This year, Madelyn Kay of VOX Table in Austin took home the Texas prize, but not without a valiant battle with runner-up Elisabeth Forsythe, Barbaro bar manager and a previous Speed Rack Texas winner.
Speed Rack is also hosting an online people’s choice vote for best bartender in each participating state here. Winner of the #SpeedRackTX Wildcard will join Kay to compete at the finals in New York on May 22. Anyone can vote once a day until midnight on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Check out a video recap of the event below by Rivard Report videographer Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
The competition features some of the quickest bartenders from all over and begs the question: who can make the highest-quality cocktail the least amount of time?
Speed Rack holds competitions in eight states including Texas and culminates with a national competition in New York City that determines who is the baddest, fastest female bartender in America. The events raise funds for breast cancer research.
Speed Rack Texas has been held in San Antonio for the past five years, with contenders hailing from all over the Lone Star State. This year, three represented the Alamo City from local bars The Esquire, Barbaro and Hot Joy.
Ivy Mix, Speed Rack co-founder, says that it’s no coincidence that the competition keeps coming back to San Antonio.
“San Antonio has won the last three Speed Rack Texas competitions in a row, so we want to keep going to the cities who are bringing it the hardest,” Mix said. “Plus, the (San Antonio) Cocktail Conference is, I think, one of the best executed so we wanted to be a part of that.”
While it is on the conference’s event calendar, it is not an official SACC event.
The event brought seemingly all of San Antonio’s tattooed, blue-haired millennials into one room, bobbing their heads to the DJ’s hip-hop and funk music set while sipping the event’s complimentary cocktail samples.
Bartenders wore matching black and pink Speed Rack t-shirts, but each held her own particular style, whether it was wearing a bandana, braided pigtails or black Doc Martins.
When it came down to the actual competition, the rules were simple: two girls compete against each other, make one cocktail for each of the four judges, and press the red buzzer when they finish. Judges awarded points based on the time each girl took to complete the four cocktails and the drink’s taste.
After six of the eight bartenders were eliminated throughout the night, it finally came down to the final two: San Antonio’s Forsythe and Austin’s Kay.
The two women mixed and shook their final cocktails to the sounds of loud music mixed with cheers and tips of nearly 100 audience members:
“Chill your glasses!” someone yelled at the start of the round.
Kay pressed a red buzzer to let the judges know when she finished and Forsythe followed just four seconds behind her.
Forsythe said she was “hyper-focused on the choreography of what (she) was doing” during the final round.
“If I think about anything else during it, I’ll lose my sh**,” she said. Her fiery hair stood out against her all-black outfit.
During the five minutes of deliberation between the judges, the music and drinking continued. The spirit of the room was not tinged with the tension of competition or rivalry, but instead felt like a party where everyone, even Forsythe and Kay, was there to have a good time.
After a raffle of prizes that included gift cards to San Antonio locales like The Esquire and El Mirador, it was announced that Kay was victorious.
As a woman proud to represent Texas in the national competition in June, Kay says this title has been something she’s been working at for years, not only for personal gain but to prove that she is an industry-leader.
“I think it’s super important to represent females in the industry,” Kay said. “So I think Speed Rack is amazing considering the opportunities it gives to women.”
*Top Image: Madelyn Kay of Austin (second from left) is hoisted into the air as she is selected as the winner of the Speed Rack Texas cocktail competition. The final two competitors for Speed Rack Texas were Elisabeth Forsythe (right) of San Antonio and Kay. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.