Atlanta Restaurant Scene

Atlanta female bartenders shake and stir for charity cocktail competition

Atlanta’s best bartenders are about to show up and show off in two cocktail competitions for charity this month. You get to cheer them on while sipping the fruits of their labors.

Speed Rack Southeast Regionals, Feb. 12, 3 p.m., $25

Sorry gentlemen, this competition is all about the ladies. For the first time in the event’s six-year history, Atlanta will play host to 23 of the region’s top female bartenders for Speed Rack’s southeast regional finals on Sunday, February 12. Ten of those lovely ladies will be from right here in the ATL. Competitors will be vying for the title of Ms. Speed Rack Southeast.

Here’s how this high-volume, high-speed competition shakes out.

After a qualifying round, only eight of the 23 bartenders will move on to compete in the public final rounds. Each round pits two bartenders against one another (and the clock) to create four different cocktails for the judges. Once they’ve completed their drinks, they’ll hit their buzzers Family Feud-style to stop the clock. Cocktails are judged on how well each bartender executes the recipes they were given, quality of each drink and speed.

Each round pits two bartenders against one another (and the clock) to create four different cocktails for the judges. Photo: Gabi Porter

The winners of each round compete until only one lady is left standing--Ms. Speed Rack Southeast. She then moves on to the finals in New York City on May 21 in hopes of being crowned Ms. Speed Rack 2017.

Kellie Thorn, beverage director at Empire State South, says she chose to compete this year for the first time in order to continue to empower Atlanta’s community of female bartenders. She told us, “ I think it's important to play a supporting role in one's community.”

JP Atlanta’s Toki Sears says she had similar reasons for her decision to compete this year, “I've always wanted to compete in this amazing and purposeful competition showcasing the professional ladies in our industry.”

Both women believe hosting Speed Rack in Atlanta is an important opportunity for the city’s bar industry and will highlight its diversity.

Proceeds from ticket sales go toward breast cancer research. To date, Speed Rack has raised over $500,000 worldwide for breast cancer charities since its inception in 2011.

Atlanta’s contenders:

Sarah Baker – Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall

Taylor Blackgrave – The Lawrence

Jessie Harmon – Gunshow

Paige Lane – Saltyard

Keyatta Mincey – Marriott Northwest at Galleria, The Sound Table, Southern Gentleman

Emily Earp Mitchell – Bar Margot

Brittany Murphy – Tupelo Honey Cafe

Tokiwa “Toki” Sears – JP Atlanta

Stephanie Saputo – Serpas Restaurant

Kellie Thorn – Empire State South

For tickets: Ticket price includes cocktails.

Click here to learn more about Speed Rack.

Southern Exchange, 200 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. Sun. Feb. 12, 3 p.m. Tickets: $25 advance, $30 door. 21 and Up.

Atlanta bartenders compete while raising funds for the High Museum. Photo: Annie Gannon Kaufman

Highball at the High Museum, Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m., $125

Join fellow drinks enthusiasts as you watch 16 of Atlanta’s top bartenders go head-to-head in the inaugural Highball cocktail competition benefiting the High Museum.

The High Museum relies on support from private donors and ticket sales from tours and felt this new annual fundraiser would be an exciting way to get the community involved. Allison Chance, the High’s director of development tells us, “We’re thrilled to bring the booziest minds in Atlanta mixology together with a lively crowd of cocktail connoisseurs for the first time at the Museum.”

Bartenders will choose a base spirit such as gin, whiskey or tequila in which to create an original cocktail. Guests will then taste their way through each of the drinks presented and vote for their favorite or “People’s Choice”. founder and Creative Loafing writer Brad Kaplan will also be on hand to judge “Critic’s Choice” based on a cocktail’s overall originality and execution.

Guests will enjoy music and light bites throughout the competition with winners announced at the end of the evening.


Greta Buccellato – 5Church Atlanta (Base Spirit: Tequila)

Amy Burns – Hampton + Hudson (Base Spirit: Rum)

Blake Carter – Sweet Auburn BBQ (Base Spirit: Vodka)

Bobby Dudley – The S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Base Spirit: Vodka)

Brent Hesse – 1KEPT (Base Spirit: Bourbon)

Bryan Holmes – Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse Atlanta (Base Spirit: Bourbon)

Hannah Leonard – Grain Spirits + Food (Base Spirit: Bourbon)

Carmaleita Lyght – Lyght House Cocktails (Base Spirit: Rum)

Jose Pereiro – Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar (Base Spirit: Vodka)

Corey Phillips – Bellina Alimentari (Base Spirit: Rum)

Trip Sandifer – The Painted Pin (Buckhead) (Base Spirit: Tequila)

Jessica Smith – Urban Tree Cidery (Base Spirit: Tequila)

Ryan Smith – Reboot Retrocade & Bar (Base Spirit: Gin)

Jonathan Turner – Grain Spirits + Food (Base Spirit: Rum)

Ben Yabrow – Himitsu (Base Spirit: Vodka)

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here

Margaretta Taylor Lobby, Wieland Pavilion, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, Sat. Feb. 18, $500+ benefactors, $125 general admission. Doors open for benefactors at 6:30 p.m. and general admission at 7:30 p.m. Dressy casual. 21 and up.

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The Food & Dining Team offers reviews, previews, food news and fun bites food trends for metro Atlanta’s vast food and dining scene.

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