Couldn’t make it to this year’s Manhattan Cocktail Classic (MCC)—the annual cocktail festival and conference held in New York City from May 17–21? No worries—we’ve got you covered. More than 200 of the industry’s best bartenders marinated, carbonated, swizzled and swirled an astonishing amount of sips at the event. W.E. divided and attempted to conquer the bacchanal. Here are our top drink picks of the weekend and where they can be sampled this summer (and no, they’re not all in New York).
1. Tucked into a secret enclave at this year’s opening-night gala at the New York Public Library was PDT’s private tasting room, where we discovered our two favorite cocktails of the party. The Pimm’s #6—a refreshing riff on the classic and the Simon Says, a frosty tall cooler of Plymouth Gin, lime, Trader Tiki’s Don’s Mix and PDT’s housemade ginger beer. Visit Jim Meehan at PDT for these and other innovative cocktails from his James Beard Foundation Award-winning menu.
2. Created by Theo Lieberman and served in a frosty bottle with sipping straws, the smile-inducing Carbonated Negroni Cocktail was like being transported to a tipsy, 1950s soda-fountain shop. Lieberman and his finely-crafted carbonated cocktails can be found at Lantern’s Keep and Milk & Honey, both in Manhattan.
3. The perfect way to ease into the evening, the Ramazzotti-based Kina No. 6 was a light, apéritif-style cocktail, with chocolate mole bitters. Chicago-area tipplers are in luck: it’s on the menu as CHINA no6 at Balena.
4. Served as a buffer at the 2012 Industry Invitational seminar in New York City, “Do Not Resuscitate: A Dozen Terrible Classic Cocktails That Should Never Be Resurrected,” The Brandy Crusta was made with Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Ancienne Méthod—both formulated by cocktail historian David Wondrich and Pierre Ferrand President Alexandre Gabriel. It was served in a sugar-rimmed Champagne glass. While the classic Brandy Crusta can be found at a number of bars, it’s especially worth a try at New York City’s Brandy Library, or Arnaud’s in New Orleans, the drink’s birthplace.
5. A sip to savor, the Autumn Sweater was served at Wine Enthusiast’s Spirits Editor Kara Newman’s panel discussion, “Is There a Book Idea on Your Cocktail Menu?” and adapted from the book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons (Ten Speed Press, 2011). This smoky and citrusy Mitcher’s Rye-based cocktail was chilled by a single, slowly melting ice cube and garnished with a fragrant clove-studded orange peel. The cocktail is on the menu at Palace Kitchen in Seattle.
6. The Patrón folks delighted us with their peppy Pepino Cup—a blend of Tequila, lime, pineapple, cilantro and spicy salt, with a well-appointed palate-cool down from muddled cucumber. Although this drink was made especially for the MCC gala, San Francisco’s CLOCK BAR offers a similar Tequila cocktail called Fire and Ice.
7. A favorite in the category of kitsch cocktails was the Pom Islander, a tiki-tastic snowball in a classic paper-cone cup. This shaved ice mountain of guilty pleasure blended Banks 5 Island Rum, Zacapa Rum 23, Domaine de Canton, lime and POM Wonderful’s tropical punch redux, Pom Hula—soon to be making its U.S. debut. Another drink made specifically for MCC, rum-soaked swizzle from PK-NY would provide similar icy delight.
8. The Obituary, served at the Maison Premiere’s black-and-silver table was a simple, lovely diversion from many of the sweeter cocktails being served. The icy blend of Beefeater Gin and Dolin Dry Vermouth, tinged with a herbaceous-anise kick from a Pernod Absinthe rinse, went down particularly well with the freshly shucked oysters. Maison Premiere shakes and shucks nightly in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
9. Subtly evoking a Choward’s Violet Candy, Drambuie’s Lavender Tea Nail was floral and fresh, with an unexpected dry-fruit finish from fig-infused black tea. Though it was made exclusively for MCC by Drambuie, The Varnish in Los Angeles offers two similarly, elegant cocktails—the Atholl Brose and the Dominica—certain to quench your creamy cocktail craving.
10. The Lady Sage stole the show as part of the Aviation event at New York City’s Vandaag. Beautiful to behold and lovely to sip, it contained fresh sage, Aviation Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white. Try it at the Catherine Lombardi Restaurant in New Brunswick, New Jersey.