Lesley Townsend Duval

Founder and Executive Director of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic; not a bartender

Lesley Townsend Duval

Prior to creating the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in 2009, Lesley's personal and professional endeavors took her on a somewhat meandering path across five continents in twice as many years. After attending high school in Paris, France, she completed her undergraduate degree at Harvard University before pursuing graduate studies in Christchurch, New Zealand. She followed her humanitarian interests to Kenya, where she set up an AIDS education program for high school students and, eventually, established a non-profit foundation to secure educational funding for orphans of parents with AIDS (which she continues to oversee). She went on to assume the dean of faculty position for a non-profit educational organization in Hong Kong before eventually returning to New York City, where she worked in the development office for another non-profit, again focusing on secondary education reform.

Thinking she would take a quick break from her regular career pursuits, Lesley decided to enroll in the WSET Advanced Diploma (a professional course in wine and spirits). What began as a mere extracurricular diversion wound up pushing her down a completely new career path, and she soon found herself heading up the communications department for New York’s largest wines and spirits retailer, Astor Wines & Spirits. Eventually, she went on to serve as the founding director of the store’s acclaimed educational facility, Astor Center, for which she received the European Wine Council’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2008.

Lesley left her post at Astor Center in 2009 to create the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, of which she retains sole ownership and for which she splits her time as director, chief salesperson, financial strategist, copywriter, envelope-licker, fire-putter-outer, and all-around scapegoat. She received the Cheers Beverage Excellence Award for Innovator of the Year (2012) for her work, and resides on the board of WEBI (Women Executives in the Beverage Industry).

When she’s not plotting the next great cocktailian take-over of New York City, Lesley spends her sparse free time perfecting the art of the perfectly glazed pork chop and fiddling with recipes for sunchoke purées. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Cody, their beautiful daughter, Violet, and their small snaggle-toothed dog, Hayley.