- Like the bosses they are, the ladies behind Speed Rack are hosting their national finals on Thursday, May 16 in the East Village. The fastest, most talented female bartenders in the top 10 cocktail cities (as well as six “wildcard” contestants who won online votes) will go shaker-to-shaker for an esteemed judging panel and live audience to crown Miss Speed Rack USA 2013. Guests who attend will see 100 percent of their $30 ticket go toward breast cancer research while witnessing Iron Chef-style throwdown and sipping all the complimentary cocktails and neat spirits they can drink. Not only does the champion earn bragging rights and the respect of her industry peers (judges include Dale DeGroff, Julie Reiner and Audrey Saunders), she’ll also get a trip for two to Paris, tour the Cointreau Bartender Academie, and receive a B.A.R. (Beverage Alcohol Resource) scholarship. Speed Rack, created by Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix, and produced in collaboration with CBLLC, has raised nearly $150,000 for breast cancer charities. For more information on Speed Rack, go here, and for tickets to the finals, click here. Thursday, May 16, 6 to 10 p.m., Element Nightclub, 225 East Houston Street.
- It’s almost that time again–revelers are gearing up for the 2013 edition of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, May 17 to 21. While regular admission for the opening night gala is sold out, VIP tickets remain for the veritable prom of the cocktail industry, which at $295-$395 get you four hours of endless drinks (are 25,000 cocktails enough to choose from?). Many of the tastings and educational sessions are also sold out by now, but tickets still remain for events such as a decadent afternoon of chocolate and cocktail pairings; a Culinary Tour of Lower Manhattan with Oban, Talisker and Lagavulin; and the Indie Spirits Expo, a massive walk-around tasting of small-batch spirits. Prepare the hangover remedies now, folks.
Kicking off with what has become the cocktail-lover’s prom of the year, the 2011 Manhattan Cocktail Classic, held May 13-17, drew a crowd of top bartenders and drinking enthusiasts from across the country and beyond. It’s great to see this event grow as it celebrates NYC’s place on the map for cocktail innovation.
And grow it has–founder and director Lesley Townsend said attendance for the five days nearly doubled over last year, reporting more than 5,000 attendees. She estimated that 75,000 cocktails were served throughout the festival, and all in real glassware. For the Gala, more than 3,000 cocktail fans lined up around the block for nearly an hour to get inside. Lesley said she is already working on ways to make the entry process more efficient for next year.
Although parts of the Gala had more of a nightclub feel this year–one writer compared it to Pacha–and food was once again hard to find, props must be given to Lesley and her team of 500 for organizing NYC’s quintessential cocktail bash. I particularly liked how every brand had equal presence at the event with a minimalist design as opposed to loud branding. Everywhere you turned, guests were smiling and seemingly having the times of their lives, sipping expertly-mixed cocktails.
Other events held throughout the festival included a Don Q Rums ’80s party, a one-time-only screening of the film “Last Call in New York” hosted by Tequila Don Julio, the Indy Spirits Expo, and Campari’s Spirited Fête for the Senses at The Box featuring Padma Lakshmi. Seminars ranged from the spirit-focused to topics such as “How to Behave in a Bar.” Mostly, this festival was another example of how much fun the liquor industry can be–congrats Lesley on another successful edition of the MCC!
- On Monday, April 11, the local cocktail community is coming together at the Summit Bar for a New York Loves Japan Punch Party to benefit The Japan Society’s tsunami relief efforts. A $20 donation at the door gets you unlimited refills of hand-crafted, Japanese-inspired punches featuring Belvedere vodka, Pernod Absinthe, Beefeater Gin, Classic & Vintage Spirits, Sailor Jerry Rum, Leblon Cachaça, and Corazon Tequila. The event goes from 7 to 11 p.m. and also features $10 pours of Japanese whiskey, benefit t-shirts for sale and tunes by DJ Kimiko Masuda.
- While VIP tickets to the French Spirits Soiree at Astor Center on April 14 have sold out, general entry tickets are still available, entitling you to unlimited drinking, French cheese and charcuterie from Murray’s Cheese, SCRATCHbread rustic bread, live jazz by The Hot Sardines, a saucy burlesque performance by Calamity Chang and more. Not to be missed!
- The April 29 deadline is fast approaching to be considered for 2011 G’Vine Gin Connoisseur, which sends 15 finalists to France for the showdown. The grand prize is one of the sweetest around: $3,000, a year’s supply of gin for your bar, a platinum vine-flower pin and an intercontinental bar tour of some of the world’s best gin bars. If you are interested in participating, you should attend the April 14 preliminary in NYC.
- In case you haven’t heard by now, tickets to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic (May 13-17) are on sale, and many events, including the gala at the New York Public Library, are already sold out. Events still up for grabs include an ’80s-themed rum bash, a sunset cocktail cruise, the Indy Spirits Expo, and plenty of seminars and “behind-the-bar” sessions.
