Like a barrage of gin-fueled fireworks, cocktails have exploded across the dining landscape. Sometimes I wonder if a restaurant can survive in this day and age if it doesn't have a real cocktail list. And by real, you know what I mean. Don't get me wrong, mudslides and appletinis have their place. It's just that that place happens to be at a TGI Fridays out on Long Island somewhere.

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic celebrates the cocktail and its evolution from something wonderful into something wonderfuler. For five days, starting yesterday (Friday), there will be something like fifty (50) events across the city (including places NOT in Manhattan). Tastings, seminars, and from what I can gather, history lessons.

I'll be going to the Micro Spirits Odyssey at Butter Restaurant tomorrow (Sunday). They describe it as follows:
Head up the block from Astor Center on Sunday to the Micro Spirits Odyssey (MSO) - an all-day micro-distilling extravaganza at Butter Restaurant, featuring dozens of boutique brands, creative cocktails, and gourmet culinary pairings. The day offers attendees a wealth of exciting activities to explore, all for the price of a single ticket: a tasting room filled with craft brands, micro distillers, and delicious food; four fabulous seminars focusing on different aspects of the growing artisan distillery movement; and a bar and lounge area featuring the boutique brands in cocktails concocted by the talented team at Hush Cocktails especially for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.

I'll update this post after I get home tomorrow...

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, at least this specific seven hour event, is designed to highlight the local distilleries in the NY area. Vodka makers from Long Island, whiskey makers from the Hudson Valley, folks from the Finger Lakes, they all converged on NoHo to tout their wares. The day was divided into four separate seminars: the resurgence of moonshine, feminism in the liquor industry, the localvores of liquor and how to start your own distillery.

In addition to the lectures, there were at least twenty distributors giving out shots of their product (samples) on top of two open bars that were making drinks corresponding to the ongoing lectures. So, while one would be listening to a lecture, drinks that corresponded to that lecture would circulate the room. Needless to say, between the lectures, the industry samples, the free drink coupons and the open bar cocktails, I got wizaysted. To be honest, my head is both spinning and throbbing as I write this. Spthrobbinning. At least I'm not praying at the Porcelain Alter of Forgiveness.

The MCC is designed around the spirit industry. So much so, in fact, that it was hard to go from the table of one distiller to another without being asked who I represent. "I represent getting wasted on a Sunday." I told one guy. "Uh, well, good" was his somewhat off-kilter response.

I can't remember how many cocktails I tried, but since my head and I are no longer friends, I'm guessing I got my fifty dollars worth. Ultimately, the MCC is for the industry. You and I may go there and find an interesting artisinal rye whiskey to tell our friends about, but you and I aren't why such a get together exists. It exists to bring the producers to the bartenders and restaurateurs. It exists to increase brand recognition along a route parallel to the traditional marketing path. I do hope that the brands, especially the local New York State brands that have been showcased here, get some much needed exposure. And so, in that hope, I list them below.

Castle Spirits
Delaware Phoenix Distillery
Finger Lakes Distilling
Harvest Spirits
Knapp Vineyards
Lake Placid Spirits
Long Island Spirits
Spirits by Battistella
Swedish Hill Winery
Tuthilltown Spirits
Warwick Valley Winery

Honestly, I was hoping for something more average-Joe out of this. I wanted it to be like a PBS special about liquor. The history of moonshine, the history of women in the alcohol industry, an inside look at an upstate distillery. Throw a short movie into the mix with some Q&A and: boom, a lot of educational fun. It didn't have that, but it was still interesting. I wish that it had been less within-the-industry-talking-to-within-the-industry, but they didn't use too many big words and I was able to keep up. In any case, at least I can point at some local businesses and recommend them, and at least I got some great drinks.

From the site:
In New York, a state known for its wineries, many have begun to use their product to also produce distilled spirits and/or hard liquor. Spirits have now become a small niche for these boutique farm wineries, and recently artisanal distillers have begun to stand on their own. With its abundance of grain and fruit, New York now has the highest concentration of distilleries of any state east of the Mississippi. New York also has a long tradition of spirits production, dating back to colonial times. Although Prohibition killed off the distilled spirits industry in New York, it is now slowly returning, while changes in the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Law have made it possible for small distillers to develop and flourish.

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic runs through Tuesday. This event was $50 and the average shorter event is $25.

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