Imbibe Hour

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Trip down memory lane with cocktail master Dale DeGroff

Catching up again with events at the Museum of the American Cocktail, I discovered there was a special guest coming in to town that needs really no introduction.

In the history of cocktails, bartending, and drinking in America, there are a select few who managed to cultivate a craft when nobody was caring. They found and placed themselves in historic places (New York, New Orleans) either by choice or perhaps dumb luck, and worked in some famous locales. As the cocktail renaissance flourished and grew anew, they became the speakers and purveyors that all would begin to look up to. One such person I had the chance with others to meet was Dale DeGroff, former bartender of the Rainbow room in New York City, or as he simply said "I was just a bartender who got lucky."

Sitting in a small theater (the Warehouse theater to be precise) with an audience of about 30-45 intent listeners, Dale (or as he is known as "King Cocktail" ) spoke whimsically about America's past drinking glory, and then focused on his young days in New York City. As he mentioned stories of working in the famous Rainbow room, to all the NY gossip and shenanigans bartenders ran across, you would be riveted to a sense of place and pride. When you listen to Dale you realize people like this aren't just whimsical folk who have a passion, they are literally walking history books. Without question, Dale is what I call a living institution.

While watching Dale sip on his 4th 5th or I lost count of how much Cognac he was imbibing, we were presented with some cocktails and small snacks to enjoy courtesy of our hosts the staff at DC's The Passenger.

If there is ever a good excuse to know and learn about the history of cocktails, listening to Dale is a truly can't miss experience.

I strongly suggest that if you are a fan of true imbibing, and the care, history, passion that goes into good drink (cocktails for sure!) then you owe it to yourself to be treated to this mans stories.

Dale DeGroff has many accolades, most notably a 2009 James Beard award for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional. Check out his books and seminars if you have a chance (and website too). Cheers!

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