Before the first-ever Asian edition of Speed Rack, we speak to Ivy Mix (photo, left) and Lynnette Marrero (right) on how the competition came to town. Interview by Natasha Hong.
How did you guys meet, and how did Speed Rack happen?
Lynnette: Ivy worked at Mayahuel, which is owned by Phil Ward – he’s one of my oldest friends in the industry after we met at the Flatiron Lounge. One night, he needed a favour and asked if I would fill in cocktail waitressing – which I did at Flatiron before Phil and Toby Maloney encouraged me to ask Julie [Reiner] to get behind the bar. So, I put my apron back on, grabbed a tray and worked the night with Ivy. It was actually a really busy night. Ivy and I had a pretty similar work ethic – we got things done, helped run each other’s drinks and pretty much worked as a team. It was a great night and then we went out to some dive bars after and had fun!
Ivy: I only had a notion of what Speed Rack would be before I talked to Lynnette. I knew I wanted to create a bartending competition that promoted awesome women in the industry, and I knew that I wanted it to have a charity aspect to it. It was over chicken wings and cheap beers during the Super Bowl that I sat next to Lynnette – the president of LUPEC NYC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t come to her before with the idea. Her philanthropic efforts and girl power notions were exactly in line with what I had in mind. Together, we built what is now the nationally successful Speed Rack.
L: When Ivy approached me with the initial idea, we decided to create a competition that tests bartenders in real life situations. Instead of testing their ability to create one drink, we wanted to challenge them to showcase what they do every day in a bar – create quality cocktails with speed and service in mind. Speed Rack, the tour that it is now, is the result of an intense year. I am honoured that Ivy reached out to me to help create what Speed Rack is today.
You’ve run six seasons of the competition in the US so far. What keeps you going?
I: Speed Rack keeps growing. We have more women applying than ever, we’re raising more money than ever, and the level of skill keeps getting higher. There’s no stopping now! The fact that we’re expanding to places like Asia reinvigorates our drive to grow the competition. Going to these new markets and meeting these new women and seeing what’s possible gives me drive.
L: I think what is most surprising and fascinating is the level of talent we keep seeing. After six years, we’re seeing a new generation of women bartenders who are incredibly driven, talented and dedicated to this industry.
How did the Asian edition of Speed Rack come about?
I: Hannah Waters told us that there was an incredible and strong female force in Asia, and that we needed to go over there. I have to say that without her, we wouldn’t have gotten over there. Speed Rack is an intense event to put on. You have to gather sponsors, venues, volunteers, competitors and more. Hannah and the women she brought in tow with her – Denise Khan Tan and Gina Marie Kent – have really made this possible. We have women from Seoul, Singapore and more. I’m so excited to see what’s going to happen!
How will the Asian leg will differ from the US?
I: I don’t know! I’m hoping we’ll see a bunch of different styles. Even across the US, there are different styles for both recipes of making drinks, as well as physically working at the bar. I don’t know what to expect but from what I’ve heard about the Singapore cocktail scene, it’s going to be very impressive.
L: So far, from the emails from the ladies, there seems to be a new way they’re preparing for the competition. It should be very exciting. The questions being asked are very technical so that is interesting.
Let’s talk strategy. Do you have any tips for the girls taking part?
I: Speed Rack is about making good drinks quickly, not bad drinks lightning fast. Be calm, calculated and clean, and you will move on!
L: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Work clean and accurately but work like it’s the busiest shift of your life.
Catch Ivy and Lynnette at their guest shift at Anti:dote from 7 to 10pm on March 11.
DRiNK Magazine is the official media partner for Speed Rack Asia.