats they wear, Mix owns Brooklyn’s pan-Latin cocktail bar Leyenda (and won Best American Bartender for the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award in 2015) and Marrero is a founding member and current president of the New York City chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and helms the beverage program for Taste of the Nation NYC.