While traveling to Rome on more than one occasion, we would find ourselves often wondering, how did those Romans live in ancient times? We've heard the rumors: wildly decadent, epic festivities that carried on for days, rich with leisure, food, and of course, libation.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, Ancient Rome has come alive again -- in the form of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic (minus the leisure, this is New York after all). For five event-packed days the city celebrates one of New York's favorite creations: The Cocktail. The kick-off Gala is a Celebration of Hedonism -- mountains of freshly shucked oysters, surrealist displays of charcuterie and tiki-skewers, themed photo booths, numerous live bands, troupes of 20's dancers, and most importantly, 30,000 hand-crafted cocktails. Hosted at the grand New York Public Library, the Gala is one of the most anticipated events of the year, this year selling out in only a few hours.
This year the MCC partnered with ClearHart Digital to provide Near Field Communication wrist bands (the future is now, people) so that the 3,500 party-goers could track all the cocktails they tasted. Monday morning we get the report from TastingTable.com - when we all vaguely remember all that was lost in the boozy-swirl of MCC's decadence and excess. Thank goodness for technology.
We started out on the ground floor -- this year the main hall glowed with red lights -- perhaps signaling the debauchery to follow. We sipped on PatrÃ³n's summery cocktail that was served in carved cucumbers, a carbonated Campari Negroni created by Theo Lieberaman of Milk & Honey and Lantern's Keep, Lillet's Glass Slipper, and one of our favorites of the evening, the Isle of Indigo (not for the faint of tongue) a spicy coconut cocktail made with Arizona PiÃ±a Colada and Ty Ku Shochu.
In every reading room, corner, stairwell there was a different event happening. Buffalo Trace had a bluegrass band with the incredible Rick's Picks' pickled beets with ginger. The Virgin Atlantic room had a DJ and scantily clad women wearing the Union Jack as a cape. The cocktail elite were all there -- renowned bartenders, industry insiders, and cocktail connoisseurs, all toasted a beautiful spring evening with cocktail after cocktail. Women wore glamorous evening gowns and feathery fascinators, and the gentlemen dressed dapper suits and bow ties. New York, we love you when you dress up.
Upon arriving at the third floor we were wowed by the incredible ceiling of the McGraw Rotunda -- not a bad place to party, we say. The Moonlighters played and we sipped Limoncello. In the grand reading room on the 3rd floor Maison Premiere served Absinthe Martinis and hand shucked oysters. This labor of love was much appreciated as we slurped the briny delights topped with caviar.
Off in the corner we had a spicy jalapeÃ±o cocktail with Ginger Beer and Tito's Handmade Vodka. This firecracker had some crying for mercy, but we savored every drop. More photo booths -- ladies and gents posed with the taxidermy bear, and one busty male model for XantÃ© Pear Cognac - photos automatically posted to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Facebook page.
Somehow this year felt less crowded than last -- there were more rooms open, more places for people to stop and enjoy the live music and live entertainment. Equally impressive were the light installations that danced across the walls of the library - old black and white films distorted across archways, short films of dancers doing the Charleston, and deco patterns lit the hallways guiding us to ever-more cocktails.
The basement always seems to be a hidden away room -- this year the "cocktail club" had a live band and bars flanking the dance floor. A new comer surprised us this year, Sorel, a liquor made with Cloves, cassia, ginger, nutmeg, Pure Cane Sugar, and Moroccan hibiscus that is made in Red Hook Brooklyn. Surprisingly tasty on the rocks. Another cocktail we enjoyed was the BÃ©nÃ©dictine Frisco with BÃ©nÃ©dictine Liqueur, Rye whiskey, lemon juice and a liqueur soaked cherry.
Another one of our favorites this year was the POM Islander snowcone. We had more than one of those - after all, we need the antioxidants to undo some of the damage after a night of such excess. By the end of the night, the glassware was running out, and so people flocked to the PatrÃ³n popsicles, which were a delicious, boozy treat at the end of a wonderful night.
Angostura has us covered: The Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala in 60 seconds: