More Sips from the Manhattan Cocktail Classic

The festive opening night Gala that kicks off the Manhattan Cocktail Classic may be the biggest event in the MCC schedule, but the week offered tons of other opportunities to celebrate cocktails—seminars, dinners, and parties galore. In fact, these smaller-scale events impressed us even more than the grand Gala—it's great to get a chance to focus on just a few well-crafted cocktails, get to know a new spirit or drink-making technique, and enjoy a look behind the scenes without struggling against huge crowds.

While our livers wouldn't let us take advantage of everything on the schedule, highlights of the week included a rooftop British-themed party at The NoMad (complete with a great performance by The Crooners, a band whose members include WD-50 bar director Kevin Denton, formerly of the Gramercy Park Hotel.)

At Vandaag, we sampled a flight of cocktails from Aviation Gin, paired with a tasting menu that highlighted the bontaicals in the Portland-distilled spirit. Founders Christian Krogstad and Ryan Magarian were on hand to lead us through the drinks and share a bit of background on the company.

Dave Arnold and Tristan Willey of Booker & Dax led a seminar on bar techniques, emphasizing scientific strategies as a means to perfectly balanced cocktails. Their demonstrations included clarifying lime juice with a rotovap, chilling stemware with liquid nitrogen, and manipulating cocktails with fire via a red-hot poker, and there were also in-depth discussions on everything from carbonation to dilution and infusions.

On Monday night, Bowmore Scotch sponsored The Darkest Night, an evening at the performance-art-cum-Macbeth-athon Sleep No More at the Skylight at the McKittrick. One of the rooms from the performance became a lively '30s-era bar that served a special punch from David Wondrich, Scotch-kissed oysters, and other smoky scotchtails.

Terroir Tribeca offered a brief pause from the steady flow of cocktails with a focused look at the current state of American craft beer. Their Declaration of Beer Independence was a cross-country showcase that brought together flagship and limited edition brews from Captain Lawrence (East Coast), Two Brothers (Midwest), Left Hand (Colorado), and 21st Amendment (West Coast).