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Jill DeGroff

Portraits from the Bar


July 25, 2012

Illustration by Jill DeGroff Story by Richie Boccato

My mother, Marlene Boccato, is a native Brooklynite who has traversed the globe several times over and has earned several degrees from various institutions of higher learning. Somewhere along the way she managed to raise a rather reticent and rambunctious young man named Richard
during the 1970’s and 1980’s in New York City. She also happens to be the most independent, humble, and hard-working woman whom I have ever known–with the exception of my grandmother. And both of them are teetotalers. She is the salt of the earth, and a true blue collar veteran of the mean streets of Kings County.

One day during the nascent stages of my career as a barman in some of the world’s most heralded watering holes, I took it upon myself to show her some articles in which I received recognition for my vocational antics. She casually responded with the following remark:

“So you’re a bartender–what’s the big deal?”

The genuine sincerity and honest candor in her voice compelled me to immediately adopt those words as gospel. She was right; it really wasn’t such a big deal. At that moment it became clear to me that my ego was most definitely NOT the most important part of the equation between a thirsty customer standing at my bar and what they would eventually hold in their glass. That sense of importance I may have developed during my brief tenure behind the bar was immediately discarded. Forget the fanfare. I had a job to do. The truth is I should have known better. I started out as a doorman. Take it from me, there is much humility to be learned by standing alone on the sidewalk on many a cold winter’s night checking ID’s. But now I was earning a living trying to make my patrons feel good about parting with their coin in exchange for a fancy drink. If by some chance one or more of those paying customers happened to appreciate their experience to the extent they felt was noteworthy, then so be it–but no need to celebrate.

So that’s what my mother taught me about tending bar. Do a good job, and don’t take yourself too seriously. As for her thoughts on fancy ice cubes–she tells me that she thinks they are “cool.” True story.
– Richard Boccato

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



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…

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

Portraits from the Bar


June 29, 2012

Illustration by Jill DeGroff, Story by Miguel Calvo

Wandering about the Loisada, marveling at the transformation of the neighborhood. I lived there thirty years ago, in a 5th floor walk up for which I paid $135 a month. Back in the day when Yerba Buena was something you surreptitiously procured on the street, lit up, and passed around to your buddies on the stoop.

I kept hearing about a wonderful little bar called Mayahuel and knew I must visit. Just as I was about to cross the street, I saw a familiar face. It was Miguel Calvo. I explain to Miguel my mission: I’ll take you there! says he.

So we walked up 6th street and entered this gorgeous little grotto of a bar, enveloped in exquisitely carved wood and mosaic tiled designs. Miguel ordered us two Palomas from the very capable bartender, Jose Mena, and they were sublime. He then began to tell me about his father, a story so richly woven, it could have been lifted from a Carlos Castaneda novel.

During the 1960’s, Miguel’s father, Wilfredo Calvo Bono, was an architect in Cuba who designed schools and hospitals. When he refused to join the Communist party, the government required that he work in the fields cutting sugar cane for two years. Finally permission was granted for him to leave the country. By this time his mother was seven months pregnant and would not have been allowed on the plane, so she wrapped herself in a girdle to hide her belly. Miguel was born prematurely soon afterwards. His parents immediately sought refuge with his aunt, “Auntie Doctura” a doctor who lived in Madrid. She took them in and there they lived for several years. During this time his dad, with no other means to support his family, began to make paintings to sell on the street. He painted one thing only and hundreds of them… mushrooms. Every single species of mushrooms that had ever been categorized –which he carefully rendered from a scientific volume he had procured. The paintings were small enough to fit into a suitcase. Tourists loved them and they sold extremely well.
By the time Miguel turned seven, they moved to Ohio, where his dad worked as an architect for many years. Now in his later years, his father has embarked on a most unusual project after receiving a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation – creating Mondrian-like designs chalked onto football fields by tractor, then photographed from above in a plane!

Miguel has been working in the hospitality and design industry for most of his life, from owning his first place, Global 33, to designing Stephen Starr’s first restaurant: The Continental Martini Bar.
If you were lucky enough to have attended the incredible William Grant & Sons party at the World War II Museum last year during Tales of the Cocktail, you’ll understand that Miguel creates multi dimensional events that are nothing short of spectacular. “I love the soul of an event and dreaming them up.” He tells me. “I create events where the marriage of drink, food, and design galvanize peoples’ senses.”

While completing this profile, I learned that Miguel is setting off to Colombia to work with the Wayu Indians to develop designs that have been accepted for the furniture store, West Elm. It is evident that from a creative and adventurous father came a son who not only followed suit, but continues to expand the medium- and possibly even change some lives.

Favorite Drink: the Papa Doble. “While building the rum bar at Cienfuegos, I had the great fortune to hear Charlotte Voisey explain rums in great detail. She reintroduced me to the Hemingway Daiquiri and rums in general.”

Papa Doble

2 oz White Rum
½ oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Grapefruit
1 oz Lime

Combine ingredients and shake well. Strain into chilled stemmed glass.
Garnish with a Marasca cherry and lime wheel on a pick.

