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manhattan cocktail classic gala

Cocktail Enthusiast spent the last few days roaming the tasting rooms, seminars and parties of the 2013 Manhattan Cocktail Classic. Below: some of our favorite finds —

The MCC Gala kicked off on Friday night with plenty of revelry. There were tuxes and little black dresses. Makeshift bars and Negronis in cans. People on stilts and high-flying acrobats. Good times all around.

The Industry Invitational included a diverse assortment of panels, seminars, tastings, demonstrations and hospitality suites. We attended a few seminars, drank our fair share, saw some old friends and made some new ones. The main tasting room featured dozens of brands — some mainstream, others less so. On Saturday, we camped out there and made our way through some of the more interesting offerings, detailed below.

manhattan cocktail classic industry invitational

Brenne Single Malt Whisky is a French whisky that’s aged for roughly five years in limousine oak barrels before moving to used Cognac casks for another two years. It’s incredibly fruit-forward and easy going. Consider this a gateway malt whisky for those who’re put off by more robust, smoky expressions.

The Spencerfield Spirits table featured its lineup of Edinburgh Gin, Sheep Dip Whisky and Pig’s Nose Whisky. The Edinburgh Gin is distilled in a 200 year old copper pot still with a traditional mix of botanicals — juniper, coriander, citrus peels — plus some heather and milk thistle for a decidedly Scottish slant. The result is a clean, crisp spirit with hints of heather on the nose and some citrus and gingery spice on the palate.

Sheep Dip Malt Whisky blends 16 different single malt whiskies, each aged between eight and twenty years, in first-fill oak casks. It’s a flavorful dram full of floral and fruit notes on the nose, with lots of malt on the palate. Pig’s Nose is an easy drinking blended whiskey that’s rich, creamy and just a touch spicy. It’s about as smooth as blends get.

unicum and zwack

Unicum is a Hungarian herbal bitters. It’s intensely bitter and much different from Zwack, which is a sweeter, more citrusy version that’s shipped to the U.S. Unicum Plum was a pleasant surprise, maintaining a bitter backbone but accented by the sweetness of dried plums, which are packed inside oak barrels and left to age with the Unicum.

MCC was our first time sampling Samogon, an unaged spirit that’s native to Russia. It’s new to the United States, where bartenders are finding that it mixes well with… pretty much everything. It’s incredibly versatile as a cocktail base, easily taking the place of pisco, white whiskey or vodka in various drinks.

The Anchor Distilling suite showed off the company’s growing spirits portfolio, which now includes Nikka Japanese Whisky and Maurin Vermouth. Our favorite: the Maurin Quina, which is a French aperitif accented with the flavors of cherry, quinine and bitter almonds. It’s delicious.

Stay tuned for more coverage as we continue to recap the hazy fog that was the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.

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