I ventured to New York City this weekend for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic—five days of events celebrating all the wonder that is the cocktail.  Even though I was only there for three days, if I write about everything we drank this would be the world’s longest blog post.  So, instead I will stick to sharing some highlights.

Brian and I enjoying our Floradoras

Brian, Jeff and I began our weekend of imbibing at Friday night’s Gala at the New York Public Library.  Almost fifty bars each featuring a different spirit filled four floors of the historic building– seriously, it was amazingly insane!  A bit overwhelming at first, we quickly got into the spirit—just try as many drinks as possible and only finish the ones I really liked.  The possibilities were endless, and our glasses were full all night.  Early in the evening I was drawn to the Aperol bar—it may have been the table full of gorgeously pink-orange hued liqueur or the three very cute Italian bartenders mixing the drinks.  Either way I was not disappointed.  I was served an Italian Job. The drink was slightly sweet, perfectly bitter and herbally all at once.  A really fabulous start to the evening.

Italian Job

1 oz limoncello
3/4 oz Aperol
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
4 basil leaves
5 drops orange bitter
Muddle basil with sugar and lime juice, add remaining ingredients. Shake. Strain. Top with Prosecco.

Jeff and the Hendricks Queen

Some other highlights were our Hendricks drink. Not only were the drinks yum, but it was a fun spot.  The presence of the Hendricks “Queen” atop of the bar generated quite a buzz.  I loved my Floradora—gin, lime juice, raspberry liqueur topped with gingerbeer!  We also really liked our Mary Pickfords with Zacapa Rum—yum!

Saturday we attended a workshop on Champagne cocktails with Dale DeGroff and Doug Frost.  After tasting five different sparkling wines, we had four different classic Champagne cocktails.  I cannot believe I am admitting this, but I am not so fond of Champagne. I know that sounds crazy, but I prefer California sparkling wines and Prosecco   There, I said it!

Since a traditional Champagne Cocktail, the French 75 and Bellini were all things I have enjoyed before, I was particularly interested in The Ritz.  This version was developed by DeGroff in the late 1980s while he was working at the Rainbow Room as a tribute to the traditional Champagne cocktails of the Ritz hotels in London, Paris and Madrid.  Apparently, this recipe gained DeGroff his first in print props—in Playboy magazine!  The cognac makes this sparkler richer than the others we tried.  The Cointreau adds a warm orange flavor, balanced by the nuttiness of the Luxardo Maraschino.



The Ritz (Dale DeGroff’s recipe)

The Ritz in the foreground...all my empty glasses in the background

¾ oz cognac

½ oz Cointreau

¼ oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

¼ oz lemon juice

Shake over ice.  Strain. Top with Champagne and serve with a burnt orange peel.






On Sunday, we went to a “Behind the Bar” event at Employees Only.  This was an opportunity to spend time with two of the creators of EO, Jay Kosmas and Dushan Zaric.  We heard the story of how Employees Only began, why the bar is shaped the way it is, how they developed their menu, and of course sampled some of their amazing drinks.  We also learned a lot about Plymouth gin from master distiller Sean Harrison—and I was reminded how much I love a British accent!  One of the highlights was the Provencal made with house-made gin infused with lavendar and vermouth infused with herbs de provence.  My favorite of our cocktails here was the Nerina—a variation on the Negroni (which is one of my favorite cocktails).  In this version, the gin remains, Punt de Mes is the vermouth and Meletti Amaro (that delicious carmelly-cinnamon bitter that I have recently fallen in love with) replaces the Campari.  So good!  This is the way to experience a bar—a couple hours with the owners and bartenders, hearing their stories, tasting their drinks, and laughing along with their jokes.

Three days in Manhattan, countless cocktails and lots of fun with my two best guys! Cheers!