Female bartenders race for cancer research at Speed Rack Canada

Competition pits mixologists in a timed bartending battle for Rethink Breast Cancer

Love booze, boobs and doing good?

Then save your weekend brunch money and haul ass to Miss Thing’s this Sunday, April 30 from 3 to 7 pm, for the Speed Rack Canada finals to watch some of the country’s top bartenders throw down cocktails for a very worthy cause: breast cancer research.

This is Toronto’s first time hosting the renowned all-female speed bartending competition, which was founded in 2011 by New York cocktail legends, Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero. All funds from ticket sales ($25 in advance, $30 at the door) and raffles go to Rethink Breast Cancer.

Preliminary showdowns, held simultaneously across the country in Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria at the end of February, raised over $7000.

While other female-focused bartending competitions can risk endorsing the antediluvian assumption that gender informs bartending skills, Speed Rack was built to highlight skilled women in the industry while raising funds to help combat the most common cancer affecting women worldwide.

“Breast cancer is something that as women we inevitably have to deal with directly or indirectly at some point in our lives,” says Speed Rack Canada organizer, Evelyn Chick (who also manages the bar at Pretty Ugly).

“Speed Rack not only helps raise funds for our charity partners who provide platforms for education, but also encourages bartenders to use our industry and our skill set as contribution to the cause. We encourage all female bartenders to participate, which gives the newer bartenders an opportunity to work with some veterans of the industry to improve upon their techniques and cocktail knowledge. It’s great for promoting community and camaraderie.”

Fifteen Canadian cocktail ninjas will take part in Sunday’s mix-off, where they’ll be judged on how quickly they can pump out four cocktails, with points for precision and taste. Expected to memorize specs for at least 50 classic drinks, contenders are given an order that might include a drink as simple as a G&T or as involved as a nine-ingredient Singapore Sling just minutes before the clock starts.

The quickest time recorded at the Canadian regional competitions (which didn’t include penalties for taste) was 41 seconds. Anyone who’s ever waited fifteen minutes for a Manhattan on a quiet night might consider that the bartending equivalent of smashing the sonic barrier.

Speed Rack’s vision is global: Canada was the third participating market after the UK (the inaugural Speed Rack Canada was held in Vancouver two years ago) and Speed Rack Asia debuted this year. So far, the competition has raised over $500,000 for breast cancer charities in North America and abroad.

It’s worth noting that the event is facilitated by volunteers (including many male members of the bartending community) and liquor sponsors, who help ensure that all proceeds go straight into charitable coffers.

Admission gets you a slew of cocktail samples, the chance to cheer on a pack of badass, lightning-fisted women and the satisfaction of $25 very well spent.

drinks@nowtoronto.com | @S_Parns

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