Published on April 14th, 2014 | by Alexa


A First-Timer’s Guide to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic is New York City’s cocktail event of the year. This five-day festival kicks off with a party unlike any other, a formal Gala hosted at the iconic New York City Public Library. The event takes up four entire floors, filled with live music, tasty treats, and seemingly endless corridors of cocktails. New Yorker’s come dressed to the nines ready for a night of boozy revelry, Gatsby style.

If you’re thinking about going, this year’s Gala takes place on Friday, May 9. Tickets can be purchased at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic website along with other festival tickets. For those of you already planning to attend, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions by Gala first-timers.

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What should I wear? I saw photos from previous years and it looks like this is a pretty formal affair. Would I look silly wearing jeans? 

According to the MCC website, “general fanciness is emphatically required.” In other words, nix the jeans. That being said, gala attired is pretty diverse. You can go all out in full-on black tie, a less fancy cocktail dress, or something completely creative (think Great Gatsby glam). Ladies, avoid a long dress because it tends to get stepped on!

Do I need to eat before hand or is there enough food at the gala to keep me satisfied? 

Definitely eat beforehand! Cocktails outnumber the amount of food, although there are still plenty of snacks scattered throughout the venue. For any night of intense imbibing, it’s always good to have a proper meal beforehand.

I don’t want to be waiting in line to get in. How’s traffic at the door? Is it worth it to show up a few minutes early? 

As with any large event there’s always a bit of a line to get in. However, it moves fast. If you aren’t a fan of waiting and want to get in before the masses, you can spring for a VIP ticket, which will grant you access an hour early.

I’ve heard that there are cocktails – lots of them. I can only assume things could get a bit crazy quickly if you don’t pace yourself. Advice for how many cocktails to have per hour? 

Everyone’s tolerance is different – know yours! We recommend grabbing waters periodically to help balance out the booze.  The good news is it’s a tasting event, so many of the drinks are small pours. Also, don’t be afraid to put down a drink before you’ve finished it.  There are too many great drinks in life to waste time on ones you don’t love, and you should take advantage of the plethora of choice to try as many things as possible. If you’re going with friends or a significant other, there’s no need for you all to get the same cocktail. Sharing cocktails is a good way to get a little taste and to make sure you don’t overindulge.

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What’s the crowd like? Is it mostly foodies and industry types? Will I meet the man/woman of my dreams there? 

The crowd is mixed — there are definitely some industry people there, a mix of foodies and generally fun, young New Yorkers who are out to have a good time.  It’s a pretty large party so you never who you might meet.

Is there any dancing?!

YES! Lots of it with a great 1920s jazz-age band. If previous years are any indication, go to the basement to get your boogey on.

What surprised you most about going to the gala

The sheer size and beauty of it.  We knew it was going to be big event, but it was beyond epic to see the entire New York Public Library all decked out for the Gala. It’s also such a beautiful space and the lighting and decorations just make it that much more special.

What’s your take on sticking to one spirit throughout the night? Is it bad to go from whiskey to gin to tequila, etc.? 

Switching spirits is generally fine for most, but that should really be at your discretion. Know yourself and your limits and just be conscious of how much you’re drinking throughout the night.

My friend doesn’t drink cocktails. Is there wine and beer? Would he/she have a good time or should I leave him at home? 

This is really an event for cocktail lovers so wine and beer fans might want to sit this one out.

What else should a first-timer know? 

Ladies, wear flats (or at least comfortable shoes)!!! The marble floors are hard! If you need a little break we suggest heading down to the basement level. There you’ll find the biggest room (and coolest room, temperature wise), usually with a band, dance floor and lots of cocktails and snacks. Have fun and as cliché as it sounds, drink responsibly!


Dipsology is a proud media partner of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. In addition to the Gala, we also welcome you to join us for a special seminar co-hosted by Middle Branch and St. George Spirits on the importance of smell, flavor, and taste.  Get your tickets here.

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About the Author

Alexa is the co-founder of and a passionate foodie and New Yorker. She's a digital marketer by trade, start-up junkie, and karaoke queen. You can find her on Twitter @alexa.

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