Appetite: Giant legs and Willy Wonka -- adventures at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic
I was one of the lucky ones, spending eight days in NY, my old stomping grounds, for the first annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which highlights and celebrates the art of the cocktail and its greatest talents. Or so I thought... I won't gripe too much, though I will say that despite the stunning transformation of the already gorgeous New York Public Library for the opening gala, a scene rife with cocktail luminaries like Dale DeGroff, Audrey Saunders and Dave Wondrich, along with some of the country's best bartenders, the crowds were not quite the cocktailians I expected, while some events were far from what was advertised. For example: at the May 17 "contest" at Keen's, the competition and notable judges had completely wrapped up and left by the listed START time of the event, leaving only a few cocktails to sample and the incomparably cool, old school Keen's space to stand around in. I could have spent the same money with more exciting results at any of NY's great bars.
Let's recap a few of the best and worst moments of the racous week that was the 1st annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic:
1. Starvation : At the opening gala, despite spotting Mario Batali, the guy who had supposedly cooked up something special for the night, I never once saw his food. Every other whiff of food was devoured by the time I got near it, mainly in the one air-conditioned room in all of the NYPL, where beloved Fatty 'Cue served up giant legs of meat, an odd "cocktail party" choice, but hilarious to watch others gnaw on a leg with drink delicately in hand. Once I finally got to the last table with any food, the line was so long it wasn't worth the wait, despite food-less hours endured with sips of multiple drinks (many of the fruity, vodka, soda, flavorless kind)... a bite never came until I hit a diner at 2am.
A wasteland of unfinished drink & chewed-up meat at Opening Gala. Photo by Virginia Miller.