The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, despite making its debut run, indeed felt surprisingly “classic.”  Following the opulent endeavor of the opening night Gala at the New York Public Library, which left its jubilant, blurry-eyed attendants breathless, was a weekend of more studious exploration and indulgence in all things that fall into a cocktail shaker.

Based out of the Astor Center in the East Village, the weekend through tuesday was striated with an impressive line up of seminars, social events and exhibitions devoted to the origins, history and culture of various spirits, as well as how, and with what, to mix them.  Held both on site and at various infamous watering holes throughout Manhattan, each seminar had the right balance of learned sobriety and winking humor. 

Of course, the humor and raucousness increased gradually in pitch as the talks went on, for these were not, by any means, lightweight events.  Even the most perseverant of pessimist would have to admit: no glass was served half empty.  At the end of the “Martini: Cocktail Royalty” session, I was amazed to see that six martini glasses had slowly amassed in front of me–each one demonstrating a slightly, but importantly, different take on the age-old beverage.  I am now proud to say that I can order a martini properly and with authority.

An adjacent room in the Astor Center was set up as the resident saloon, where specialty cocktails were crafted throughout the day, showcasing everything from Green Chartruese to Zacapa Rum to Grand Marnier.  2 cocktails at this bar were included in the price of admission to any given seminar, as well as a visit to a sipping bar, where further spirits were showcased on the “rocks” or “neat.”

The overriding impression that the MCC left is one of great success and even greater promise.  All of the staff involved, the coordinators and the servers alike, had a sparkle in their eye and humble, but thrilled, grin.  They knew they had been part of creating something that would become a wonderful, debaucherous legend–succeeding in elevating itself, and the cocktail in kind, to a whole new level of academic reverence and underground cool.

– Ava Fedorov