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Speed Bartending Competition for Women Reflects Growing Diversity in the Industry

Two New York bartenders describe what it's like to compete in a speed drink-making competition

Any bartender will tell you that making drinks behind a bar, with music blasting in your ear and customers yelling out their orders, can be difficult. But when you add in a competitive factor, it takes the activity to a whole new level.

Mariel Burns and Alli Torres know what it’s like. They’re bartenders who have competed in speed bartending competitions, and speed bartending competitions specifically for women.

One such competition is Speed Rack, an all-female high-speed bartending competition designed to highlight up-and-coming women in the cocktail industry while proceeds from the event give back to those impacted by breast cancer.

The competitions test the contestants’ abilities to make quality drinks quickly and efficiently. It brings together some of the fastest women bartenders around the country.

“It’s such a rush to go compete with the best of the best and the fastest people I’ve ever seen,” Torres said.

Burns says that when she first started bartending, she was one of the only women that was working full-time behind bars in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Now, she says, things are different. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53.1 percent of bartenders, a little over half, are women.

“The landscape has just changed, I think, a lot,” she says. “I think we still have a long way to go, but you’re not just seeing one type of person behind bars. There’s a lot more diversity than there was five years ago, ten years ago, and as a woman that makes me really happy to see other women interested in growing up in this industry and really taking autonomy and control of their programs.”

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