Checking in with Haley Traub, Winner of Speed Rack U.S. Season 7

Haley Traub's winning moment at Speed Rack's Season 7 Nationals.

Haley Traub's winning moment at Speed Rack's Season 7 Nationals.

New York City bartender Haley Traub emerged as the national winner in this year’s Speed Rack competition, held in May in Chicago. During her journey to victory, where Haley knocked out hundreds of competitors along the way, she stayed focused, her eye on the prize and the crown of Miss Speed Rack 2018. Months later, Haley caught us up on how her life has changed, why her coup meant so much to her family, and how Speed Rack really hits home for her.

You won! What’s the best thing to come out of it for you, professionally?

[The best thing is] the exposure it brings to bartenders — especially the winner — in terms of being able to connect with bars, other bartenders, and brands. I’ve seen the opportunities that have come out of it in past seasons; Speed Rack is definitely known internationally. In my opinion, the biggest benefit is being on a pedestal and being able to make new connections because of it. My boss, Richie [Dutch Kills owner Richard Boccato], said to me: “You’ve always been good. Now people are seeing it.”

Yes they are! Do you have any personal connection to the charitable angle of Speed Rack? Is that what made you want to put in the time to compete?

I wanted to do this first, because of the charity: My grandmother is a three-time cancer survivor. She, my mom, and my aunt all came out for the finals in Chicago which was pretty special.

Admittedly, I also wanted to compete and challenge myself as a bartender. Even though I don't really do a lot of bartending competitions, this was one that I could get behind. That’s the second thing: I wanted to challenge myself. It’s been a big time commitment and an interesting journey — this hardcore competitive event with a charitable aspect.

Did the breast cancer angle of Speed Rack manifest for you more as the competition rolled on?

There was a party aspect and a competitive aspect to it initially, but along the way, I started following a friend who was fighting endometrial cancer — plus a friend’s mom who was fighting breast cancer —  and the charity suddenly got a face. The timing of all of this gave it new meaning; these are physical examples of who we’re doing this for. Yeah, it’s still a party but we’re raising money for our friends and family who are fighting this right now.

Haley Traub is the 2018 National Speed Rack Champion and is a bartender at New York’s Dutch Kills and Fresh Kills bars.


Alex Ross, host of the inaugural Speed Rack Australia.

Alex Ross, host of the inaugural Speed Rack Australia.

As official emcee for the inaugural Speed Rack Australia, Alex Ross knew the event would be something special. The Aussie hospitality veteran just didn't realize it would hit so close to home. Speed Rack’s charitable arm supports breast cancer charities, and just weeks after Speed Rack Australia left its mark Down Under, Alex was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. We caught up with the bartender extraordinaire from her home in Australia recently, and she brought us up to speed (pun intended) of the event’s recent success and how she’s facing her newest challenge.

Congrats on your country’s first Speed Rack. How did year one go for you?

My mission was to try to get as many women in the industry involved. This was long overdue for us as a country as the cocktail industry has boomed so much in the past 10-20 years. It was amazing to see the local bartenders (and brands) involved in it — but it was baptism by fire! I mean, we were in the further place from where it started! It was a lot of work, but Lynnette [Marrero] and Ivy [Mix] were amazing and the crowd was understanding (laughs).

I’m sure you did great! Speed Rack was obviously a success down there, but soon after, you learned of your own diagnosis. How are you handling this news, especially so soon after an event supporting it?

I’m wearing my Speed Rack tee-shirt right now. I’m proud to be attached to a charity like this and proud of our community of bartenders for working so hard for such a worthy cause. But, you know, the irony wasn’t lost on me.

You mentioned the tremendous amount of research and support there is in Australia for breast cancer research. Do you feel strong support everywhere?

Yes! We live in a really wonderful community that looks after its people and there’s heaps of research being done and money being raised. There’s a strong foundation here … it’s beautiful that strangers have reached out to me; it’s been eye-opening and kind of overwhelming in terms of the support I’ve gotten so far. It’s horrible to hear about so many people who are affected, but also encouraging to know we’re not alone. I’m proud to add to strength of this community.

Alex Ross is the Managing Director at Maggie & Rooster in Victoria, Australia and was the emcee of the first Speed Rack Australia.

Where to drink across America, According to four pillars gin

Four Pillars Gin co-founders (left to right) Matt Jones, Cameron Mackenzie, and Stuart Gregor.

Four Pillars Gin co-founders (left to right) Matt Jones, Cameron Mackenzie, and Stuart Gregor.

Four Pillars Gin co-founders, Matt Jones, Cameron Mackenzie, and Stuart Gregor share their top favorite bars across the country to enjoy Four Pillars Gin.

Dirty Precious (NYC)

This is one of our favorite bars to visit whenever we’re in New York City. Co-owners Katipai Richardson-Wilson and Amy Cole have created a gorgeous space that is altogether open, sophisticated, and inviting. Definitely pop in for a Four Pillars Gin negroni if you’re in Gowanus.

Chinese Tuxedo (NYC)

If you’re looking for an ultra-sleek spot to get unbeatable high-end Chinese bites with expertly shaken cocktails — all while surrounded by plush leather booths and undeniable “cool-kid” vibes —  then look no further than Chinese Tuxedo.

Bloodhound (SF)

We love a good dive bar, and Bloodhound in San Francisco is no exception. This hip, rustic hideaway is perfect for catching up with friends after a long day at work, or simply brushing up on your pool skills while enjoying a great seasonal cocktail.

Diamond Reef (NYC)

Our good friends at Attaboy created this easy, breezy tropical themed spin-off just a couple of years ago, and we love stopping in whenever we’re in the city. Their gorgeous backyard patio is perfect for sipping on an icy cold Four Pillars Gin and tonic.

Mother’s Ruin (NYC)

Slushie machines and a weekly changing cocktail list. Need we say more? Mother’s Ruin is another must-visit for us whenever we’re in Manhattan.

Gwen (LA)

Fellow Aussies, Curtis Stone and his brother Lucas Stone created this butcher shop-meets-bar and restaurant in honor of their beloved grandmother, Gwen. We’re always keen to support other Australian-run businesses, and it doesn’t hurt that their drinks are downright delicious! We highly recommend stopping in the next time you find yourself in Los Angeles.

Bar Belly (NYC)

Nobody does oysters and Four Pillars Gin martinis quite like Bar Belly in NYC’s Lower East Side. If you’re feeling extra brave, grab a costume from the treasure chest in the back of the bar, and take a turn at playing the piano. Okay, maybe after a few martinis!

For those imbibing at home, Matt, Cam, and Stu recommend shaking up a Bloody Jasmine featuring our Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin.

Credit: Rick Liston Photography

Credit: Rick Liston Photography

Bloody Jasmine

  • .75 oz Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin

  • .75 oz Campari

  • .75 oz Dry Curacao

  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice

  • 1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters

  • Lemon twist for garnish

Glassware: Coupette

Method: Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupette glass and garnish with a lemon twist.