This Sunday, January 13, the Original OKRA Charity Saloon will host the Speed Rack Send Off Party for five Houston competitors from 6 to 10 p.m. (and possibly later). The party serves multiple purposes:
- All donations, proceeds and tips from drink sales will go to breast cancer research (because that's what Speed Rack raises funds for, you see). So you can feel good about boozin' it up! It's for charity!
- It gives the ladies a chance to practice the 50(!) cocktails that they must master for the regional Speed Rack competition. So be a pal and go help them out by buying some drinks. Life is hard, isn't it?
- Cocktails will only be $6!
Why is there a send-off party? Houston was the host city for the regional Speed Rack competition last year, but this year it's San Antonio's turn. Some Houstonians might be inclined to drive to San Antonio to witness the action of the frenetic, high-speed drink-making, but for those who can't, this is a chance to get a taste of the competition. Literally.
The ladies are members of Houston LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails). Last year, the $9,000 they raised in Houston exceeded what was raised in any other Speed Rack city. They expect to exceed that this year and cities like Dallas, Austin and San Antonio are throwing their own parties this time.
In 2012, Houston made a tremendous showing at the national Speed Rack competition. Alba Huerta (formerly of Anvil Bar & Refuge and soon to open her own bar, Julep) won the title of Miss Speed Rack Texas and represented Houston in the nationals. She came in a very respectable second in a field of 16 competitors. Here's the funny thing: Winner Yael Vengroff might have been representing New York, but she's a Houston native. In fact, Yael worked here in Houston last year at Fitzgerald's, Grand Prize Bar and Mongoose vs Cobra. (She has since relocated to Los Angeles.)
This year, Miss Speed Rack Texas (Alba) is judging and these Houston ladies are competing:
- Kehlen Selph of Coppa Ristorante Italiano
- Sheridan Fay of El Gran Malo
- Kris Sowell, formerly Bar Manager at Coppa Ristorante Italiano
- Ornella Ashcraft of Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
- Monik Lopes of The Original OKRA Charity Saloon
Selph, Fay and Ashcraft all competed last year. Ashcraft came very close to winning last year's Speed Rack Texas. Alba beat her and went on to the final round to succeed against Lindsey Heffron... by a mere five seconds. Watch the recaps below.
Ashcraft vs Huerta
Heffron vs Huerta
Other lovely faces behind the bar will include previous Speed Rack competitors Lainey Collum (The Hay Merchant), Brandee Boyle, Lindsay Heffron (Liberty Station) and Christa Havican (who, by the way, is starting a new bartending gig at Provisions). Joining them will be Houston LUPEC's newest member, Caitlin Vann of Leon's Lounge.
If you're inclined to head to the Texas Speed Rack competition in San Antonio, you can buy your tickets for a mere $20 each online. They'll be $25 at the door and you really don't want to take a chance of driving to San Antonio and finding that the event is full. It will be held at the St. Anthony Hotel. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the competition starts at 7 p.m.