Denver Female Bartenders shake, stir it out for Speed Rack Competition

Girl power.

I’m all for it.  Especially when it comes in powerful packages like eight final contestants duking it out over classic cocktail recipes with speed and precision.  From my times as a drinking savant, I have great respect for the artist crafting a classic cocktail.  From my bar stages, I have an even greater respect for those that can do a classic cocktail with poise, ease, and skill–all under thirty seconds.

Welcome to Speed Rack: the classic cocktail competition pitting the city’s finest female bartenders against themselves.  It’s the modern interpretation of a ten-pace duel, save for the glove-slapping and dramatic pre-death monologue. Sponsored by St.-Germain, this cocktail competition brought Colorado’s finest bartenders together to showcase their best.

Any friend of a bartender knows their oft-vicious schedule: Wednesday through Saturday 3pm-2am in loud bars, hyper-interactive with a slew of personalities, exhausting to the most extroverted person.  So, since Speed Rack began at 9am at Casselman’s on Sunday morning preliminary rounds, they already earned their stripes.  The preliminary round contained about 20 contestants, but only 8 were allowed to go onto the competition, some falling short of the 8th spot by .08 seconds (that’s 8 100th of a second, maybe spandex could have helped?).

The final 8 were then slated for the first round:

  1. Erin Harris (Jimmy’s Bar and Restaurant in Aspen) vs. Melissa Duran
  2. Courtney Wilson (Williams & Graham) vs. Alex Parks (Green Russell)
  3. Jessica Cann (Euclid Hall) vs Amanda Olig (Osteria Marco)
  4. Jessica Wilkinson (Euclid Hall) vs. Allison Weber

Like candidates in a Presidential Debate, the competitors stood behind each of the podium-like cockpits, glasses and tins gleaming from the overhead lights.  Before them was a tough judging panel.  Bryan Dayton (OAK at Fourteenth), Steve Olson (aka winegeek), Andy Seymour (BAR Instructor/aka winegeek , and Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja/Euclid Hall/Bistro Vendome Executive Chef/Owner) and their amazing olfactory senses sat before them.  This was not gonna be an easy afternoon.

Tipperary, Tom Collins, Mint Julep, Weeski, Brainstorm,  Gin Sling, El Presidente, Sidecar, Irish Cocktail, Daiquiri, Bee’s Kiss, Mojito, Mary Picklord, Sazerac, Manhattan, Bee’s Knees, Corpse Reviver No. 2, Clover Club, Martini, Margarita, Whiskey Sour, Vesper, and more classic cocktails were called out as the ladies shook and stirred their way through the competition.  And maybe Dayton wanted a bit more vermouth in his Manhattan?  He would judge the cocktails as such.  Even if someone finished before the other, time could be added as penalties.

As the afternoon progressed on and contestants were knocked out each round, judged on the success and speed of each cocktail.  The winner, Amanda Olig of Osteria Marco, beat out Courtney Wilson of Williams & Graham, to take the crown of Speed Rack Denver champ.

Brian Melton shares his thoughts: “I generally think, being the secretary of the COBG (Colorado Bartenders Guild), that it was a win for our industry.  It was a who’s-who of the cocktail culture with every mover & shaker in attendance.  Amanda might have won, but it was the beverage community that really made strides.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Missed the event?  We have some pictures for you here.  And cheers to all the classy ladies who supported this event!

About Jess Hunter


Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at jesshunter@denveroffthewagon.com.

  • Jess

    I love the sound of this competition, sounds like a great event!