Revelers in fine attire gathered at the New York Public Library for the fourth annual MCC Opening Gala. Credit: Gabi Porter Revelers in fine attire gathered at the New York Public Library for the fourth annual MCC Opening Gala.
Credit: Gabi Porter

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic returned to New York City last week. Spanning 67 local venues, MCC celebrated spirits while showcasing the city’s best mixologists. Metro visited the fourth annual celebration to discover some of the top trends and most popular recipes that our vibrant drinkers’ paradise has to offer. Here are five recurring themes from among the 87 featured drinks at this year’s event.

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1. Unique garnishes

Move over, maraschino cherry. Cosmopolitan drinkers are looking for a drink that screams to passersby that their tastes are much more cultivated than their peers'. We saw a lot of dehydrated fruit and dried flowers, not to mention several exotic fruits.

Dancing on the Ceiling
By Adam Kanter

Ingredients
1 oz El Dorado 3 Year
0.5 oz The Perfect Puree Caramelized Pineapple Concentrate
1 splash fresh lemon juice
1 dash vanilla extract
1 dash The Perfect Puree Cherry Syrup
Barritt's ginger beer

Garnish: Brandied cherry
Glass: Highball

Instructions
Combine rum, pineapple concentrate, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Add ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice into highball glass. Top with Barritt's ginger beer. Pour in dash of cherry syrup and allow to sink. Garnish with pineapple, brandied cherry and pineapple leaf.

2. Ginger beer

It not only adds an extra layer of flavor with the uniquely sweet-spicy flavor of ginger, but this extremely popular ingredient also offers a drink a nice, bubbly texture. Consider this the equivalent to prosecco’s popularity in 2011-2012.

Eye of the Wind
By Katie Loeb

Ingredients
2 oz Bluecoat
1.5 oz The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley Thai Basil Black Pepper (see No. 5)
.5 oz The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley Caramelized Pineapple concentrate
.5 oz fresh lime juice
Dash Fee Brothers gin barrel-aged orange bitters
1 oz Barritt's ginger beer

Garnish: Thai basil leaf
Glass: Highball

Instructions
Shake all ingredients except bitters and ginger beer, strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and stir to combine. Add dash of bitters on top and a spanked Thai basil leaf.

3. Honey

For all-natural sweetness (not to mention a little tang), honey is the perfect way to add a touch of sweetness to your drink without diluting its merit by adding syrup or fruit juice.

L'Amethyste
By Satoru Tsubamoto and Joji Watanabe

Ingredients
50 ml Mizu Shochu
40 ml fresh red grape juice
10 ml fresh grapefruit juice
5 ml truffle honey

Garnish: one thyme, two grapes
Glass: Rocks

Instructions
Shake, then double strain into rocks glass with one large ice cube.

4. Flavored liquors

If you overlook the seemingly endless debut of vodkas that taste like cake or cereal, there are actually some high-quality finds out there to elevate your drink. The best thing is that you don’t need a pantry full of fancy ingredients to mimic a more complex layering of creative flavors.

The King Bee
Adapted by St. John Frizell

Ingredients
3.0 oz COMB Vodka
2.0 oz honey syrup
1.5 oz fresh lemon juice
5 ml Darjeeling tea

Garnish: lemon slice
Glass: Martini 7 oz.

Instructions
Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

5. Spice and heat

Bitters or sour mix can only take a drink so far. For those with a more savory palate, and those sick of sweet "girly" drinks, options are cropping up with ingredients more commonly found in your spice rack. Hot peppers have also catapulted onto the drink scene; it’s not just for bloody marys anymore.

Prickly Heat Sour
By Katie Loeb

Ingredients

1.5 oz. XXX Shine
1.5 oz The Perfect Puree Chipotle Sour
.5 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz The Perfect Puree Prickly Pear Puree
1 part Grand Marnier (0.5 oz) or Mandarine Napoleon
1 oz Barritt's ginger beer

Garnish: Orange slice or Simple & Crisp orange
Glass: Highball

Instructions
Shake everything except ginger beer, strain over fresh ice, top with ginger beer and stir to combine. Garnish with orange slice or Simple & Crisp orange.

A few additional standout concoctions:


1. Cunning Little Vixen

Ingredients
2.0 oz Atsby armadillo cake
4.0 oz soda water
1 oz blackberry puree

Garnish: Blackberry
Glass: Highball

Instructions
Stir and top with soda water. Garnish with 2 whole blackberries on a pick.

2. Finger-Stirred Negroni

Ingredients
1.0 oz Campari
1.0 oz Cinzano Rosso vermouth
1.0 oz Tanqueray gin

Garnish: Orange twist
Glass: Rock

Instructions
Pour ingredients over ice into a shaker. Stir and strain in a rocks glass with ice.

3. The Berry Barber

Ingredients
1 oz New Amsterdam gin
1 oz red vermouth
1 dash lemon-lime soda
1 dash orange bitters

Garnish: Fresh berries
Glass: Highball

Instructions
Combine all ingredients in a collins glass.

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