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Dale DeGroff



October 1, 2012

Louis Royer “Force 53” High Proof Cognac Competition concludes
By Francine Cohen

Many entered, but only three stood victorious when the judges had finished their tastings and tallies. Tim Cooper of Gold Bar, Franky Marshall of The Tippler and Monkey Bar, and Lynnette Marrero of Astor Room took the top first, second and third prizes respectively. Interestingly, they were all from New York City.

Is it something in the water that made these three New Yorkers the top winners of the Louis Royer “Show Me The Force!” competition? Well, it works for bagels, so why not cocktail creators?

It could have been the fact that they all used sherry as one of the five ingredients allowed in the recipe featuring Louis Royer high proof cognac and showed off seasonal inspiration. But then again a number of other contestants also included sherry, so that may not be the answer.

The truth is it’s the force of high proof cognac that makes a cocktail extra special; that’s what brought these three their victory. Cooper comments, “I entered because I genuinely like cognac and think its one of the more underappreciated spirits in terms of cocktail use. Hence, if I won, I’d like to think I could help bring some attention to the category.”

The category was already a favorite with Marshall, but in entering this competition her appreciation grew as she explains, “I really do love cognac! I like to drink it and mix with it – often at the same time. Secondly, when I tasted The Force and started experimenting, I was very excited with the results. This cognac has an elegance that one might not expect at 53% ABV.”

She continues, “This competition was about showing The Force’s seasonal versatility, and I Continue Reading…



July 16, 2012

Embrace an icy cold refreshing jump into a pool to raise funds for the Museum of the American Cocktail
By Francine Cohen

You’ve been known to prattle on about ice and the various merits of its size, shape and quality. You can wax poetic about pellet ice, clear 1 x 1 cubes, crushed, avoiding bubbles, hand chipped ice, etc. and will, when given the chance. Now, at 4:00 PM on July 26th during Tales of the Cocktail, you can channel your inner polar bear and put your money where your mouth is, all by taking part in the Macallan Ice Ball Plunge — a refreshing way to raise some much needed funds for The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC –

Why jump into a cold pool in the name of scotch and a museum? Well, besides the fact that it’s going to be warm in New Orleans and a quick dip will sure feel nice, you’ll be doing some good for the cocktail community and culinary history aficionados everywhere. MOTAC, which is currently housed within the Southern Food and Beverage Museum ( in New Orleans’ Riverwalk complex, is about to move to a more permanent home and needs your help to do so.

Laura McMillian, Managing Director, Museum of the American Cocktail explains, “The museum has to move December 2012 to a new location. The fundraising is to finance the move itself and the build out. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum, our partner, has purchased a historically significant building in the Faubourg Lafayette which was the old Dryades Market. The new museum will be on the corner of Oretha Castle Haley and Martin Luther King Blvd in a 39,000 square feet facility. This area will be the Culinary Corridor of New Orleans and it is only three blocks off of the St. Charles streetcar line. It is in one of the four corridors New Orleans has slated for growth and federal funding and grants.”

While the federal government is contributing some funding to assist in MOTAC’s development they won’t underwrite everything, thereby giving you a hands-on chance to support a piece of American history and help rebuild a city. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity you’ll cherish; hopefully as much as we cherish the memory of our private tour of the museum just a week before it officially opened in Continue Reading…

Don't Miss


July 12, 2012

By Francine Cohen

There are times in life where you’ve just got to go with your gut. Take your years of expertise and experience and knowledge and trust that you can trust your instincts. This is one of those times…

INSIDE F&B’s “Don’t Miss” column is pleased to introduce something we haven’t even had the pleasure of trying — Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic bitters.

Why share something with you that we haven’t yet tasted, much less do it in this regular column in which we highlight very special things we know you’ll enjoy and want to know about? Well, because it’s new. And we know you like to know about new things. And because it’s from Dale. And Ted. And, not that they walk on water (though, if they did it would be a neat trick), but these are two guys who know what they’re doing. Plus, now we get to talk about “Dale & Ted’s Big Adventure.”

When they do come together in a joint venture like coming into the bitters category with a new entry, we at least want to give it a whirl. And we’re pretty sure you will too. Which you can, in LIMITED quantity at Tales. And then it’ll be ready for sale late summer/early fall.

