Thursday, July 16, 2009

Manhattan Cocktail Classic Is Coming

New York will finally have it's own cocktail convention, when the newly announced Manhattan Cocktail Classic (nice name, though it sounds kinda like a gold boozy golf tournament) takes over the town in May. Prior to that, they'll be a "preview" event the weekend of Oct. 3-4, at Astor Center (above). The event will be run be former Astor Center director, Lesley Townsend, and feature a cast of characters familiar to any cocktail maven (Wondrich, DeGroff, etc.).

Here's the piece I wrote for the New York Times, published yesterday.

An Event to Mix With the Masters


THE cocktail masters who have gained prominence in the last decade have gleaned great wisdom in a bottle of whiskey. Now they plan to share what they’ve learned with New Yorkers at a cocktail conference.

The event, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, will be held in May, but a two-day preview will be held at the Astor Center, in NoHo, on Oct. 3 and 4.

The preview will feature eight seminars taught by members of the event’s board, which includes the writers Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich, F. Paul Pacult, Doug Frost and Gary Regan; the bar owners Sasha Petraske, Audrey Saunders and Julie Reiner; and the consultants Charlotte Voisey, Steve Olson, Simon Ford, Allen Katz and Andy Seymour.

The seminars are for “professional audiences and enthusiast audiences,” said Lesley Townsend, the conference’s director and former director of the Astor Center, which holds classes and seminars on food and drinks.

As of now, the schedule includes a class on old and new gin cocktails, led by Mr. Regan, a spirits columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle, and Ms. Saunders, the owner of the Pegu Club in SoHo; an examination of Cognac and Armagnac led by Mr. Pacult, the editor and publisher of a newsletter on spirits, Ms. Voisey, a cocktail consultant, and Ms. Reiner, owner of the Flatiron Lounge in Chelsea.

A panel about rye whiskey will be led by Mr. Katz, the director of mixology and spirits education for the distributor Southern Wine & Spirits of New York; and a study of the cocktail in New York from 1810 to 1920, will be led by Mr. Wondrich, a writer for Saveur and Esquire magazines and the author of “Imbibe!”

Tickets for each event, which will go on sale in about three weeks, will be $45 to $95. A Web site,, has more information.

Samples of spirits and cocktails will be served at each seminar, and a bar will be staffed by noted New York bartenders and mixologists.

Ms. Townsend said she will probably enlist more cocktail experts outside the five boroughs at future conventions.

But for now, she said, “this is about our amazing local talent, about what we’re doing here.”

Here's the complete list of the eight seminars (subject to change):

- Gin Cocktails, Old and New - Gary Regan, Audrey Saunders
- Agave: A Panel Discussion - Steve Olson
- History of the Cocktail in New York, 1810-1920 - Dave Wondrich
- The Call of the Rye - Allen Katz
- Choosing Glassware for Cocktail - Dale DeGroff
- The Ultimate Cognac & Armagnac Clinic - Paul Pacult, Julie Reiner, Charlotte Voisey
- New York's Effects on the Global Cocktail Scene - Charlotte Voisey, Simon Ford
- Sherry: Not Just for Cobblers - Andy Seymour

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