NYC cocktail culture

File Under Hot Dates: June Drinking Events in NYC

Summer is in the air, and in NYC that means there are rooftops to ascend, picnic lawns to sprawl on, and even some island-hopping to do. (Ok, maybe commuting to Manhattan doesn't count, but hopping a ferry to Governor's Island or Fire Island could be fun.) It seems the city is in sync with our desire to escape our stuffy apartments and overly air-conditioned offices — there are plenty of opportunities this month to refresh your palate. And in light of recent tragic events, including the loss of industry legend John Lermayer, the beverage community is even more inclined to connect and heal. Show your face and pursue happiness at these June drinking events:

Bar Convent Berlin. Photo by Gili Shani.

Bar Convent Berlin. Photo by Gili Shani.

Bar Convent Brooklyn

June 12-13, Brooklyn Expo Center, 79 Franklin Street, Brooklyn. $65.

New this year, Bar Convent Berlin, a renowned bar industry trade show, is expanding to Brooklyn. Designed for bar and beverage professionals only, attendees are invited to network and learn about the latest trends, techniques, and products in the national and international markets. In addition to tastings and educational sessions, expect the usual debauchery that circumnavigates bar industry festivities.


Harlem Whiskey Renaissance

June 15, Museum of the City of New York, 1220 5th Avenue, New York. $125-$175.

Head uptown for this rousing celebration of whiskey and the spirit of Harlem's grand history. Choose from a wide selection of brown spirits (Smooth Ambler, Johnnie Walker, Bunnahabhain, among others), small bites, and Jazz-age entertainment by Dandy Wellington. Get into the swing of things with lessons by Harlem Dance Society. Proceeds benefit Boys & Girls Harbor, a Harlem organization providing educational support to local youth.



Arte Agave

June 29, Bowery Hotel, 335 Bowery, New York. $85.

This annual festival puts agave spirits on center stage, with endless samples of both craft and big-name tequilas and mezcals (Milagro, Cazadores, Ilegal, Del Maguey, and many more). Get inspired to make your own cocktails while feasting on tacos, churros, and corn, and taking in a variety of Latin music, art, and dance. 

Dizzy Gift Guide 2017


If you're a fellow procrastinator like me, you still have some holiday gifting to do, not to mention entertaining, baking, wrapping—the works. If you're in a pinch, nothing warms the cockles quite like a top-shelf bottle of liquor, and with all of the booze delivery options these days, you really have no excuse. You could also check with your favorite bar about gift certificates—a great way to spread cheer and support the hospitality scene at the same time. Here are some more last-minute gift ideas to make the holidays merry and bright for all the cocktail lovers on your list.


Brooklyn design shop Love & Victory offers lots of charming gifts, from hand-engraved decanters and glassware to the most adorable cocktail pins. This set of flamingo tiki glasses ($29) caught my eye, and the packaging includes a handy pina colada recipe. You'll want to act fast, as Love & VIctory's shipping deadline for holiday is December 15.


I've been a fan of Owl's Brew tea mixers for some time now, and their holiday gift set ($28) is perfect for anyone looking to spice up a drink or punch without too much effort. The set includes three 8-oz bottles: Wicked Green, White & Vine, and the oh-so-seasonal Mulling Spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom), cranberry, apple pieces, brown sugar, apple juice, cranberry juice, maple syrup, and citric acid.


Last year, Cocktail Kingdom teamed up with spirits historian and author David Wondrich to release a line of vintage-inspired cocktail tools and serverware. The punch set ($130) features an English style ladle, six elegant punch cups, and a stoneware bowl featuring a Cicero quote that translates to “Let us eat, drink, enjoy life, after death there is no pleasure.” Once again shipping deadlines are upon us, so act quickly for any Cocktail Kingdom orders.


Cocktail Courier, a cocktail subscription box service, has partnered with Williams Sonoma to offer a variety of cocktail kits for the holiday season. Start with the mini cocktail kit ($29) in tasty options such as the Cinnamon Daiquiri, Improper Gin and Tonic, and the French 75, among others.


Decorative cocktail picks paired with a jar of brandied cherries or martini olives always makes for a nice gift for the home bar enthusiast who has everything. This pineapple cocktail pick set ($40) comes in a handy pineapple holder, making for a snazzy addition to the bar top.


Let's say you ran out of time to find the perfect gift for your party host, and you want to offer a bit more than just another bottle of wine or bubbly—bottleneck accessories ($8) to the rescue! This is one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" ideas—a package of balloons and confetti ready to hang around the neck of a gifted bottle, bringing instant party vibes. Brilliant.

Dizzy Days Ahead: Trendcasting 2011

Another year, another look into the future of the liquiverse. A good deal of my predictions for cocktail culture in 2010 were spot-on (I had no idea NYC would be getting three high-profile tiki bars when I wrote that post), so I'm feeling a little pressure this year, like I'm some kind of oracle. See Spice & Ice author Kara Newman's projected trends here, NY Barfly's crystal ball-gazing's list of cocktail trends from around the world, and read about predictions for a mild increase in bar sales for 2011 here. Here's what I'm expecting from the NYC scene and beyond:

  1. Micro goes macro: In 2010, we saw Tuthilltown Distillery''s Hudson Whiskey line go worldwide with acquisition, marketing and distribution by the UK-based William Grant & Sons. The sale was considered a giant leap for the craft distilling movement as larger brands took notice. I'm guessing we'll continue to see small batch spirits take on more of the market this year.
  2. Bartender-owned bars: Word on the street is a number of high-profile bartenders are saving their pennies to open the bars of their dreams this year. In late 2010,  The Drink, an all-punch nautical-themed bar in Williamsburg, was opened by a team including veteran bartender Frank Cisneros of Dram. Expect to see more of these rec-room-style bars serving crafty drinks--or, bartender's bars, if you will.
  3. Cocktails on tap: We've seen wine on draft, and as previously mentioned, mixologists are readying for alcohol-infused libations from the soda gun. El Cobre on Avenue A is serving Dark & Stormies on tap with Gosling's Black Seal Rum, lime and CO2. In San Francisco, Fernet (which flows like water there) is on tap at a couple of bars. It's only a matter of time before NYC gets fizzy with this trend.
  4. The punch bowl floweth: This is already old news in NYC, but I'm excited to see how other cities adopt this trend. I'm also hoping we see a wider variety of punch bowl sets on store shelves. However, I'm not too keen on the idea of drinking out of giant flamingo fountains--that just sounds unsanitary.
  5. Wood works: Whether barrel-aged cocktails are embraced beyond drink nerds or not, one thing is for sure--experimentation with various cooperage is a continuing trend. In 2010, for instance, we saw Excellia Tequila finished in Cognac casks and Maker's 46, featuring original Maker's Mark finished in barrels with staves of seared French Oak.
  6. Live entertainment: Expanding on 2010's love affair with piano bars, I wouldn't be surprised to see more cocktail bars adding vintage music, vaudeville and other shenanigans to the menu, with customers sporting more sophisticated attire to match.
  7. Anyone can be a mixologist: As educational programs teaching the craft of cocktail-making and organizations such as the USBG continue to go mainstream, more and more amateurs are finding the confidence to make complicated drinks. Some "bar-tweenies" could use more training. Of course, just like anything else, only the strong will survive--but the opportunity to get schooled is there.

Dizzy Days Ahead: Trendcasting 2010

After closing the chapter on a decade that saw cocktail culture rise from one that knocks back Cosmos on crowded dancefloors to one that sips Corpse Revivers in speakeasies,  the alcohol world is a-buzz with predictions for what's next. Since NYC is ahead of the curve (i.e., we're already over bacon infusions), cocktails made here could very well have an impact on what the nation will be drinking in the "twenty-teens." The National Restaurant Association recognizes that organic cocktails will be a key element for menus next year, and you should also check out cocktail writer Paul Clarke's trends to watch on Serious Eats. Here's the view from my crystal ball:

  1. Creme Yvette: Rumors are swirling that this highly anticipated liqueur from the makers of St-Germain elderflower liqueur will finally be released in the first quarter of this year. Featuring notes of berries, spices, honey, vanilla, and a hint of violet petals, Creme Yvette disappeared in 1969, but Robert Cooper's family has the rights to the recipe and has been fine-tuning the relaunch. Considering how well Creme de Violette went over with mixologists seeking the missing link to a proper Aviation, expect to see the reddish-purple Yvette make a splash.
  2. Terroir in spirits: One great trend to come out of microdistilling is that I'm tasting more terroir, or sense of place, in spirits. I think more and more spirit brands, such as Finger Lakes Distilling and Harvest Spirit's Core Vodka, are looking to be an homage to their terroir.
  3. Japanese tools and techniques: The art of Japanese bartending, inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony's attention to detail, is sweeping cocktail culture--at least for those with the luxury of making slow drinks. From handcarved ice balls to the hard shake, these skills are quickly becoming an expected part of the mixologist's showmanship. Tools can be found on Cocktail Kingdom.
  4. Mezcal for the masses: Mezcal was a hit here in NYC among cocktail lovers who embraced Mayahuel last year, so don't be surprised to see the smoky agave spirit go even more mainstream this year. Hot new brands include Sombra, Benesin, and Métl.
  5. Tiki everything: The end of 2009 saw the highly-publicized opening of tiki mecca Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco, and suddenly, cocktail culture got way less serious.
  6. Sipping rums: On a related note, everyone from The New York Times to the Village Voice seems to recognize the appeal of sipping premium rum for the Winter of '09-'10. This lines up perfectly for the classic daiquiri to be the drink of the Summer of 2010.
  7. Bitters on blast: Later this month, German-made The Bitter Truth Bitters--until now hard to get unless ordered online via Cocktail Kingdom--will be distributed on store shelves stateside thanks to DSWE Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits. Aromatic flavors such as the Xocolatl Mole and Celery will first be launched in 16 states.
  8. Cognac and Armagnac: Despite being hit hard by the recession, the global Cognac market is expected to resurge over the next few years. On Jan. 17-20, mixologists from around the world will gather in Cognac, France, for the third annual International Cognac Summit to create drink recipes using Cognac. It will be interesting to see what they come up with this year.
  9. Sherry and wine cocktails: Dry or sweet, mixologists got familiar with sherry and other fortified wines last year, so expect to see even more of that this year. Also, Bon Appetit is predicting that vermouth will be all the rage in 2010.
  10. Moonshine: Small-batch corn whiskey modeled after the homemade version synonymous with the South is finding its way into cocktails. Brand-name moonshine such as CatDaddy Carolina Moonshine--sweet, high-proof, and aromatic--could be an ingredient in your next punch.