But first, back to the liquid itself. What’s so great about these Pimento bitters? Well, for one, it’s on DeGroff’s list of items he’d take on a desert island – assuming said desert island was outfitted with a bar. He notes, ““If I were trapped on a desert island and had one ingredient to mix with spirits, this would be it! Locked in the heart of this single berry is the essence of cinnamon, Continue Reading…

Portraits from the Bar


July 9, 2012

Illustration by Jill DeGroff Story by Doug Quinn

Thirty years ago when Dale and I decided to return to NY to get married (we were living on the West Coast at the time), the very first “joint” we had to visit was his favorite hang, PJ Clarke’s. Back then, Frank Conefrey manned the bar. Years later, a new bartender took the helm and Dale’s love affair with Clarke’s only grew stronger. Doug Quinn had a commanding presence. Dale marveled at his agility and speed at working a continually over crowded bar –making drinks while also greeting everyone, keeping the regulars happy, and maintaining that code of conduct that Dale holds sacred: friendliness, attentiveness, and treating customers with the utmost respect and dignity. That is Doug in a nutshell- and he takes it a step further in the way he skillfully introduces guests to one other, insuring everyone has a good time.

The recent incident at Clarke’s, in which Doug interceded when a hostile customer threatened some female guests at the bar, is a perfect example of the integrity he brings to the bar. Sadly the manager sided with the offending customer and when Doug took a stand, he told Doug to take a walk. Well, look out New York because one of our best bartenders will undoubtedly reappear before too long at a new joint we can all call home.

Here is a story that Doug once told when I asked him for a favorite tale for my book. It so perfectly illustrates who he is and why he is so loved by the community.

“One cold, damp, winter night, one of my semi-regulars, who looks remarkably like Grandpa Munster, managed to survive the evening until about 4:00 AM. I walked him out, put him in a cab and bid him a safe trip home. I gave him my business card and told him if he ever needed anything, to give me a call.

I returned to the bar, and among the napkins, matchbooks, and other discarded junk you find on the floor in a busy saloon I noticed a bank envelope. I picked it up, looked inside and found one hundred crisp hundred-dollar bills inside; ten grand in cash. Add that to what I made behind the bar that night- would have been a darn good night in any saloon. I started to think about who dropped the ten Gs and immediately thought of Grandpa Munster.

Ten minutes later my cell phone rings: “Hey Grandpa, did you happen to lose something, pal?”
“Yeah…’ he says: ‘I had an envelope with 100 hundred-dollar notes.”
“Got your envelope right here, I told him: ‘Go to sleep and come get it tomorrow, it’s safe.”

He came in the next day, took the cash, gave me a hearty handshake, and bolted. Some might say, the guy should have left a sizable tip- or ANY tip- let’s face it; I could have given myself a ten grand tip by saying there was no envelope. Who wouldn’t consider it?

The lesson is that you treat people the way you would like to be treated. That’s what I bring to work with me each day, that’s what helps create the magic.”
— Doug Quinn

Lucifer’s Whiskers
By Doug Quinn

1 oz. (30ml) Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz. (15ml) Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz. (15ml) Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz. (15ml) Grand Marnier
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/2 oz. (15ml) Orange Juice
Shake over ice, serve chilled straight up in a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a flamed orange twist.

Jill DeGroff is the author and illustrator of “Lush Life; Portraits from the Bar”. To see more portraits from the bar, visit her online Rogues Gallery at



May 28, 2012

The Speed Rack Finals in New York City
By Amanda Schuster
Photos courtesy of Speed Rack

On Thursday, May 10th, Yael Vengroff (Miss Speed Rack NYC, and now a Houston, Texas resident) won the title of Miss Speed Rack 2012 to the collective rapture of what seemed like the entire US drinks community, all gathered at the Prince George Ballroom. In the final round, Vengroff narrowly beat fellow Texan Alba Huerta in a tense smackdown.

While the showing on the stage was great, so were the onlookers, other participants, competitors and the audience. Suffice it to say, if there had been some sort of unspeakable catasclysmic event there, much of the country would go awfully thirsty. The biggest names in the bar business were representing as judges, barbacks, and sponsors, not to mention those who attended simply to cheer on their friends and colleagues to support the cause.

The cause goes far beyond Speed Rack’s mission of showcasing some of the best talent possessing XX chromosomes in the country, it also raises significant funds for breast cancer prevention, education and research. To date, $68,500.00. This event, which was created and executed by Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix, two of the founding members of the New York chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), has built a nationwide community while doing an outstanding job of spotlighting the female bartenders who are pivotal forces behind our new golden era of cocktail culture. Without people like them, and pioneers such as bar owners and Speed Rack event judges Julie Reiner and Audrey Saunders, a lot of us would still be consuming syrupy neon sludge from a gun as our only option, and probably not having too much fun where we drink it either.

For decades, women have worked hard to achieve this level of respect in the bartending community. Physically seeing the culmination of this progress together in one place proves how integral women have been to this business. Said Reiner as the night began, “We’ve come a long way, baby! Now there’s so many of you and it’s so inspiring. [I’m] So proud of Ivy and Lynnette.”

