I’ve been to enough food fests to know the dirty little secret — people sign up for the fancy food and the chef personalities, but they really come to drink. Which is why if you’re going to the New York City Wine and Food Festival (NYCWFF) this weekend, you should find an event that caters to the imbiber. There will be less waiting in line, and some of the city’s top bartender talent will be serving specialty drinks.
The event that excites us the most (and isn’t sold out, at least at the time of writing) is Saturday night’s El Tequileño Presents Latin Nights. The event is curated by the Bar Lab team of Elad Zvi, Gabe Orta and Christine Wiseman and hosted by The View’s Ana Navarro and Peruvianan restaurateur Franco Noriega.
Whereas the other cocktail events at NYCWFF can be a catch-all of booze (like Saturday’s Grand Tasting) or limited in scope (see: Steak & Whiskey, which is a fun event but less so if you’re not a whiskey fan), Latin Nights offers a curated night of cocktails, cuisine and music with a decidedly Latin flavor. And it’s overseen by Bar Lab, the hospitality group behind award-winning bars across the country including Broken Shaker, Margot Natural Wine Bar, Hoja Taqueria, 27 Restaurant, Arlo Wynwood, The Exchange Los Angeles and, most recently, four new bar/restaurant/nightclub venues at the Moxy Williamsburg.
How Christine Wiseman Is Transforming the Hotel BarThe award-winning beverage director of Bar Lab just opened four unique drinking and dining concepts at the Moxy Williamsburg
Latin Nights is a unique concept for the fest, as the Bar Lab team handpicked seven of the city’s top Latino, Latina and Latinx mixologists to create cocktails for the soiree. “We drew our inspiration from the vibrant Latin culture of Miami — as an iconic city known for its Latin influences, we wanted to create an event that celebrates the flavors and traditions that make Miami unique,” they told InsideHook in an email statement. “We hope to pay homage to the vibrant Latin community that is in Miami as well as NYC. It will be a night filled with delicious food, cocktails and music, of course!”
We also asked a few of Bar Lab’s chosen mixologists to describe their drinks for the evening. While some are keeping the final drink recipes close to their chest (meaning: you’ll have to attend to try them), we did get some clues.
- Genesis: “The Jackalope Spritz, a Bar Belly staple. Light and refreshing with a touch of fancy bubbles and some El Tequileño to get your taste buds dancing.”
- Michael: While not offering a name, he describes his drink as “smooth and sweet, bitter and blunt, using a combination of blood orange and vanilla.”
- Yoli: “The Piña Colada is one of the most popular drinks in Puerto Rico. I wanted to create a spirit-forward version with Bacardi 8 and homemade syrup.”
- Niel: “It’s a traditional Mexican Paloma using fine Mexican tequila with a cumin and pasilla influence.”
The end result here is refreshing and crowd-pleasing drinks, but ones that represent both the bartenders and their home bars — meaning, if you like what you tried, you have a new cocktail den to visit. And while it’s fun to watch, say, Guy Fieri work a crowd or rub shoulders with Robert Irvine (two things I’ve done at prior Wine and Food Festivals, both here and in other cities), the best moments at the NYCWFF will probably involve a local mixologist and a memorable drink.
If you want to pair your visit to Latin Nights with another drinks-forward event (that’s not sold out), we suggest the following:
Best of Brooklyn: A spotlight on the borough’s 12 best eateries and the area’s best beer and cocktails (Thu, Oct. 12, 8pm)
Spritz Society’s Disco & Drinks: A late-night, rooftop, drink-focused danceathon (Fri. Oct. 13, pm)
Sunset Sips at Sea: A boozy cruise to the Statue of Liberty with two Food Network hosts (Sat., Oct. 14, 5pm)
Tacos & Tequila: A walkaround tasting on Pier 86 (home of the Intrepid), featuring a bevy of tequilas and a special appearance by actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, aka owners of Dos Hombres mezcal (Oct. 14, 7pm)
David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris Annual Drag Brunch: Craft cocktails, beer and wine (and celeb hosts) are part of the spectacle of this annual drag brunch (Oct. 15, 12pm)
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