As the calendar page gets ready to flip from 2010 to 2011, reflecting on the last 365 days is somehow inevitable.  Inspired by Derek Brown’s retelling of his top 5 cocktails of 2010, I thought I would share with you my top 5 moments in libations.  For my faithful regular readers, some of these moments will be familiar.  Let the count down begin:

5. Having my eyes opened up to the wonders of beer. Just about two weeks ago, I had an introduction into the fabulously fun world of beer.  Don’t worry cocktail fans, this girl is still faithful to the legacy of Jerry Thomas and Harry Craddock and highballs, sours, smashes, swizzles and collins are still my first love.  But thanks to my friend Jim, I now have more options for imbibing.

4. Behind-the-Bar at Employees Only. At May’s Manhattan Cocktail Classic, our best event selection was the “Behind the Bar” event at Employees Only.  With a group of about 30 other cocktail enthusiasts, we spent the afternoon with owners Jay Kosmas and Dushan Zaric, and Sean Harrison, Plymouth Gin’s head distiller. I learned tons about gin, the thinking behind a bar’s design and cocktail program, and the creative process of mixing amazing drinks.  All this while sipping gin, stellar cocktails and eating delicious snacks.

3. The Columbia Room. My visit to the Columbia Room stands out for a number of reasons.  Of course, the drinks were amazing—I can still remember the yum flavor of the red pepper daisy and my Negroni Sbagliata.  But what made it a top 5 experience was the service–from the moment I made the reservation to the “thank you” note they sent me for visiting, The Columbia Room does it right.  And I met Derek Brown—it’s not every day you meet a rock-star bartender!

2. Touring Fernet Branca. In case you haven’t figured this out by now, I am kind of nerdy about booze related history. I love the stories of how the spirits we drink today began and have impacted our drinking culture.  So, visiting the Fernet Branca plant in Milano satisfied my cocktail nerdiness in a major way.  I learned about the product’s inception as a treatment for cholera; I saw the progression of the company’s marketing which is still marked today by quintessential Italian aesthetic.  Standing at the spice table with the 27 plants and herbs that flavor this amaro was a sensory overload only to be matched by the sight and smell of 500 barrels of Fernet in the aging room.

1. A punch bowl of JDP for my birthday. I celebrated my 35th birthday at Drink. Upon our arrival, Brian, Jeff and I were cheerfully greeted by Sam (whose departure from Drink would make my worst drinking moments list, if I was writing such a list) who quickly began mixing a bowl of the JDP for my party.  Is there a better way to begin your birthday than with a giant punch bowl of your favorite/namesake cocktail?  The punch bowl was just the beginning of one of my best birthdays ever.

The common thread is not just the delicious drinks I had, but in each instance it was about the people that I was with that made the experience so memorable.  My adventures in cocktailing would not be the same if I were doing it alone.  Friends, family, and bartenders add to the richness of Nightcapped.  Thank you for making my adventures possible.  To all the fun we’ve had in 2010, and to all our 2011 adventures in cocktailing—Cheers!