In a relatively short amount of time, Marrero and Mix have done a tremendous job assembling this level of talent and garnering supporters. As judge Dale DeGroff pointed out during the intros, “This is the biggest thing [of its kind] in America right now.” Degroff, who is considered one of the most important mentors in the business, has often pointed out that women are key facets of creating successful bar communities with their instinctive talents for creating recipes and cultivating a welcoming atmosphere for guests.

The Speed Rack tour was a guest in 10 key cities around the country. In each town they visited local female bartenders were put to the test to determine which was the fastest and who would travel to New York to compete in the final showdown. Competitors raced head-to-head to prepare four cocktails, one for each of the judges.

Sponsored brands donated the ingredients, and also libations with which audience members sipped along with Speed Rack finale judges Reiner, Saunders, and DeGroff plus Chopped judge, and first time cocktail competition judge, Chef Amanda Freitag.

Top talents also contributed barbacking duties, including Sean Kenyon (Denver), Ricky Gomez (Portland), Jeff Bell (NYC), Dominic Venegas (NYC), Michael Neff (NYC), Toby Maloney (NYC), Steve Schneider-Hadzismajlovic and Daniel de Oliveira (Chicago) while industry instigators Simon Ford and Chris Patino, clad in all white suits, kept the proceedings, er, staying alive, as emcees.

The cocktails were randomly chosen by the judges from a list of fifty standard recipes. Speed counts, but so does flavor and technique. Saunders’ critique can be especially discerning (said of a garnish in Round One: “…it was like the sinking of the Titanic!”), which is why she announced that once the competition is over, she can revert to a more nurturing style of support and encouragement. “How this thing has grown! I’m looking forward to going easier on you. I want to see some of you ladies step up and own your own bars.”

Freitag, who originates from solely a culinary background, was a little concerned for her alcohol tolerance. “I’m honored to be here. If you see me later in the crowd and I’m tipsy, forgive me.” For the record, she was seen later in the crowd, and she held up just great.

The great were separated from the merely great in the preliminary rounds which narrowed the competition down from sixteen to eight. Even a simple Daiquiri, which is, as Degroff called it, a “naked drink,” can show certain flaws, and potentially knock someone out. There were then four qualifying rounds before the two semifinals.

Despite a long, boozy night that lasted over five hours, the crowd kept its enthusiasm burning strong, with snacks from local businesses Viktor and Spoils, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Clover Club and Steve’s Ice Cream, and the palpable energy re-fueled by those working the sidelines. The Ladies of Lillet in particular, among them brand ambassadors Amanda Boccato and Charlotte Voisey, should get some sort of Speed Goddess achievement award for maintaining their roller derby finest (and big smiles to match) throughout the night.

The night ended with a champagne toast (of sorts) to Yael. Congratulations, Yael! And congratulations to every last person who was involved in Speed Rack nationwide. Every last one of you is a winner as it seems impossible that any other industry measures up to the bartending community’s commitment to celebrate the hearts, minds and breasts of so many.



January 3, 2012

Dale Degroff and Kathy Casey present the past, present and future of cocktails for The Museum of the American Cocktail

By Francine Cohen

Just because the holidays are over and we’re back to the day to day routine that’s no excuse for gift giving to cease.

In fact, it’s even more reason for it to continue by giving yourself (and any cultural history or booze lore lover in your life) the combined gift of warmth and a night with Dale Degroff as he illuminates the people and places that made liquor lovable.

On Sunday, January 15th join Dale as he presents ON THE TOWN: A Salute to Saloons, Bars, & Legendary Cocktail Palaces! at Clarke’s in Miami Beach (

Dale’s performance in Miami coincides with the Bacardi Classic and if you’re in town you’ll want to slip away, catch this show and return back to old New York and relive saloon style. All proceeds from ticket sales go to benefit The Museum of the American Cocktail. For more information and to purchase tickets go to: (

For a taste of what’s in store, click here:

Another warm night opportunity to raise some money for The Museum of the American Cocktail (and another good reason to slip away during a conference, this one being the CHEERS conference) is a seminar by Bar Chef Kathy Casey who’s featuring culinary cocktails on Sunday, January 22nd at the Museum.

Get out on the town to support your favorite museum in 2012.

***As an added bonus, for anyone who purchases tickets in advance Jill Degroff has a complimentary copy of her book, Lush Life, for you.



