The cocktail scene in New York has been growing for years, and in this fair city we have some of the best mixologists and drink gurus in the world. From May 17 to 20, these experts will gather at this year’s Manhattan Cocktail Classic (MCC) to dish out their knowledge, skills and thoughts on imbibing today. With dozens of events and sponsors, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Here’s the scoop on five events hosted by the MCC’s professional tipplers, along with their go-to spots to enjoy a solid drink in the Big Apple.
The Go-to Cocktail Guru
On Sunday, May 19, Jonathan Pogash, a beverage consultant known as The Cocktail Guru, and his wine-savvy father Jeffrey, will treat MCC goers to a bit of history in their talk, Grand Central Cocktails: Behind the Bar at The Campbell Apartment (at The Campbell Apartment bar and lounge in Grand Central Terminal at noon). In honor of this famous hub’s centennial, the duo will discuss some of the cocktails popular on the train or near the platform at the time of Grand Central’s inception. As for their favorite tippling spots, the senior Pogash recommends heading to Middle Branch in Kips Bay for its Queens Park Swizzle, usually made with Demerara rum, simple syrup, lime juice, Angostura bitters, mint leaves and crushed ice. “This is a bar where classic and creative come together in harmony,” he says. “The cocktails are beautifully crafted resulting in very flavorful, balanced and exciting drinks.” The younger Pogash totes the Financial District’s Dead Rabbit as one of his favored new locales — for its daily punch specials, solid eats (oysters, cheese plates), and 19th-century style.
Burlesque Beauty and Bar Buff
Normally you find Calamity Chang on the bar dancing, but during the event Putting the “Tail” in “Cocktail” (at Macao Trading Co. in Tribeca on Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m.), this burlesque legend will be talking at the bar with Employees Only bartender Igor Hadzismajlovic about cocktails, dancing and how the two went (and still do) go hand-in-hand. Lucky for Chang, she won’t have to go far for a drink afterward (or during, for that matter) since Macao Trading Co. is her go-to place for spirited beverages. She especially likes the Drunken Dragon Milk, a concoction made with coconut purée, green tea vodka and Thai basil.
Join cocktail master Jason Littrell on a culinary, and drink-oriented tour of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (starts at Dram Bar, Saturday, May 18 at 1 p.m.), and explore the delicious pairings of Single Malt Scotch with fare like oysters. Post-tour, don’t be surprised if Littrell heads to one of his favorite cocktail dens such as Attaboy, a newish outpost by the folks from the original Milk and Honey. “The place is fun, relaxed, and has stellar cocktails,” he says, but added that it’s small, so be patient while waiting to order. Littrell also recommends that imbibers should head to Death & Company (think dim lighting and a speakeasy feel), where there is also a wait, but you can whittle away your time sipping on a negroni made with homemade vermouth at Amor y Amargo right next door.
Staying true to New York State, Adam Ford created Atsby Vermouth, a concoction made with Long Island-produced wine and other local ingredients. If you want to try it, head to the MCC’s Gala (at The New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, Friday, May 17 at 9 p.m.). In line with the values behind his vermouth, Ford says he seeks out cocktail bars that focus on New York spirits and ingredients. While he can’t choose a favorite bar, this month, he’s been frequenting The Lambs Club (inside The Chatwal Hotel) for its New York Manhattan. “It’s elegant without an ounce of pretentiousness and the modern-day Art Deco vibe makes it impossible not to feel hip when sitting in one of its red round booths or at the bar,” he explains. “It does the best job of effortlessly transporting you back in time and simultaneously making you feel modern. Plus, the drinks are balanced and not too boozy, and the bartenders don’t stop smiling.” For a bit of entertainment, The Lamb’s Club also offers live jazz every Tuesday and Wednesday evening.
Celebrity Chef And Cocktail Connoisseur
Though New York-based chef Dave Martin didn’t win the final challenge on Top Chef’s first season, he’ll undoubtedly win imbibers and diners over at his Smokin’ Boozy Bacon-Loaded Brunch (at Guggenheim Studio, Sunday, May 19 at 11a.m.). Expect Martin’s famous Smokin’ Mary, made with his spicy bloody mix and Nueske’s pepper bacon, and plenty of bite-size brunch items to nibble on, including Monte Cristos, hanger steak, duck quesadillas and chocolate truffle cake. As for what Martin drinks when he isn’t entertaining, two of his favorite places for a beverage are Audrey Saunders’ Pegu Club in SoHo for the tequila-laced Little Witch, and Flatiron Lounge for a pineapple and scotch-heavy Harvey Keitel.
Photos Courtesy of Belathee Photography, Atsby Vermouth, Dead Rabbit Grocery And Grogg