The New York Public Library—usually populated by the serious, quiet type—rarely sees a crowd like the raucous one that filled its marble corridors on Friday night, May 13, when the Manhattan Cocktail Classic kicked off with its 2011 gala. An estimated 3,000 revelers in cocktail party garb—none of whom seemed like sober scholars—traversed the four floors, sampling handcrafted cocktails at 100 stations manned by the industry’s master mixologists. Event organizers claim there were over 40,000 drinks muddled, shaken, stirred and poured throughout the evening. Large liquor companies and artisanal producers highlighted both inventive and traditional cocktails made with their branded spirits.
As guests entered the landmark library through its grand arched doorways, one of the first stations that caught our attention was Campari’s bar, where top mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim created versions of the classic Negroni—in honor of "The Year of the Negroni”—made with Campari, gin and sweet vermouth. From there, we wandered through the elegant reading rooms to stands offering culinary-inspired cocktails. Two favorites were made with vodka—in a ginger and cucumber concoction and a delicious pear martini—while gin mellowed out a vibrant lime cocktail. Spiced Don Q rum and chipotle-spiced Don Julio tequila were also the foundations for two memorable drinks.
The Manhattan Cocktail Classic continues through Tuesday, May 17, with activities that are more scholarly in swcope, including workshops on distilling, barreling and farm-to-glass mixology. The librarians would be proud.