- Warm up with some of the finest Cognac around from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, January 31 at Liquor.com’s Exclusive Cognac Tasting at Brandy Library. Dizzy Fizz readers can enjoy a whopping $30 off the $45 ticket price with the code “DIZZZYFIZZ“–that’s just $15 [yes, that's three Zs in Dizzy]! Sample 15-plus Cognacs including the Pierre Ferrand Selection des Anges, an average of 30 years old, along with gourmet cheeses and charcuterie.
- Voting is now underway to select which seminars will be on offer for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, shaking up the city from May 13-17.
- The Counting Room in Williamsburg recently announced its new cocktail menu, streamlining its selection to five drinks which will all be pre-batched. Citrus will be left out of the batch and mixed per order to ensure freshness. Customers can still order bartender’s choice from the full bar selection.
- To celebrate its new liquor license, Brooklyn Wine Exchange in Cobble Hill is declaring February “Mixology Month” and offering free classes on drink-making. The ABC’s of Mixing Drinks with Audrey Saunders kicks off the series at 7 p.m. on February 2. Check out the full schedule here.
- And sometime this spring, Hoboken, NJ, is getting its first biergarten, and the owners include one of the founders of Radegast Hall in Williamsburg. The Pilsener Haus Biergarten, taking over a 10,000-square-foot old lighting factory, will have more than 18 beers on tap, authentic Austro-Hungarian fare, and live music.
*A previous version of this article said that the Rémy Martin Louis XIII would be sampled at Monday’s event at Brandy Library. The brand has since been removed from the event.
“Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.” –P.G. Wodehouse
Well hot damn–the Manhattan Cocktail Classic flew by like a bat out of Eyjafjallajökull. I had the wild idea to put on an art exhibit/punch party so I only attended the Gala at New York Public Library and the Three Hour Tour around Manhattan Island–smashing good times all around involving well-dressed cocktailians from all over and addictive libations. I’ll be looking to other bloggers to tell me what I missed at the seminars, Behind the Bars, and other events.
Speaking of other bloggers, MCC just happened to kick off the night after World Cocktail Day, aka my first blogiversary, which coincidentally is the same for LA cocktail culture blogger Daniel Djang, aka Thirsty in LA. I’ve been reading Daniel’s watch on the budding LA cocktail scene and only recently realized that we shared the same blog bornday. I was stoked when I heard Daniel would be visiting for MCC. He met a bunch of us at Death & Co. right after landing in NYC to share a toast with me, and then we rolled to Painkiller where we had a few too many sips of Scorpion bowls, Mai Tais and Singapore Slings. I’m not sure this was necessary the night before MCC, but it was a blast. It also didn’t hurt that Tony Abou-Ganim, Eric Alperin, Mindy Kucan, and Johnny Iuzzini were among the crowd at Painkiller that night.
I don’t even know where to begin with the Gala–event of the year?! Lesley Townsend, Georgia Tan, and their production team all deserve a collective bow from the cocktail community for pulling off such a massive, glamorous affair. All four floors of the New York Public Library were transformed into an endless open bar full of random wonders–you know, Oompa Loompas and the like. Towards the end of the night, most everyone made their way to the air conditioned basment which Diageo turned into the “Stork Club,” named for the historic New York nightclub run by ex-bootlegger Sherman Billingsly from 1929 to 1965.
In between spouts of event planning, I managed to make it onto the Royal Princess for the Tippling Point’s inaugural event, the “Around the World in Five Cocktails” sunset cruise. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect as we sipped cocktails from Moet Hennessy’s line of fine spirits–Hennessy, Belvedere Vodka, Ardbeg, 10 Cane Rum, and Grand Marnier, all mixed by world-class mixologists: Jacqueline Patterson of Heaven’s Dog (San Francisco), Thomas Waugh of Death & Co., John Lermayer of The Florida Room (Miami), Richard Boccato of Dutch Kills and Painkiller, Sean Kenyon of Steuben’s (Denver), H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir (San Francisco), and Danny Valdez of Cure (New Orleans). At sunset, the cruise ship paused in front of the Statue of Liberty next to a vintage sailboat for a patriotic and picturesque moment, reminding me of our freedom to imbibe.
And on the fourth night of MCC, my big night finally came to fruition — Tastemaker’s Punch! I can’t express how thrilled I was to see artwork from Jill DeGroff, Claw Money, Nicole Desmond, Charles Hardwick, Elba Giron, Jackie Neale Chadwick, Vanessa Bahmani, and Leo Borovskiy on the walls of Ramscale Gallery. And of course there were the punches (recipes below) by Enzo Lim, Maxwell Britten, Abigail Gullo, Orson Salicetti, Frank Cisneros, Erick Castro (of San Francisco), Payman Bahmani, Aaron Doherty, The Cocktail Guru’s Hal Wolin, and The Tippling Point’s Jason Littrell. DJs from the monthly Discovery party at Santos Party House, VDRK and Free Magic, kept the good times flowing, and sushi and ceviche from Richard Sandoval’s ZENGO was devoured just as fast as we could pass it out.
