Endurance junkies have Ironmans, fried Oreo connoisseurs have the Iowa State Fair, and those of us who just plain like to drink have the Manhattan Cocktail Classic (MCC) Gala, a black-tie event whose sole purpose is to sip, swill, and savor as many of the 25,000 cocktails being doled out as possible. (If Gatsby existed in modern day New York, you'd find him here.)
The annual event is also where cocktail trends come alive—if people line up for it at the Cocktail Classic, it's probably coming soon to a bar near you. Here are three trends we spotted at this year's bash, which took place, luxuriously enough, at the New York Public Library last weekend.
Moonshine Gets Serious The Tennessee throwback first reemerged a few years ago, but now it's getting all gussied up. Kings County Distillery (New York City's oldest operating whiskey distillery) makes theirs with toasted corn, lemon, jalapeño, and sage. Jim Beam recently released Jacob's Ghost, a white whiskey aged one year with flavors of vanilla and sweet corn. There's also a Russian version invading our shores. Called Samogon, this clear spirit has a recipe dating back to the 18th century and, at 90 proof, it packs a mean punch.
Hibiscus Is the New Elderflower The tropical blossom tastes pretty darn good in a drink. We tried it at the MCC in a martini made with rum and Godiva white chocolate liqueur, and saw it in dehydrated form in a mezcal concoction called El Angel. Floral and bright, it's also available in bottled infusions like Absolut Hibiskus.
Vermouth Takes the Spotlight After playing second fiddle in countless martinis and Manhattans, vermouth is finally coming into its own. New York distiller Atsby Vermouth makes a version called Armadillo Cake. Not too sweet, not too bitter, the ruby-hued spirit combines a mix of flavors and spices including dark caramel, cardamom, and wild celery. More unusual, New York City's bitters den Amor y Amargo offers sweet vermouth on tap. Thanks to the spirit's low alcohol volume—generally 16 to 18 percent—it's swell for sipping without getting sloshed.
—Sheila Marikar. Follow her @SheilaYM.