A Cocktailphobic columnist and his drinking buddies dare the Rainbow Room's Chef de Booze to win them over.

By Tony Hendra

A conscientious ethanol correspondent ought to be on top of the cocktail revival that has hit New York with a vengeance, but I remained nervous. Best solution: Find the finest cocktailist in Manhattan and challenge him to convince me otherwise.

Dale DeGroff is widely regarded as Manhattan's premier mixologist. His preeminence is mostly due to word of mouth- there is no board of standards for cocktails, or a consensus of geeks as there is for wine and beer. He holds court in the gloriously named Promenade Bar in the Rainbow Room, where he is the unappetizingly named Beverage Manager. I visited with him a few weeks ago, taking with me three other skeptics: master palate Anne Rosenzweig, chef-owner of Arcadia and the Lobster Club; Alex Hargrave of Hargrave Vineyard in Long Island, who not only makes the North Fork's most elegant wines, but despises spirits, and Candace Bushnell, who studies the effects of ethanol on the human libido for her New York Observer column, "Sex and the City."

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