Dave Wondrich led us through a long list of historical figures whom we have to thank for the wonderful gift of punch, starting with British sailors who discovered the five-ingredient concoction in India in the 16th century. Dave announced that his book on all things punch, “Punch, or the Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl,” will be out this November. And yes, it also just happened to be my birthday that night (along with Eryn Reece and Meredith Modzelewski!), so thanks Jason for taking over the mic to have everyone sing happy birthday while I blushed in the corner. How many people get to say that they had Dave Wondrich, Jill DeGroff and Claw Money at their birthday party? Even Gary “Gaz” Regan made a latenight appearance, helping himself to some punch.
So many to thank: Bols Genever, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Mathilde Fruit Liqueurs, Leblon Cachaca, Laird’s Bonded Applejack, Plymouth Gin, Tuthilltown Spirits, Catdaddy Moonshine, Milagro Tequila, Sailor Jerry Rum, A.B. Smeby Bittering Co., Vita Coco Coconut Water, Mana Fine Arts, and the MCC team: Lesley, Georgia, and Don Lee. I also want to personally thank Kerry Hoffman, Lincoln Chinnery, Russell Davis, Gail Schoenberg, Nosa Garrick, Erin Garcia, Amy Kelly, Olga Boyko, Mark Garcia, Iman Kedir, Ashley Klanac and Nora Worthington.
Note: the silent auction to benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail, planned to take place during the punch party, will be rescheduled for the near future.
Here are the punch recipes, all using fresh-squeezed juices:
Pacquiao’s Punch by Enzo Lim of Painkiller:
33.8 oz Sailor Jerry Rum
11.3 oz pineapple juice
11.3 oz lemon juice
11.3 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
5.6 oz demerara syrup
.5 oz Smeby’s Buddha’s Hand Lemon and Kaffir Lime Bitters
.5 oz Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
(serves 20, scale accordingly)
Gin Lane Royale Punch by Maxwell Britten of Freemans
150 oz Plymouth Gin
75 oz lavender-infused Dolin Blanc Dry Vermouth
75 oz lime juice
75 oz grapefruit-nutmeg syrup
75 oz Moet Imperial Champagne
Don’t Shoot the Messenger by Hal Wolin of The Cocktail Guru & Jason Littrell of The Tippling Point
1 1/2 oz Laird’s Bonded Applejack
1/2 oz Mathilde Pear
1/4 oz orgeat syrup
1/2 tsp Don’s Spices
1/2 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
(multiply by number of servings)
Chinese Bootlegger Punch by Payman Bahmani of Umamimart.com
5 cups Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine
5 cups brewed Oolong tea (less than boiling water, steeped 5-6 min)
3.75 cups grapefruit juice
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup agave nectar syrup
.75 cup cinnamon syrup
.5 cup A.B. Smeby Forbidden Bitters
.5 cup A.B. Smeby Spiced Grapefruit Bitters
(serves 20, scale accordingly)
Spring Fever Punch by Erick Castro of Rickhouse, San Francisco
150 scoops of Caipirinha Sorbet
50 cups Leblon Cachaca
12.5 cups Mathilde Pear
18.75 cups lime juice
12.5 cups honey syrup (1 to 1)
12.5 cups cucumber juice
25 cups sparkling water
200 pinches of salt
Goblin Punch by Orson Salicetti of Covet
12 bottles of Bols Genever
2 honeydew melons, juiced
8 green bell peppers, juiced
2 lb fresh celery, juiced
2 lb green seedless grapes, juiced
2 lb kiwis, juiced
2 lb green apples, juiced
dash of mixed peppercorns
12 bottles Spirit of the Hudson Apple Vodka (Tuthilltown Spirits)
2 bottles Mathilde Orange
1 gallon lemon juice
4 750-ml bottles sparkling cider
Thyme-infused maple syrup
Forest berry jam
Raspberry Beret Punch by Frank Cisneros of Dram
125 oz Pierre Ferrand Cognac
50 oz grapefruit juice
25 oz Mathilde Raspberry
50 oz vanilla syrup
100 oz lemon juice
50 oz raspberry syrup
100 oz soda water
“secret amount” homemade Chamomile bitters
Madre Sazonada (Spicy Mother) by Aaron Doherty of Jack the Horse Tavern
10 bottles Milagro Reposado Tequila
65 oz lime juice
65 oz habanero demerara syrup
50 oz pineapple juice
50 oz Mexican lager, roughly 1 six pack
12 sprigs Rosemary
1 tbsp toasted curry salt
Everyone should feel proud for helping make the first Manhattan Cocktail Classic a huge success! Can’t wait to do it again next year, only bigger and better!