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

Portraits from the Bar


June 21, 2012

Illustration by Jill DeGroff, Story by Carlos Enrique Cuarta

I was delighted when Francine invited me to do an ongoing series of bartender portraits for INSIDE F&B.

We all have our favorite bartenders – and most of the time they do all the listening. Wouldn’t it be nice to listen to them for a change?

So here begins a new series, Portraits from the Bar, featuring a special bartender or cocktailian each week. Let’s begin with one of Chicago’s finest mixologists, Carlos Enrique Cuarta.

Originally from Venezuela, Carlos is an active member of the USBG Illinois Chapter and a passionate supporter of many of the industry’s charitable organizations, including The Museum of the American Cocktail. In 2010, Carlos was the recipient of the Diageo Celebrate the Future Scholarship Fund, which enabled him to continue his spirits education at the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource in New York City.

Here is a little story he told me about his childhood:

“As a child I loved to negotiate- I might trade three balls in exchange for a baseball bat, a soccer ball for a bicycle seat, or homework in exchange for biscuits and sweets… All was negotiable. So one day my Uncle Ramon took me to the amusement park. He always bought me plenty of tickets for the rides but as quickly as they came into my hand, they were gone. Finally it was lunch time. My uncle drank a few beers and I had a Malta. I was only seven years old, but I understood currency and math.

Uncle Ramon, I asked, ‘What is the price of your beer?
A Bolivar, he replied.
And a Malta?
Twenty-five cents.
I propose a deal, I said. For every beer you drink while I drink a Malta, you give me 75 cents—the difference in value between the two.

He looked at me, smiled [and said] Okay, Carlitos.
By now I had drunk two maltas and my uncle four beers, so I applied my math again…
Uncle, you owe me $3.50.
But you have drunk only two maltas, Carlitos…

Ah, but you have drunk four beers so you owe me 75 cents for the first two, and a Bolivar for the other two. Whether I drink or not, you must pay the difference so we are equal in spending- and this way we can put all the money towards our next visit to the amusement park!

My uncle looked at me and laughed, You are a clever rascal, Carlitos!

To this day he recalls that moment with great delight.”

— Carlos Enrique Cuarta

By Carlos Enrique Cuarta

1 ¾ oz Diplomatico Añejo
¼ oz Spiced Rum
½ oz Cynar Artichoke Liqueur
½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Honey Syrup
Egg White
4 Fresh Sage Leaves, medium size

Pre-chill your cocktail glass before preparation, adding ice and a little water. Set aside. In mixing glass, add two sage leaves, honey syrup, lemon juice, Cynar Liqueur, and muddle. Add Diplomatico Añejo, spiced rum, and egg white. Add ice to tin, shake well. Discard the ice and water out of the coupe. Then, double-strain using the strainer on the shaker while pouring contents through a sieve placed over the coupe. Garnish with two sage leaves. Sip and Salud!

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 //



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…

Rocks Stars


August 19, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things
By David Ransom

Photo by Charles Steadman

Once again this past July in New Orleans, Mrs. And Mr. Cocktail (aka Ann & Paul Tuennerman) put on what those of us in the business have affectionately come to consider the triathlon of liver survival (drink-filled seminars, drink-filled tasting rooms, and drink-filled dinners and parties… not to mention the obligatory night-ending swing through Old Absinthe House on Rue Bourbon every night just to prove you didn’t expire during the course of the day) that is Tales of the Cocktail (

Having just completed its ninth year, Tales has grown from a tiny industry-focused event that brought the nation’s top bartenders together for a few days of camaraderie, events, and parties, into a truly international symposium, complete with a “Spirited Awards” program (like the movie industry’s Oscars) that hands out honors to establishments and industry leaders from around the world, and now brings in professionals and consumers from all over the globe to celebrate the world of cocktails in the city that created them.

Rocks Stars and I feel honored to be given the chance to attend each year, and as always, I’m thrilled to be able to share some of my experiences…now that I have recovered enough to be able to write again…

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things from this year’s Tales, both good and bad, but really all good, as nothing that includes having a well-crafted drink could ever really be bad… and in no particular order:

Best Hosts Under Pressure: Ann & Paul Tuennerman. Nine years into it, Tales could probably have run itself, but Ann and Paul were everywhere. Every event. Every day. Every night. What amazes me about this is that Paul was recovering from a health scare and had just spent time in the hospital. I have to tip my hat to these two intrepid souls for not staying in the background and recuperating at home while “their baby” was staged. Quite to the contrary, they were all over the place from Tuesday’s Media Welcome Party at Arnaud’s French 75 bar (beautifully run by Chris Hannah, one of NOLA’s finest drinks-smiths –,to the final Sunday Brunch with Mr. & Mrs. Cocktail, and everywhere in between. I even ran into Paul solo, visibly tired yet surely on the mend, at the Suntory Suite ( one afternoon where we chatted on the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street while enjoying a glass of Japan’s finest single malt. Continue Reading…