Food & Drink

Dutch Courage’s Kim Vo Heads to National Bartending Competition

Vo will represent Baltimore at Speed Rack, the renowned tournament for female-identifying bartenders, in New Orleans this weekend.

To some, slinging cocktails is just something to pay the bills, but for Kim Vo, bartender at Old Goucher’s Dutch Courage, it’s a passion. 

So it makes sense that, after nearly 10 years spent behind the bar, Vo decided to test her skills by entering Speed Rack—a high-speed competition in which female-identifying industry members from across the country show off their skills in various timed challenges.

Each year, hundreds of online applicants are narrowed down to 20 qualifiers, and then the top 16 are placed into a bracketed-style competition where they prepare a round of classic cocktails selected at random. Judges then make their top picks based on accuracy, taste, and presentation.

Vo had been keeping tabs on the organization for a while, watching how other femmes competed and admiring their dedication to women’s causes such as breast cancer research and education—the beneficiary of all of Speed Rack’s proceeds.

With 16 years, nearly half her life, spent in the service industry, she finally applied to compete in the New York regional competition in April of this year. There, she got the fastest preliminary time—making four high-quality cocktails in only 46 seconds—which qualified her for the national competition in New Orleans, taking place this weekend on Sunday, July 23. 

“This is a competition that means a lot to me,” Vo says, “as it’s all about women’s empowerment and highlighting the strengths of women in the industry.”

Since qualifying for nationals—which just so happens to overlap with this year’s annual Tales of the Cocktail conference in The Big Easy—Vo has been hard at work training for the competition, which she says is more intense and requires knowledge of additional cocktail recipes than the regional tournaments.

Overall, Vo says she’s looking forward to putting her best foot forward in the competition, as well as using the event as a networking opportunity to meet other figures in the industry.

“I am incredibly excited to meet the other competitors,” she says. “[I’m going to be with] some of the best and fastest femme bartenders all across the country, so it will be amazing to connect to them.”