There are some parties that just demand respect.  The Manhattan Cocktail Classic Opening Gala, held at the New York Public Library, didn’t have to demand it: instead, we gave it over freely, entirely, awestruck even as we lavished ourselves in the 4 floors of enchanting, and deliriously jubilant enthusiasm.

With cocktails offered every step of the way, it was a respectful care that went into the appreciation of these beverages—which encouraged thoughtful libation and not the mindless open bar gulping down.  For, these glasses were filled with not just any old “cocktail,” but a concoction carefully invented and thoughtfully poured for each individual of the thousands who streamed across the floors of the NYPL.  A feat, in and of itself, that deserves a standing ovation. Similarly, the sheer magnitude of availability, with an assurance to never run out, allowed party-goers to relax into the night, and not worry that they might loose their chance to try something special.  The only real worry of the evening was that it was impossible to experience everything, as the huge space brimmed over with moments one could easily spend the whole night inside.

The grandiose elegance that defines the NYPL was transformed into a 4-floor Baroque den of spirited mischief.  In every nook and cranny of the space, mixologists offered elaborate cocktails, fine sipping spirits, and intoxicating concoctions to dazzle any imagination, and dizzy even the most sober-headed reveler.  However, for an event that showcased mischievous debauchery and fanciful decadence, the fact that its attendants enjoyed it so thoroughly without evidence of irresponsible sloppiness is a testament to the grace and professional demeanor of the hosts who put it all together.

Not only interesting and delicious drinks tempted the wanderer at every turn, but a room of roasted meats, including a full suckling pig on a spit and other decadent culinary indulgences; a Vegas-style, red (or, well, blue) carpet photo shoot, sponsored by Patron’s new luxury vodka, Ultimat; a grooming lounge by Truman’s Gentlemen’s Groomer in New York (complete with shoe shining, massages, and old-fashioned, hot towel, straight-razor shaves), to name a few of the unique additions that completed the transporting effect.

Excellent live music serenaded every floor (I had no idea there was a ballroom in the basement of the NYPL!), and theatrical antics scattered throughout, ranging from “umpa-lumpas” dancing in the lobby, to tall, graceful harlequins gliding down the halls.  This party was like an ecosystem all its own: there was no element, no detail that wasn’t involved in the all-encompassing conquering of this night.  A night in which I lived, breathed, ate, drank and existed entirely in the party.

Just some of the many drinkable highlights included some tropical fun that Don Q Rum—with a whole room devoted to its promotion—infused into their cocktails, molecularly (and theatrically) mixing up frozen rum and pureed mango, as well as another made with fresh coconut water and whipped coconut cream.  Veev, a spirit from Brazilian Açaí berry, making its debut to the market, used the creative approach of giving curious party-goers the chance to be their own mixologists (though the level of hand-holding through the process was almost too heavy) in an apothecary-style setting, offering various herbs and ingredients to “personalize” the cocktail.  The drinks were mixed in mason jars, and came with a bracelet of Açaí seeds, and a note informing that $1 for every bottle of Veev sold is donated to rain forest preservation.

Featuring over 137 different brands of alcohol, it’s impossible to highlight (or even name) them all, but suffice it to say that I tasted a range from organic, artisanal spirits, to household, giants in the industry. It was refreshing to see so many brands getting along under one roof, without catering to snobbish elitism, or corporate deference.  But that was the spirit, so to speak, of the night: enjoyment with blissful abandon—this was about the celebration of the cocktail, and every form that it takes, not about egos and marketing (though, I am sure those will benefit as well).

With that in mind, even a stoic party-goer here was surely slurring their words by the end of this night, which tossed its impish head at the mere whisper of moderation: this was a night for total, indulgent decadence.  However, decadence in the most sophisticated sense.  I never did find the “virgin room”—a room devoted to non-alcoholic beverages and quiet respite—which I only heard rumors about after the fact.  However, I can find that any time on my couch at home in my apartment, and truly, I needed to all day on Saturday.

Bravo, MCC!  I have never been so happy to have a headache!

– Ava Fedorov