Why the 'King of Cocktails' sticks to a gin martini

By Melissa Pearce, September 19 2018
Why the 'King of Cocktails' sticks to a gin martini

Dale DeGroff spends about two thirds of his year on the road educating and consulting the international bar industry as the world’s foremost expert on the classic American cocktail.

Dubbed 'The King of Cocktails', DeGroff is notable for pioneering the use of fresh juices and ingredients in cocktails, adopting a gourmet approach to the craft; and is founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans. He also witnessed bartending become a more than respectable career, replete with educational and business opportunities.

The legendary Long Island-born bartender and author hit the ground running on his latest Australian visit with De Kuyper Liqueurs.

A highlight of his Sydney stop was an audience at Kittyhawk, where Australian Business Traveller spoke with DeGroff over a cocktail or two.

What do you drink when you are jet lagged and can’t sleep?
I’m a gin martini whether I am jet lagged or not. But in situ, it depends on where I am. In Havana I would have a daiquiri of course. When in Rome…

What have been some bars that left an impression on you during this Australian stay?
The Everleigh in Melbourne; The Gresham in Brisbane; The Waiting Room in Crown Towers, Perth; and Hubert in Sydney is fabulous.

You might have fewer bars here than say in the US but, in terms of excellence, your best possess real quality and style. Australia has comes leaps and bounds since my last visit more than 10 years ago. The community is tight here.

What do you like to drink when you are back at home, in your living room, on Long Island?
I don’t drink much at home. Also I’m 70-years-old and I believe there are a certain number of drinks left in my life and I am going to choose them wisely. I will have a gin martini on a special occasion - on a not so special occasion, a gin and tonic. Wine. Water! In this job, I am not ‘drinking’ it all, I am doing a lot of spitting when I’m on the road. So when I am home it is good to take a break.

Do you think New York remains the best drinking city in the world? Or has somewhere else crept up on it?
I do. But I’m conceding London and San Francisco are amazing. Basically New York is a brain trust with a concentration of extraordinarily talented people, all in one place. Add to that money and lots of backing, and an audience, looking for excellence.

If you are opening a craft bar in New York, you better know what you are doing because you have a lot of competition and because of the audience. New York drinkers are the toughest critics, oh my god.

Lastly, what is a good cocktail to seal a business deal?
A gin martini.

Melissa Pearce

"There is no time to eat, drink or sleep badly," declares Melissa, a journalist specialising in ‘insider’ city guides who has spent hundreds of hours escaping reality in the world’s best cocktail bars and dives, where she enjoys cachaça, rhum agricole and classic champagne cocktails.

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