For the second year in a row, I traveled to NYC to celebrate all things cocktail with a few thousand others at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.  I have so many stories and cocktail experiences to share, I’ll be writing a number of posts over the next week or so.  But let’s start at the beginning at the Gala.  The New York Public Library was once again transformed into a lavish party place, this year with a circus theme complete with trapeze artists.   Over 100 bars, as well as the cocktail world’s stars and enthusiasts, filled the hallways.  At every turn, I was faced with a different liquid concoction—where’s a girl to begin?

Sometimes the best place to start when faced with an overwhelming decision is with the familiar.  So, I stopped at Campari’s bar on the first floor for a Negroni mixed by Tony Abou-Ganim. Ahhhh, served on the rocks with an orange peel—just the way I like it.  It was a big night for the Negroni—Campari has named 2011 “The Year of the Negroni.”  Considering I had dubbed last summer “the summer of Campari” and was drinking Negronis like it was my job, I just may be one step ahead…

Brian, Jeff and I quickly made our way up to the third floor where the crowd had yet to flow.  We sipped many yummy drinks including the Imperial Coca Sour (Jeff’s favorite drink of the evening) served up by cocktail legend Brother Cleve.  Even though I am a frequent imbiber in Boston, we had never met, so chatting while he mixed up our drinks was fun!

Brother Cleve doing his thing

Imperial Coca Sour

2 oz Macchu Pisco infused with Coca tea

1 oz Combier

1 oz fresh lime juice

dash Chuncho bitters

Shake and strain into a rocks glass and top with a dash of Chuncho bitters

When the third floor started to get crowded, we headed back downstairs.  I was drawn to the Lillet bar by this bartender in sequins and bee-hive hair-do.

It wasn’t all show– this girl was mixing up a fabulously bitter cocktail—the Col du Sabion, named for the mountain pass in the Alps that connects France and Italy, the homes of Lillet and Solerno.  Bitter seemed to be a theme of the night. And this drink delivered on that theme.  This could become a summer staple.  I love the orange, the bitter and the light lemon soda.

Col du Sabion

1 oz Lillet Blanc

1 oz Lillet Rouge

½ oz Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

¼ oz Gran Classico

3 oz Fever Tree Bitter Lemon soda

Build over ice and shake.  Serve on the rocks in a highball glass. Top with soda and garnish with a thick twist of orange peel.

To sip our Col du Sabion, we found spot right next to Zwack, that Hungarian liqueur made with over 40 herbs.  The drink was good, but perhaps more memorable from the stop was the birth of the phrase “I’d Zwack that” (no interpretation necessary, you know what it means) which would be heard many times over the weekend.

The night continued on and on.  Many more cocktails were sampled and consumed.  The official word is that Gala attendees consumed over 40,000 (yes, you read that correctly) cocktails!

Brian and Jeff sipping a few cocktails amongst the "stacks"

As the night continued, things got a bit fuzzy (I can’t imagine why), like this picture of Brian and I, so I will end my recap of the Gala highlights here.  It was one fun party.  Cheers!