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Through Cucumber and Rose Tinted Glasses

An inside look at the madness of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic by Jim Ryan, Hendrick's Gin Ambassador USA
 The Hendrick's Croquet Trophy

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6:00pm NYPL loading dock.

As bartenders and brand folks gather, we greet one another with a grand sense of camaraderie.  Some made the trek from faraway continents, leaving their families and regular bar shifts, to shake cocktails for the thousands of consumers who paid a pretty penny to sip on tipples made by the best mixologists on earth.  As more and more gather, we mill about saying ‘hello” and ask how the new job is going or remark about the last time we had a chance to see one another and share a drink –“Aspen or SF? No. Tales.  Ahhh, yes! Of course!”

At this moment, in this back of house entrance between trucks going in reverse, the constant beep-beep-beeping and the putrid stench of nearby green trash containers, there are more displays of man love than in all the frat houses of Ohio State.  But this display of love is merely our collective effort to contain our brimming anxiety.  See, we’ve only got three hours to put our drinks together, and the general rule of thumb is – insider secret about to be divulged – no matter how much time you’ve got to prep, you always end up behind the gun.

No matter: this is the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala, and while this event is mainly for consumers and press, we, the workers, the charming grunts, we’re the stars of it.  New York has put its best dress on to come have our cocktails. 

NYPL Main Hall

My Hendrick’s Gin bar is placed smack in front of the only entrance the guests can come through, and I know what that means. I am about to get my tail end served to me on a silver platter for the next four hours.  Jon Santer, my partner in crime for the evening, and I have spent the past three hours making sure we can be as efficient as possible with our bar and our cocktail, The Snow Miser’s Cooler.

Jon- Ok Jimi, so how are we doing this again?

Me- Pour mix (Hendrick’s, St. Germain, lime, simple syrup) in shaker. Add lavender/spice bitters and mint.  Ice shaker and three Collins Glasses. Shake and double strain.  Top with soda garnish with cucumber wheel and mint tip.

Jon- OK, got it.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Try doing that 400 times in an evening while keeping a smile on your face. In ten minutes, 3,500 New Yorkers that have been impatiently waiting on the steps of the library will burst through the door and descend on us like rabid dogs.

NYPL Main Hall

As if disturbingly waking from an afternoon nap, filled with vivid dreams, I surface and breathe. 

What on earth happened?  I recall bursts of laughter with Jon a few times. It was the only thing we could do to cope with the fury of work we were doing. 

I remember running out of glassware at 11:00 and telling the bar backs that I’d give bottles of Gin to their families if they found more for me.  I recall our batch running out around midnight, switching to Hendrick’s and soda, then Hendrick’s and ice, and finally warm gin.  I suppose I’ll have to read all about it in the newspapers, or on blogs like this or via Facebook photos. 

Whatever it was, my colleagues and I had a wild time and my face was hurting from smiling so much, making as many good drinks as humanly possible. One thing I know for sure is this was merely the beginning of MCC. 

In the four days following, my dance card was full.  I had two guest bartending shifts at Dram and LTO.  I tried my best to not soil my seersucker suit while playing host and making 700 cocktails for a Hendrick’s Croquet competition. Then there was the seminar I hosted with my colleague Charlotte Voisey and some of the best bartenders in the land.  Finally, I placed a bet with my friend and bartender extraordinaire, Nick Jarret.  The bet was a simple gentlemen’s bet with nothing more than bragging rights at stake.  We sat down to consume at least 144 oysters, 1 bottle of champagne each, 1 bottle of Fernet Branca, and 1 bottle of Angostura Bitters. 

“Rough life,” you may say.  Or maybe you’re wondering why I’d go through exerting myself to such a degree.  Quite simply, I’d say it’s just another weekend in the life of Jim Ryan, Hendrick’s Gin Ambassador USA. We only live once and as I write this I’m on a plane to Chicago and its Saturday May 21st, the day Harold Camping has predicted as the beginning of the Biblical Rapture.  I’ve had a good life, how about you? 

Oh yeah, that bet.  I won.  Huzzah!

-- Jim Ryan, Hendrick’s Gin Ambassador USA

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