Many Industry Events Will Still Be Held.

“On behalf of the Cocktail Classic team, we regret to announce that the 2015 Manhattan Cocktail Classic will not be held this time.

Those who have had the pleasure of attending this best-of-class experience in the past know that the festival hinges on the many products and brands that are there to be discovered and enjoyed. This year, the production of the event had a late start resulting in many brands not being able to participate. After much deliberation, it was decided that moving forward with the festival at this time would lead to a disappointing experience for attendees, participants and sponsors.”

Manhattan Cocktail Classic

Manhattan Cocktail Classic

When this notice was released from the team behind the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, a collective “What?!” arose from the cocktail community. Big events, like the MCC, don’t just get cancelled, so what happened that led to this surprising development?

Back in 2009, Lesley Townsend Duval founded the festival, which was readily embraced by the spirits industry. The event grew and, in spring of this year, Duval sold the Classic to another party, JD Albano, whose specialty is sports marketing. Neither Albano nor Duval could be reached for comment.

Only a few months ago, the reins passed to Michael Blatter, an event planner who also runs a marketing agency. Blatter was then charged with pulling everything together. Speaking to Blatter today by phone led to an expected comment of “No comment,” although he did offer, “It’s beautiful in New York today. I wish I could give you some information, but I can’t at this time.” He did promise to fill us in as soon as possible, but clearly all parties want to regroup before issuing any firm comments.

If you read the cancellation email, it’s all there in black and white: “the event had a late start resulting in many brands not being able to participate.” But here is what’s great about all this. As in the theater, the show must – and will — go on. Bartenders and spirits pros across the country aren’t letting the official cancellation stop them. Numerous seminars are still happening as planned, as are a lot of the special events.

As Pam Wiznitzer, formerly of Dead Rabbit and now behind the stick at Seamstress, notes, “It’s not the end of cocktail culture. That’s not what this is about. There are great people who are involved who are going to make it great for next year. There are still a lot of events going on.

There are a lot of bars that are going to have parties and give people something to go out on the town for. And in some ways this is very nice because people can actually go to bars [rather than sitting in seminars], and it’s an opportunity to show off New York.”

Among the events still scheduled are a number of seminars, as well as special events, for which information and some tickets can be found on the MCC website.

Confirmed events include the 4th Annual Swig & Swine on Sunday, May 17, 2pm, at the Union Square Pool, as well as “A Deliciously Decadent Afternoon of Chocolates and Cocktails” at 2pm the same day.

So, the real news is that, while the Classic isn’t going to happen in name, it is going to happen in spirit. The continuation of peripheral events — as well as the cocktail community’s enthusiasm for these events — demonstrate this clearly. As Alex Straus, Sergeant at Arms of the Bon Vivants, observes, “Regardless of the inability to fully form and execute this year’s event, the trade will come out and support our friends and colleagues’ events that are executed independently of the larger structure.”

And that enthusiasm will very likely build the bridge to next year’s Cocktail Classic, which will have time to regroup, hopefully becoming bigger and better than ever. The Classic isn’t dead; it’s on holiday.