October 13, 2011

Ultimate Blast discounted tickets for INSIDE F&B readers

There won’t be a ball dropping, confetti falling, or Ryan Seacrest trying to fill Dick Clark’s shoes as Auld Lang Syne plays in the background but you’ll still want to head to Times Square on Friday night.

Paul Pacult, Dale Degroff, Doug Frost, Steve Olson, Andy Seymour, Dave Wondrich and other industry leaders have provided us with a solid spirits education illuminating topics from pulque to punches and now it’s time to celebrate all we’ve learned. In just 48 short hours the ballroom at the Marriott Marquis will convert into NYC’s most award winning cocktail party and it’s an event no self respecting quaffer will want to miss.

Taste award winning cocktails (some made with Fever-Tree mixers) from Macchu Pisco, new cocktails from Louis Royer Cognac and LiV Vodka, international wines and champagnes that scored high in the Ultimate Beverage Challenge and all sorts of unique bottlings, wine, cocktail and spirit tastings.

The evening doesn’t have to end when you head out the door. Visit with the authors of some spirited cocktail books and take a signed copy home with you. Throughout the evening you’ll have a chance to buy their books and meet and raise a glass with the following authors:

• Ultimate Beverage Challenge/Ultimate Blast founder F. PAUL PACULT – American Still Life: The Jim Beam Story and Making the World’s #1 Bourbon; A Double Scotch: How Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet Became Global Icons
• JILL DEGROFF – Lush Life 2: Portraits from Behind the Bar
• DALE DEGROFF – The Craft of the Cocktail; The Essential Cocktail
• KAREN FOLEY – The American Cocktail: 50 Recipes That Celebrate the Craft of Mixing Drinks from Coast to Coast
• JIM MEEHAN – The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender’s Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy
• DAVID J. REIMER SR. – Micro-Distilleries in the U.S. and Canada: 2011 Edition
• DAVID WONDRICH – Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl; Imbibe!

For a DEEP discount on this evening that promises to be one of the best parties of the fall INSIDE F&B is proud to partner with the Ultimate Blast to offer industry readers a $25 ticket. Go to the list of everything that will be available to be poured.

The facts:
Date: Friday, October 14, 2011
Address: Marriott Marquis Hotel, 1535 Broadway @ 45th St., NYC, Broadway Ballroom
VIP Tickets: $122.50 before 9/15; $175.00 after; 5:30 – 9:30pm
General Tickets: $87.50 before 9/15; $125.00 after; 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Purchase Tickets here:

Brain Food


September 16, 2011

Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar, Series 2 by Jill Degroff
Story by Sara Gorelick

Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar, has released its second installation of the series, and saloon artist Jill Degroff has done it again; this volume is as captivating as the first.

Lush Life looks at the heart and soul of the industry; the people who make it possible. Degroff’s pages catalog stories from the bar illuminated with sketches bearing a stunning resemblance of the movers, shakers and stirrers the spirits industry has come to know and love. Though you’ve heard their names, communicated with them via email, Skype, or Facebook, and may have been fortunate at one point or another to be seated at their bar its possible you don’t know their backstory and what it took to get them there. Curious? Well, Degroff’s book is the perfect jumping off point.

The book gives you the opportunity to glimpse friends and colleagues through an artist’s eye. The sketches are expertly detailed, catching the expressions that come to mind when we think of the characters we know and love or simply admired from afar. Degroff gives you the ability to throw away any stigmas or preconceived notions about the attentive and often attractive bartender – it is no holds barred from the first story.

The tales on these pages are a reminder of the intricacies of a job which is so much more than mixing booze and slinging shots. Personal stories will cause you to reflect on your own experiences and feel the camaraderie we have all come to know and love. The purpose of the Lush Life collection is strong for Degroff, who knows that it is so important to find time to set it all aside and truly connect with the moment and the person beside you. She says, “The experience of gathering stories for the second edition drove home the lesson that the stories are getting lost now, the art of storytelling is disappearing, with everyone now leading very hectic lives, continuous multitasking and into their gadgets.”

Using no gadget more high tech than a pen or paintbrush, Degroff’s artwork is impeccable; catching features in a most observant way, exaggerating the prominent features while picking up on the slight nuances of a smile or the crease of a forehead. “She works in a three dimensional way, one for the hardest things to work in perspective,” said artist, teacher and art therapist Rosemary Kreder. “You can tell Degroff is a happy person by her drawings and you’d recognize her work. She carries forth a strong gimmick and her pictures make you feel good…this is what art is all about.”

Degroff had limited formal training, and drawing caricatures is a passion she developed after years of doodling in bars and eventually acquired the knack for nailing people. She explains, “I lived in many edgy neighborhoods with bizarre characters. My lower east side tenement featured Continue Reading…