You'd be hard-pressed to find a more suitably named cocktail bartender than Brooklyn-based Ivy Mix (@ivymix
). And not only for the obvious reason that the woman can make a drink. (Her favourite is the negroni: "It's a tough one to really mess up.") She also tends to mix her passions in what might at first appear to be dissonant ways. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Speed Rack, the all-female bartending competition and breast cancer charity that she co-founded with Lynnette Marrero in 2011.
"Speed Rack started as a tongue-and-cheek response to the lack of women I saw in cocktail bars," Mix told Crikey
. "I knew so many female cocktail bartenders personally, but few of them seemed to have the wider profile they deserved.
"I decided to create a platform for these women where they could say, 'Hey! I'm here! Hire me! Put me in your bars! Let me work for your brands! Do it!' Lynnette and I took this skeleton of an idea and turned it into what it is today."
And what it is today is quite something. Speed Rack now runs in eight cities across the United States and 100% of what it raises at its various events -- in which bartenders participate in instant-elimination round-robins, each making a round of cocktails selected at random from a list of 50 industry standards -- goes towards breast cancer education, prevention and research. Speed Rack held its first London-based event in June last year and its third US season kicked off in New York in December. ("Australia's in the planning books," Mix said, "but probably not until 2015.")
"We've been very successful," she said. "But it's one of those chicken-or-the-egg-type questions as to whether or not we're directly responsible for the greater number of female cocktail bartenders you see these days.
"All I know is that I look around now and see many women behind the best bars in America, whereas before there were very few. Last night, I was working at the Clover Club and a patron said, 'My god, I've never seen a woman bartend here, or in any bar like this!' I said it was rare but not as rare as it used to be. Whether Speed Rack can take credit for that, I don't know. But it is great to see."
What it can take credit for is raising more than $160,000 for its selected charities in the past three years. But combining cocktail bartending and breast cancer can occasionally be a tricky thing. Mix is fully aware the event's playful nature has the potential to put some people offside.
"We have had a handful of people who have taken offence," she said, "and that's unfortunate. But the event's cheekiness was part of the point. It was entirely our goal. Breast cancer is such a heavy topic. It's incredibly sad and horrible. Sometimes a little levity can be useful."
She points to the example of Bob and Linda Carey's @TheTutuProject
, which combines the comic and tragic in equal measure.
"He's a grown man in a tutu, prancing around in the name of cancer," she said. "I love that! Others might take offence, but I'm sure he's doing more good than those who sit around being morose about things." ("And speaking of Twitter," she added, "we met on Twitter and we plan on doing dinner and drinks.")