Explore the stories behind this iconic flower and grab Vianney Rodriguez’s recipe.
When Ivy Mix approached her boss in New York City in 2009 and told him she wanted to be a bartender, he told her, “No, you’re a cocktail waitress.”
While the now award-winning bartender and Latin American spirits aficionado had an appreciation for cocktails back then, she didn’t have much bartending experience. But she also didn’t have many female role models in the industry yet.
The NYC cocktail scene was just starting to boom, and it felt like everywhere Mix looked, there were only men behind the bar. When she asked why there weren’t any female bartenders, she always got the same answer: Because we don’t know any.
Mix hadn’t always wanted to be a bartender. She’d actually gotten her first job bartending by accident as a way to pay off the tab she’d racked up during her field study in Guatemala. It was there she fell in love with bar culture and the sense of community it nourished.
When she moved back to the U.S. in 2008, she’d taken a job as a cocktail waitress to supplement her income while interning at an art gallery. But seeing bartenders craft “art you could drink” sparked her interest in mixology and motivated her to switch careers.
While Mix faced difficulties finding a bar that would train her, she eventually got a job as a bartender and joined LUPEC, an organization for female bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts.
Mix got more opportunities over time, but she often felt like she was getting them just because she was the only female bartender many people knew. She joked about creating a satirical video called “Speed Rack,” poking fun at the lack of care for what female bartenders brought to the table besides being a woman.
But then she recalled those words she’d heard over and over again: We don’t have female bartenders because we don’t know any. And that got her thinking—“What if I started a female-only cocktail competition? A platform for women to stand on and say, ‘Hey, we’re here! Hire us.’?”
Mix brought the idea to one of her mentors, Lynnette Marrero. And in 2011, they co-founded Speed Rack, the world’s first all-female speed bartending competition. The two worked together to coordinate a series of regional events across the country, culminating in national finals and raising money for breast cancer charities along the way.
Meeting over 400 female bartenders nationwide and raising $250,000 in its first year alone, the reception of Speed Rack was overwhelming. It quickly grew and spread internationally, raising over $1,000,000 for breast cancer research, education and prevention to date.
While helping run Speed Rack takes a lot of time and energy on top of running her own Pan-Latin inspired cocktail bar and bottle shop, Mix has never doubted if it’s worth it.
“To see the level of camaraderie, the sisterhood Speed Rack has created and the opportunities it’s given to female-identifying people across the industry is extremely rewarding. It’s invaluable.”
A lot has changed since Mix got her start in bartending. Go to some of the best bars in the world, and not only are women bartending at them—frequently, they’re running them.
But while the industry has made a lot of progress, Mix recognizes there’s still room for improvement. She hopes to see more female ownership in the next decade, as well as progress on barriers that prevent women from staying in the hospitality industry long term.
Her advice for women trying to make it in bartending today is the same as her advice to anyone trying to break into the industry:
“Get to work—this is not a job for the faint of heart. But if you decide you really want it, anything is possible when you have a good work ethic and show you really care about what you’re doing.”
You can learn more about Ivy Mix and what she’s up to at the moment here.