Cheers to an amazing Manhattan Cocktail Classic (www.manhattancocktailclassic.com)! Five days and evenings of parties, seminars, tastings, luncheons, dinners…and of course, lots of cocktails. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask many of the notable bartenders, chefs, panelists and event hosts in attendance about their favorite things to do in New York City during the summertime.
Here’s what they had to say:
Eric Alperin (Co-owner, The Varnish [Los Angeles] www.thevarnishbar.comand former bartender, Milk and Honey, Little Branch): “I just love sitting on a bench in Washington Square Park www.nycgovparks.org/parks/washingtonsquarepark, relaxing and watching people as they go by. I could — and have — done this for hours. That and Mamoun’s Falafel (www.mamouns.com) add up to a great afternoon.”
Mario Batali (Celebrity Chef, Television Personality and Former James Beard Chef of the Year): “Pier 40 (www.pier40.org) . I really love going there to watch my kids play ball.” The Chef makes an excellent choice. My husband plays rec. soccer here, too, and it’s also fun (and free) to kayak through the Downtown Boathouse (www.downtownboathouse.org).
Jon Bignelli (Chef de Cuisine, wd-50 www.wd-50.com and Food Network “Chopped” Winner): “I love anywhere that lets you sit outside and enjoy an ice cold beer. Gowanus Yacht Club, for instance, or any beer garden.” When it comes to cocktails, he and others from wd-50 love PDT and Death and Co.
Richard Boccato (Proprietor, Painkiller, Co-owner, Dutch Kills): Richie offered another vote for Prospect Park, and spending a lazy afternoon relaxing there.
Francine Cohen (Panelist, Manhattan Cocktail Classic and Editor-in-Chief, INSIDE F&B): “Nothing beats peaceful, quiet al fresco dining. At least once a week I pack a dinner and take it over to Riverside Park where, at 88th Street and Riverside Drive, just south of theSoldiers and Sailors Monument and in full view of the Hudson River, there are two picnic tables and benches. It’s a terrific mini-getaway and there’s no bill at the end of the meal.”
Alex Day (Panelist, Manhattan Cocktail Classic and Traveling Bartender Extraordinaire): “Right at the height of summer, say mid-August, when the sweltering humidity declares victory on any semblance of sweat-less dignity, there’s little I love more than getting on the B61 bus until it dead-ends in Red Hook, walking to the pier and sitting with an ice cold lemonade and a decent book. Even with the ridiculous heat, there’s always a breeze that makes it all bearable and allows this Oregon boy to enjoy the outdoors. In those moments, a NY summer is tolerable. Most the rest of the time, it just ain’t.”
Meaghan Dorman (Head Bartender, Raines Law Room): “My favorite thing to do in the city in the summer is to feel like I’m not in the city at all. I love Prospect Park late afternoon, on a blanket with my pug and a couple of friends.”
Simon Ford (Industry Visionary and International Ambassador): “I like to wander the streets of Dumbo on sunny Sundays. The art galleries, coffee shops, waterfront, book stores,Jacque Torres chocolate shop, flea market and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory all make me happy. Also, nothing beats a good pub garden. This summer I will be seeking places out that are showing the World Cup!”
Lindsey Johnson (Panelist, Manhattan Cocktail Classic and Founder/CEO, Lush Life Productions, Blogger, Brown, Bitter and Stirred): “I spend mornings in Prospect Park, then swing into Joyce for an iced red eye. Next I head towards Brooklyn Flea to find trinkets (including vintage cocktail gear) and some of that delicious street cart lunch. I usually end the day cranking out emails on my deck.”
Jason Littrell (Panelist, Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Bartender, Dram and Organizer, The Three Hour Tour): Jason knew his pick right away. “The beer garden in Astoria. Amazing!”
Michael McIlroy (Panelist, Manhattan Cocktail Classic and Bartender, Milk and Honey, Little Branch): Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, Michael always enjoys paying homage to his heritage. And what’s the best way to do that? “Drink at McSorley’s,” he says (the renowned Irish pub dating back to 1854).
Sasha Petraske (Proprietor, Milk and Honey, Little Branch, White Star, Dutch Kills, The Varnish [Los Angeles] and cocktail consultant): Sasha honed in on a classic New York City spot: “Grand Central Station or honestly, a cab to JFK” (admitting to another trend among New Yorkers who escape to avoid the city heat). He also enjoys strolling the semi-deserted streets of the Financial District post-closing bell. As a former Battery Park resident, I tend to agree — it feels like the city is all yours after Wall Streeters and tourists head out of town.
Selena Ricks (Blogger, The Dizzy Fizz and Organizer, The Dizzy Fizz Tastemaker’s Punch): “Wake up early and take the LIRR to Long Beach and be one of the first people on the beach. It’s just the early risers and the surfers, and I sprawl out on my blanket and enjoy the calm before the throngs of beach-goers arrive. It’s nice to know that a 45-minute train ride can get me to a clean beach where I feel miles from the city.”
Audrey Saunders (Founder, Pegu Club): Although Audrey is known for her killer gin cocktails, when it comes to Summer activities, she prefers good old H20: “I like chilling in a body of water, whether it be beach, lake, or pool. I can float for hours. If there’s a stream, I like to kick my shoes off and stick my feet in.”
Lesley Townsend (Founder, Manhattan Cocktail Classic): “I love bringing my dog during off-leash hours to Prospect Park.” Lesley also noted the stellar picnic potential. “To avoid using plastic cups, I bring Reidel stemless glassware and a bottle of champagne” (so she doesn’t have to worry about a wine corkscrew).
Phil Ward (Proprietor, Mayahuel): Phil didn’t name one spot or activity in particular, but discussed how he loved the freedom of spending more time outside and meandering around the city’s streets.
My pick? For me, it’s all about the private rooftop. I admittedly tend to cringe when friends suggest visiting public roof bars, only because they’re usually packed and come with poor drink quality plus high prices. Of course, having your own outdoor space is ideal, but you can become an honorary deck guest with just about anyone by bringing quality drinks and / or tasty foods if you’re ever invited over (please note, I enjoy bubbly and chocolate covered-strawberries).
What are your favorite NYC Summer picks?