Last night in New York City, two Houston bartenders: Fitzgerald's Yael Vengroff and Anvil Bar & Refuge's Alba Huerta finished first and second respectively at the Speed Rack Finals. Approximately 200 people attended the event, which raises money for breast cancer research.
Huerta came to the finals having won Houston's regional Speed Rack competition. Vengroff, who recently returned home to Houston after working in New York City at Pegu Club, won the New York leg of the competition prior to her move.
The eight city finalists faced off against eight wild cards in an initial round that focused on speed and was not subject to the harsher critiques that would follow in later rounds. After each defeating two competitors, the women faced off in an all-Houston final. According to Grand Prize's Adrienne Byard who attended the event as part of a visit to New York for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, the final came down to small details. Huerta broke a Coupe, while Vengroff forgot to include Italian Vermouth in one drink.
Reached by Eater, Huerta was gracious in defeat. She explained that her strategy was to focus on accuracy and quality over speed. "I guess in the long run," she wrote, "my customers win." Anyone who's experienced Huerta's expertise at Anvil would have to agree.
Alba Huerta and Yael Vengroff at Speed Rack. [Ceci Norman, via Road Wide Open]