Meet & Eat: Lesley Townsend, Manhattan Cocktail Classic

Meet and Eat: NY

Conversations with chefs and food personalities in New York City.

"Nothing like pork buns and brown liquor at 1:00am on a Sunday to ready you for the week ahead."

This week's Meet & Eat is a little shorter than usual--but only because Lesley Townsend is working away to give us a preview of the first-ever Manhattan Coctail Classic, a weekend of seminars, events, and drinks galore.

We didn't want to distract her from her duties, which we'd imagine include wrangling New York's premier bartenders and cocktail historians, procuring delicious libations, and potentially taste testing many, many cocktails.

20090903lesleytownsendheadshot2.jpgName: Lesley Townsend
Location: Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Occupation: Founder and Director of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic

What is the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and how did it come to be? I'll skip the boiler plate intro (it's on the website). It's New York's first big cocktail event! FĂȘte! Festival! Conference! Cocktail party!

This whole thing spiraled out of a little email exchange awhile back, between a few people who have now become our Advisory Board. I simply asked why there wasn't a big annual cocktail event in New York, given the unparalleled density of talent in the city. I knew there were other such cocktail events that happened elsewhere in the world, and it just struck me as odd New York wouldn't have its own.

Apparently I'd hit a nerve.

Apparently I'd hit a nerve. This question was met with resounding, overwhelming enthusiasm--and before I knew what had happened, I amassed an impressive number of New York's greatest bartenders, cocktail writers, educators, historians, ambassadors, and consultants, who all commenced kicking me in the shins to pull such a thing together.

Honestly, it was very much a case of being in the right place at the right time. The cocktail community of New York wants this event to happen--and I just happen to be the one silly enough to take on such an enterprise.


[Kerry Saretsky]

Rumor has it there will be some guest bartenders serving up libations over the course of the weekend--can you tell us who they are? Not yet... but a lot of the usual suspects, to be sure.

What are you looking forward to the most over the weekend? The Gala. No question.

This is the fall preview of the main event, scheduled to take place in May during World Cocktail Week. Can you give us any hints about what's to come then? Bigger. Better. Boozier. Still sorting out a lot of the details, but just multiply the Preview by a factor of ten, rope in all five boroughs, bring in international bartending talent, and add a cherry and a pink umbrella on top.


Is anyone developing a special cocktail in honor of the weekend? There will be a bunch of snappy cocktails created for the Official Bar, but there isn't yet an "Official Cocktail of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic". Except, well, the Manhattan. Does that count?

What's your go-to cocktail? I'm a sucker for anything with heavily peated Scotch and egg whites. Goes splendidly with French toast in the mornings. (Hey, maybe that can be the Official Cocktail...)

Undiscovered cocktail gem in NYC? Nothing in the Chang empire is "undiscovered", but I'm surprised there's not a line around the corner for Don Lee's late-night cocktails at Ssam Bar. Nothing like pork buns and brown liquor at 1:00am on a Sunday to ready you for the week ahead.

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic Fall Preview is being held October 3rd & 4th at Astor Center and various cocktail bars throughout the city. Each seminar and event will be individually ticketed for $50, available through the website at beginning on September 7, 2009.

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