Drinks News

All-female bartending competition Speed Rack hits Australia

This weekend, 16 mixologists from almost every corner of the country will get behind the stick to battle it out for first prize – and raise funds for a worthwhile cause, too.

By Emma Breheny
Onlookers at the USA finals
Onlookers at the Speed Rack USA Finals

The skills of the bartender don't stop at shaking, stirring and pouring. Part of the pleasure of drinking cocktails is surely watching somebody mix your drink with a level of care and artistry that's been honed over many hours and nights. And that's exactly what will be on display this Sunday at Speed Rack, the all-female bartending competition that's being held for the first time in Australia.

A participant at the USA Finals
A participant at the USA Finals

It's the brainchild of Lynette Marrero and Ivy Mix, two award-winning professionals from New York who began the competition in 2012 to turn the spotlight women in the industry.

"When we had the idea, we wanted this to be a platform for females behind the bar," Mix says. "It still is, but seven years later, there are so many more women in the world's best bars. There's now a sense of sorority and celebration that is showcased at our events."

After hugely popular competitions in the USA and Canada, Speed Rack has now made its way to Australia with some of the finest bartending talent duking it out this weekend in Sydney. With The Gresham's Millie Tang coming down from Brisbane and bars in Perth, Geelong and Wollongong represented, it's a truly national battle. Other contenders include Shay Chamberlain from Melbourne's Black Pearl, Jenna Hemsworth of Restaurant Hubert and Jemima McDonald of Earl's Juke Joint (both in Sydney). Judging the Australian competition are Paige Aubort, founder of industry mentoring organisation Coleman's Academy, Sam Bygraves, who edits Australian Bartender, and Black Pearl owner Tash Conte.

But it's not all about the cocktails. Tickkets to every Speed Rack event raise money for breast cancer research, meaning a Sunday afternoon of whisky sours and snacks will give you a whole different kind of glow. Speed Rack's fundraising tally is now over $850,000. If you're interested in expertly crafted drinks, bolstering women in hospitality or supporting charity (or all of the above), this is the event for you.

Speed Rack Australia National Finals, 3pm-7pm, 29 July, Marble Bar, 488 George St, Sydney, NSW. Tickets $25 pre-sale or $30 at the door via australia.speed-rack.com. Includes cocktails, spirit samples and light food.