I've just wrapped up my first day at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, and while I am bummed to have missed the opening gala (I heard it was awesome), it has been a blast so far.
I started the day with a session on the Science of Mixology with engineer/bartender Anthony Caporale of Art of the Drink. Anthony took us through an exploration of several myths or hypotheses about drinks and looked at some experiments to confirm disprove them. Some of the topics explored included whether larger ice cools more with less dilution; the effect of glass chilling and shaking versus stirring on drink temperature; whether gin can be bruised; and some demonstrations on distillation and barrel aging. Results of these experiments will show up at http://www.scienceofmixology.com.
Next, I attended a session on history and cocktails involving a panel led by cocktail historian David Wondrich. The thoughtful discussion revolved around the role of history in the modern trends in cocktails, and perhaps more generally, the role of historical narrative. We also had the pleasure of trying several vintage drinks, including a punch, the original Singapore Sling, and the Airplane.
My third session was entitled "Be a Part of the 'Next GINeration': Tips & Techniques for Reinventing the Classic Cocktail Party." During this session, mixologist Alex Ott led us through using items to be found on hand in the kitchen to spice up (literally and figuratively) spirits (in this case, the sponsor spirit New Amsterdam gin) to make new and interesting cocktails. He also took us through some garnish techniques and showed off his skills with some improv cocktail concoctions.
Finally, I topped off the evening with a session on Aperitivo: The Italian Happy Hour. In this session, Joseph Campanale took us through a look at the Italian take on Happy Hour and some beverages that characterize it: Italian vermouth, Campari, Aperol, and Cynar. In addition to learning about each, we got the opportunity to sample each aperitivo and a cocktail that used them (in the case of Campari, we tried two variations).
For some pics from the seminars, check out my twitter feed: http://www.twitter.com/raisedspirits