New York City is at the center of the universe, except when it isn’t. Detroit has become a destination for cool, as has Philadelphia. New York, meanwhile, seems to be a place where luxury condos are built in lieu of anything creative. In that vein, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which would be in its fourth year, was unceremoniously canceled, apparently, through an email.
The event pairs global brands and industry experts in all things mixed drinks with aficionados, fans and those simply curious what all the bourbon fuss is about. In short, this is the Fashion Week for the cocktail set. And now it’s gone.
How did this happen? In October of 2014, MCC founder Lesley Townsend (Duval) announced, via an email called “Passing the Torch,” that she had sold the show (with its coveted NY Public Library-based Gala at $300 a head) to a new “fearless leader” named JD Albano, a sports marketing personality in NYC. In the email was the comment, “I’ll still be around of course – this will always be my first baby.” To this reporter, Mr. (?) Albano sent an introductory email as the new CEO of the Manhattan Coctail Classic. In his (?) email, Mr. Albano said, “Rest assured, Lesley will continue to serve as an important resource to me.” In addition, the email promised, “We want to deliver even more benefits to you. It is our objective to take this successful festival and expand it to a new level. Leslie (sic) has worked so hard to build it to where it is, now and she has asked that we steer the MCC to its next step.”
Almost a year went past with no further correspondence. On March 18, out of the blue, there was an announcement (via email) that the MCC Gala, the opening anchor of the event, previously held at the New York Public Library, would be held instead on Saturday, May 16 at Cipriani Wall Street. “A new team, led by veteran event producer Michael Blatter, is taking the reins of the four-day festival to amplify its offerings and engage the wider hospitality sector and beyond.” It was announced that tickets would soon go on sale. In addition, according to a March 19 press release, the Industry Invitational (a relatively new, segregated element of the Classic) would be held at a new space, Pier A Harbor House in Battery Park.
Michael Blatter? According to the March 19 press release, Mr. Blatter is “a veteran event producer and one of the foremost and respected authorities on consumer marketing. He has produced thousands of events and brings decades of spirits and hospiltality industry experience.” According to his Linkedin page, Mr. Blatter is the founder and president of an agency called Mirrorball, with the tagline, “We create cultural relevancy for brands.” No mention of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic appears on Mr. Blatter’s LinkedIn page (though he is listed as a marketing director of “hospitality” dating back to June 1983), and that was the last this author heard from Mr. Blatter, despite inquiring about the shift from Albano to Blatter.
Again, nothing was heard, until a week ago, when it was anounced April 10 that tickets were available for the Industry Invitational for $45 (no mention was made of “civilian” prices or sign-ups). On the site, it was stressed that industry sponsorship was important to make the Manhattan Cocktail Classic work both for bartenders and aficionados. No press credentials were included on the site, but inquiries indicated that press information was forthcoming. Then nothing.
So it was that on April 23, an email went out to existing sponsors that the 2015 Manhattan Cocktail Classic “may not be held this year.” According to the email, “the festival hinges on the many products and brands that participate in various ways.” According to the email, a “late start” was to blame for the fact that not enough brands and sponsors were able to participate and provide the necessary operating funds. Within the industry, it’s long been a point of contention that sponsors run the Classic, and that over the years some sponsors had pulled out.
The email goes on to say that sponsorship deposits will be returned within 14 days, and apologies are made for any inconveniences.
This author has noted that we might be seeing a tipping point in the craft cocktail and artisanal food world. When McDonald’s can advertise an “Artisan” grilled chicken, can it be too long before the actual artisanal, locavore, sustainable and sourced craft world is taken down?
Perhaps this is a hiccup. Perhaps the current owners of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic will come back with something bigger and better next year. But this is an impetuous industry. If your 23-year-old bourbon has been stolen and is unavailable, much of the audience will move on to something else.
Thirsty for more? Check out National Spirits Examiner or NY Drinks Examiner.
Do you have a cocktail trend, new product, bar or teahouse you’d like me to review? Want to give me a heads-up on your favorite hot spot? Please email me at NYDrinksExaminer AT gmail.com. Or follow me on Twitter @roberthp.
FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author’s own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author was invited to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala, but had not reserved a ticket, nor bought a new tuxedo jacket for the cause.