In New York, there are few occasions for hope as reliable as a cocktail, and few better than a party. The beginning of any party, even a bad one, is imbued with a kind of bright expectancy. And the beginning of a massive, opulent gala held in the marbled magnificence of the Fifth Avenue library, especially one with more than 25,000 very good cocktails, is an opportunity for the most outrageous kind of hope. The kind of hope that can make even a gala-jaded Upper East Side society matron, upon entering a room with nine cocktail stations and straw-hatted jazz band, dreamily raise her hand to the pearls at her throat and murmur, “This is great. My god, this is this great. This is grand.”
The opening night celebration of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic—which drew 2,900 aficionados, arrayed in tuxedos, sequined gowns, lacy sheaths, smoking jackets, velvet blazers and all manner of hats and feathered plumes—was a lavish, debauched spectacle befitting the outsized, increasingly dominant role that craft cocktails have come to play in the city’s drinking culture. Tickets, despite costing $195 to $395, sold out rapidly.
The press invitation had cautioned us to eat dinner beforehand—though there would be food—and to pace ourselves, both of which turned out to be not so much advisable as mandatory for staying upright throughout the four-hour bacchanalia. There was music and dancing, along with stilt walkers and living statues, plus sweet and savory edibles, but all these offerings paled in comparison to the drinking: 73 different cocktail stations, many of them serving multiple varieties of specialty cocktails, splayed over four massive floors of the library. Read More