While He Mixes Drinks,
She Mixes Colors


By Roja Heydarpour
April 10, 2007

The twelve-piece jazz band took a break,
and Jill DeGroff asked her husband to order
her a glass of water and a clean ashtray
while she rummaged through her pencil
case and took out a small round watercolor palette.

Men in dark suits, most of them middle-aged, puffed on cigars. Some tapped their feet as the music started up again, while others leaned in to speak to their companions.It was around 9 p.m. last Tuesday inside the Carnegie Club, a cocktail and (legal) smoking lounge on West 56th Street near Avenue of the Americas whose walls are lined with hand-carved bookcases. Dim track lighting highlighted the thick smoke as Ms. DeGroff furiously drew the top half of one of the saxophone players in her red sketchbook. She turned to dip her brush in the ashtray she had filled with water, her Champagne flute tilting dangerously on a pencil that had rolled under it. “Don't put your brush in my wine,” said Dale DeGroff, her husband of 26 years, flashing a smile as he lifted a glass of German Riesling...

This is probably not the first time he has said something like this. The DeGroffs spend a lot of time in bars; he is a professional mixologist (his Web site is www.kingcocktail.com) who travels around the world teaching the art of cocktail-making to bartenders. Ms. DeGroff sometimes accompanies him, sitting beside him diligently sketching caricatures of bartenders, musicians, patrons and anyone else who grabs her attention. “It's all about cocktails and jazz,” said Ms. DeGroff, who handles publicity, public relations, and administrative tasks for The Museum of the American Cocktail and Dale DeGroff Co., Inc.

She started sketching people she saw on the subway when she was a teenager, and has continued drawing for the past thirty years. Ms. DeGroff flipped through her sketchbooks in a dark corner of the Carnegie Club and told the stories attached to each as if she were showing pictures from a recent vacation. There was the Gypsy in New Orleans, a difficult neighbor she once had in Brooklyn and a restaurateur in Sydney, Australia. She has given away hundreds of sketches.Sketching has long been Ms. DeGroff's hobby, and now her lifestyle meshes with her art. “We spend hours and hours eating and drinking at the table,” she said. “It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!.”

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