The New York Cocktail Expo 2019 Delights Once Again with Tiki and Tastings at the Melrose Ballroom
New York City’s top mixologists and bartenders gathered together on Sunday, August 18 for an epic night of drinking, mixing, and merrymaking. Over 40 well-known NYC establishments—including The Bonnie, The Aviary, Mother of Pearl, and Death & Co.—participated in this beloved annual event, which took place at The Melrose Ballroom in Astoria, Queens.
Cocktail connoisseurs would be absolutely delighted with the wide array of drinks offered. Every spirit you could possibly imagine—including gin, bourbon, whisky, rye, tequila, vodka, cider, and even an entire room devoted to rum—was proudly on display. Some mixologists opted to go all out, creating cocktails using a myriad of different, dazzling ingredients; others chose to keep it simple, letting the liquor speak for itself.
Keeping it simple certainly excludes the vast selection of Tiki vendors, conjuring up visions of Polynesian islands. Full of bright colors, equally bright and luscious fruits, and exotic accents that could instantly whisk you away to the tropics, the Tiki vendors at the NY Cocktail Expo were seriously skilled in their craft. They created some of the most delicious, mouth-watering eye candy on the entire three-leveled expo.
The festival was divided into two sessions, and tickets included one free tasting at each booth. Expo attendees were asked to track their favorites of the day by voting once each for “Best Cocktail” and “Best Tiki.” Winners were announced at the end of the night.
Unless you have an iron liver, it would be nearly impossible to sample every booth—though we certainly tried our best. Below is a list of some of our favorite vendors and tastings of the night—you can bet your next cocktail we’ll be keeping an eye out for them at our nearest bars and liquor stores.
Ocean Hill Apple Brandy
Ocean Hill Apple Brandy was created by Joe Sadden, an incredibly personable and passionate distiller based in Brooklyn, NY. Joe conceptualized Ocean Hill Brandy while working on his Master’s Thesis, and turned it into a full-blown and expanding business.
Ocean Hill’s Apple Brandy is Late Summer and Early Fall, bottled. Ingredients are locally sourced using New York State Apples grown in the Hudson Valley. The apples are pressed in Long Island, fermented into a hard cider, and then double-distilled at a nano distillery in Brooklyn. Ocean Hill teamed up with Astoria favorite Sparrow Tavern (across from Macoletta) to create the most delicious cocktail, which could be enjoyed either warmed or chilled. Ocean Hill Apple Brandy ultimately won the people’s choice award for favorite cocktail—they were that good. Ocean Hill Apple Brandy is made in limited small bottle batches, so you may want to head over to Ocean Hill Apple Brandy to snag your own bottle before they’re gone.
Empress 1908 Gin
If you guys have yet to try Empress 1908 Gin, you are missing out on some serious taste and color. The gin is infused with butterfly pea blossom, which gives it that lovely, rich indigo blue color—but the fun doesn’t stop there. If you add citrus or tonic to the gin, the gin transforms into a lovely pastel pink color fit for royalty. Head over to Empress 1908 Gin to see where you can purchase your own bottle—and for a list of bars serving Empress 1908 in the US, UK, Japan, and Canada.
We’re a sucker for anything cute and all things gin, which is why were were huge fans of the Tanqueray booth at the New York Cocktail Expo. I mean—what could be more cute than these dollhouse-sized cups of tanqueray gin, tonic, and a splash of Campari? Name one thing. We’ll wait.
G4 Tequila (which stands for “Four Generations”) is changing the way producers utilize and harvest their natural resources. An eco-forward brand, G4 Tequila knows how to mix the perfect balance of taste with responsible production and consumption. They use steam-powered copper stills to heat the water heating system and recycle the remnants of their crushed agave plants by turning them into fertilizer. G4 has even built a special roof for their distillery, El Pandillo, to capture, route, and store rainwater. In fact, their tequila is distilled with 50% rainwater! In the words of G4, “Some aficionados claim you can smell the rain when putting your nose to the glass.”
Old Elk Distillery
Old Elk Distillery worked with East Village gem Death & Co. to create what was arguably our favorite cocktail of the night—a delicious bourbon mixed with mango and spicy habanero. It was refreshing, delicious, and certainly packed a punch (in more than one way). You may find us slinking down to the East Village for another sip sometime soon…
Pinhook Bourbon is a refreshing counter to a world that continually seeks sameness. Rather than blend old batches of bourbon with new batches to create a homogeneous, uniform taste, Pinhook Bourbon releases a new bourbon and rye each year. Why? Because each year, the conditions under which a batch is brewed vary greatly. Variable factors include a particular year’s grain harvest, the soil in which the grain is grown, the oak barrels in which the whiskey is aged—the list could go on. All of these factors work together to produce a unique taste, and each year, Pinhook chooses “the best expression of our barrels at that moment in time.” We like to think of Pinhook as the grownup surprise inside your cereal box—you never know what you’re gonna get, but you know it’s going to be good.
Were you at the New York Cocktail Expo this year? What was your favorite cocktail? Let us know in the comments!
Banner photo by Lauren Johnson.