The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, the annual New York City five-day celebration of all things cocktail-related, kicked off its 2011 festival on Friday, May 13, with an exuberant opening-night gala at the New York Public Library. Event organizers estimate approximately 3,333 cocktail seekers filled the marble corridors of the iconic New York City landmark. More than 40,000 cocktails were served by more than 100 bar stars from across the country. Among the opening evening's highlights: Campari's Negroni bar, where long-time Negroni advocate Tony Abou-Ganim stirred up definitive versions of the classic. From that spirited beginning, the festival continued at a fevered pitch; it’s only possible to mention a few of the many seminars, tastings, events, parties and drink throwdowns, but we’ll do what we can.
Brand representatives, of course, went crazy at the thought of so many bartenders and consumers out and about: Distillers and blenders from England, Scotland, France, Japan and beyond hosted events all over town throughout the weekend in bars and boites, on buses and boats and in secret locations.
On Saturday, Don Q and the U.S. Bartenders' Guild (USBG) hosted the conclusion to a national drink competition: the 2011 Ultimate MixOff Challenge. In the Fancy Spirited Cocktail with Homemade Ingredient category, Ezra Pattek (Bar Lab Cocktail Catering, Miami) placed with his Spiced Sassafras Julep and Mathias Simonis (Distil Milwaukee, Milwaukee) placed with his Postcard from a Call Girl in San Juan; in the the Fruit Forward Long Drink with Garnish Focus category, Julio Cabrera (Viceroy Hotel, Miami) placed with his Sabroso and TJ Vytlacil (Demun Oyster Bar, St. Louis) placed with with his Love Burns. Mike Mills (Firehouse Lounge, Pittsburgh) was the crowd favorite for that category with his Rumming Out of Time. The five winners were awarded a trip to Puerto Rico to tour the Destilería Serrallés and the Serrallés Castle. Upon their return, the winners will present a tailored mixology seminar to their respective USBG chapters.
At Sunday night’s Social Mixology blast at the pop-up restaurant LTO, the Hawthorne Beverage Group; John Hogan and Christian Self of Bar Magic; Charlotte Voisey and Jim Ryan of Wm. Grant; Jacob Briars of Leblon; Willy Shine, Justin Noel and Tim Cooper of Contemporary Cocktails; and Elad Zvi and Ezra Pattek of Bar Lab shared cocktails until the wee hours. Hendrick’s, Milagro, Corzo, Leblon, Pernod, Hudson Whiskeys, Appleton and Monin were among the supporters.
On Monday night, more visiting bartenders welcomed overflow crowds of cocktail pros and geeks at their events. Aidan Demarest, Marcos Tello and Eric Alperin brought their Red Rover event to Jo’s Restaurant with the help of the USBG, Martin Miller’s gin, Dos Maderos rum, Gran Duque d’Alba brandy and Dry Sack sherry.
In another part of town, Tanqueray master distiller Tom Nichol held court for a few nights at the Esquire Green Room in the Andaz 5th Avenue hotel, with cocktails by brand ambassador Angus Winchester and Steve Olson. New brands showed the latest twists on cocktails: Purity vodka shared a glimpse of its H2O/N2O concept, and master blender Thomas Kuuttanen explained how the method allows water, alcohol and other natural ingredients to react; then, bartender and brand ambassador John Pomeroy presented the concept with the Cucumber and Black Pepper Purity H2O.
Winding up Monday’s doings, Pernod-Ricard hosted the “gazers,” gaz regan’s awards, for international barfolk. The winners of the “Fabulous Bartender” awards: Andy Wells, Anthony DeSerio, Chad Doll, Duggan McDonnell, Jackson Cannon, Jason Littrell, Jessica Gonzalez, Lynnette Marrero, Lynn House, Neyah White, Salvatore Calabrese and Stan Vadrna. Winners of the “Fabulous Innovators” awards: Eben Freeman, Francesco Turrini and Christina Bini, Jamie Boudreau, Ross Simon, Ryan C. Maybee, Tony Conigliaro and Jeffrey Morganthaller. Phew. Better rest up for next year's event.