5/18/2013 04:00:00 PM

Manhattan Cocktail Classic Returns With Subdued, Classy Gala

A weekend laden with festivals (see GoogaMooga, Taste of TriBeCa, the Ninth Avenue Street Fair in Hell's Kitchen) kicked off last night with a few too many cocktails at the New York Public Library. The Manhattan Cocktail Classic will take over NYC's bars for the next few days, and yesterday it was time to get dressed to the nines and hit the boozy gala that turns the historic building into the city's biggest bar for one night only.

The shindig was quieter this year that it has been in the past (aka we can actually remember what happened and didn't have to crawl home). Kinks that reared their head in previous go-rounds were absent: there was plenty of elbow room, ample and strategically placed food kept the party from getting out of control and there was nary a roving band of d-bags to be found. There seemed to be a higher proportion of consumers to bartenders and industry boozers than in years past.

While nothing reached the mischievous heights of last year's list-only, pop-up bar run by the PDT folks (who were hot off winning a James Beard award), there were a few special moments. Campari gets the best beverage award for their cute, canned Negronis that could be sipped through a red and white straw. Though these ditties were specials for the festival, we'd love to see these hit the market ASAP. On the top floor of the beaux-arts building, there was a room devoted to food and drink from New York State, and we enjoyed pours from Greenhook Ginsmits and bites from The Breslin.

Like in previous years, the party moved down to the (thankfully air-conditioned) basement as the night progressed. There was a jazzy orchestra, old-time signers and costumed dancers doing the Charleston into the wee hours. We ran into Ward III's cocktail maestro Michael Neff, who was pouring a potent Maker's Mark cocktail out of a tea kettle. How does this year compare to previous incarnations? "When the rush comes, I can't tell the difference," he said as he quickly poured cocktails for all thirsty comers. Looking closely, things were a little less crowded and the crazy quotient was dialed back a bit, but when we took to the dance floor after another round, neither could we.

Stay tuned for more photos from the gala and coverage of GoogaMooga throughout the weekend. 


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