Foodie Magazine, April 2000


In over 20 years as bartender at legendary
New York restaurants like the Rainbow Rom and Windows on the World, Dale DeGroff has helped
to resurrect the
classic cocktail...

elevating it to a lofty status usually reserved for fine wines and earning himself the nickname, “King of Cocktails.” When he’s not behind the bar, DeGroff acts as a beverage consultant, judges competitions and trains bartenders around the world.Foodie recently sat down with the master mixologist, who is writing a book on American cocktails and can be found stirring it up on his website, Kingcocktail.com.

What is the first drink you ever created?
The Ritz Cocktail, based on a champagne drink served in the Ritz Hotels throughout Europe. I was bartending at Aurora, a very high-end restaurant on 49th Street, and wanted to create the Ritz of New York. I chilled Cointreau with lemon juice, a dash of Maraschino Liqueur and cognac , poured the mixture into a martini glass and finished it with champagne and a flaming orange peel, which later became a signature of mine. It was written up in Playboy Magazine.

Is the old-school barman a dying breed?
Not at all. For the first time, young people in the hospitality industry are actually choosing the bar as a profession. Bartenders are no different than chefs in that they have to know the classic recipes and understand their tools and ingredients, and how to use them. What’s been working against that all these years are the bartending schools which use colored water because they don't have liquor licenses. how can you learn to mix drinks if you can't taste them?

What makes a great cocktail?
When you can't identify the individual drink components. You have notes of sweet, sour and dry, and they're all in harmony as if you're creating a new flavor. Take 3 or 4 ingredients, amalgamate them and they disappear into one another to create a new and wonderful taste- to me that's the perfect cocktail.

If you could toss back a few with anyone in history?
Mark Twain would come closest to the perfect drinking companion that I can imagine. Not just for his stories and wit, but because he would sit there with you-he was a regular kind of guy.

Upcoming trends?
Revisiting the classic recipes, group drinks, sophisticated looking garnishes, a return to some kitschiness with tropical drinks. Expanding the repertoire with new and classic thrown together .