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Aspen bartender has need for speed

Michael AppelgateThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Erin Harris specializes in speed.At Jimmy’s An American Restaurant & Bar she serves up drinks with panache, grace, accuracy and quickness – all with a smile. The Aspen bartender hopes her speed and accuracy can produce top results at a national bartending competition in May, but she has to earn her way there first.In February, Harris competed in her first-ever bartending competition in Denver at Speed Rack’s regional competition but couldn’t secure the top spot and a ticket to New York City for the national championship. Speed Rack, a bartending competition exclusively for women, benefits breast cancer research and awareness.But Harris, a 28-year-old Aspen resident, hasn’t given up on going to the national contest, pinning her hopes on a wild-card spot. To travel to New York City, Harris is relying on online votes for one of six wild-card spots, and is competing against 70 other women from 10 cities across the U.S. “I’ve only been to New York once, and I want to go back,” Harris said. “I want to go and redeem myself and be better, but there will be the best of the best there, so that’s exciting.”As of Thursday morning, Harris led all wild-card competitors with more than 1,030 votes – some 50 votes ahead of a competitor from New York City. While the lead put a smile to the faces of both Harris and restaurant owner, Jimmy Yeager, they are seeking more votes as they head into the final days of the contest, which ends Monday. People can vote at http://www.speed-rack.com/denver/2012-02-12.”I think the world of Erin; I think she is an incredible talent,” Yeager said. “I like the format of this competition, and that it raises money for breast cancer research.”Yeager is spearheading the campaign for Harris, using the popular social media websites Twitter and Facebook. He cautions that while they have had an impressive voter response in almost two weeks of voting, other competing bartenders have caught on to their strategy. “Now that they’ve figured out what we’ve been doing with social media, it’s gotten a bit closer,” Yeager said. “If we make it to New York City, we will arrive with a check for $5,000.”Yeager has brought together a group of four individuals, himself included, who will donate $1 for every vote Erin receives after 1,000 votes. The goal is to reach $5,000. “One of the things I take great pride in is we are an establishment that is known on a national basis,” Yeager said. “We will not go there empty handed. Every vote for Erin is a vote for breast cancer research.”If Harris is one of the top six vote-getters, she will compete against the best bartenders in the nation on May 10. While she didn’t win the Denver regional competition in February, she dominated 20 other competitors in the first round by making four drinks in 1 minute, 1 second – 20 seconds faster than the runner-up. “I was little bit nervous because I’ve never done anything like that before,” Harris said. “But working here, and making a lot of drinks fast, was definitely the basis to help me.”In the Denver semifinals, Harris stumbled in head-to-head competition where judges decide who moves on based on speed and accuracy.”I let my nerves get to me,” she said. “It was one of those things where I messed up, and it took me too long to recover.”If selected to go to New York, Harris said she will study her cocktails intensively and work in the bar’s “well” to improve her speed. Harris, who has lived in Aspen for seven years and worked at Jimmy’s for about a year and a half, said six years of bartending has fostered a love in her of making people happy.”I love dealing with people,” Harris said. “You get to know everyone in the community, and you build such a big base of friends. It’s really fun when you make something, and you see peoples’ faces, and they enjoy what you do.”Yeager hopes that those same people whom Harris serves nightly can result in a trip to New York and support for breast cancer research. “If we don’t get the votes from the community, it doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Yeager said. “We do have a network of people where we’re getting these votes from, but we’re going up against people from Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Chicago, and we’re leading. We need to pull every vote out of this community.”Added Harris: “The votes are very flattering. My birthday is next Monday when the voting ends, so people should vote for me for my birthday.”mappelgate@aspentimes.com


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