What’s the big deal with this Dale DeGroff guy? Someone asked me that awhile back, and I hardly knew where to start. So, here are 10 reasons why you should care that DeGroff’s at the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival.
10. He’s the king. Really, when a guy knows so much about cocktails, and is so generous in sharing his expertise, that he earns the title “King Cocktail,” he’s someone you should know.
9. Fresh juice. Mixes out of a gun and canned juices ruled the day when DeGroff took over New York’s newly restored Rainbow Room in 1987. He proved that bars should—and could—use freshly squeezed juice in cocktails. What was then an astounding new trend is now practically mandatory.
8. Joe Baum. This legendary restauranteur hired DeGroff at the Rainbow Room and demanded he recreate a nineteenth century bar stocked only with fresh ingredients. Why’s he on this list? Because Baum also helped design The American Restaurant.
7. DeGroff wrote the book. Literally. His The Craft of the Cocktail is required reading for anyone who owns a cocktail shaker.
6. He’s into Kansas City. “I love Kansas City,” DeGroff told me during this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. “I love the music. It’s at the heart of America. It’s a cool place.”
5. Pimento Aromatic Bitters. DeGroff makes them, and they’re fantastic, with layers of allspice (or, pimento in Jamaican), anise and other spices.
4. He’s a nice guy. DeGroff has never once refused me an interview. That counts for something, especially when you’re on deadline with articles like this 2007 piece I wrote for the Kansas City Star.
3. Jill DeGroff. I’ve only spoken to Jill once on the phone, but she seems lovely. She’s a self-described “saloon artist” and author of Lush Life: Portraits from the Bar.
2. Beverage Alcohol Resource. He’s a founding partner of BAR, the most gruelling and complete bartender education program around. Survive both it and the United States Bartenders’ Guild Master Accreditation testing program, and you’ve got the mixology and spirits equivalent of a Master of Wine or Master Sommelier certification.
1. Night on the Town. It’s DeGroff’s tribute to the great tradition of American bars, and he’s bringing it to Nica’s Cafe tonight. Buy a ticket. Go. You won’t regret it.