Dale DeGroff

Mixologist, Author

New York

Master mixologist and author Dale DeGroff has spread the gospel of fresh ingredients and classic bartending techniques for more than 40 years. DeGroff immersed himself in the world of classic cocktailing, honing his skills at New York’s Aurora Bar before launching the world-famous drink menu for the Rainbow Room in 1987. He is an instructor to bartenders all over the world through his partnership with the Beverage Alcohol Resource and is the author of The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail. DeGroff also founded New Orleans’ Museum of the American Cocktail and earned a 2009 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional. In 2012, DeGroff began to the share stories, songs and — of course — cocktails he’s collected over the years during his traveling one-man show, “On the Town.” 

  • On September 21, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What are Dale DeGroff’s favorite Italian restaurants in New York?

    I’m Italian and my mom’s Italian and we have such good cooks in my family I usually steer clear of Italian places, but Felidia is my favorite. At Felidia, you never get a bad meal. 
  • On September 21, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What is Dale DeGroff’s favorite place for brunch in New York?

    I go to a little joint called Cornelia Street Café. They have really good food and a brunch and wine program. It’s just a forgotten little village place. What I love about it is that they have a little basement showroom with the most interesting things every night, everything from a physicist giving a lecture to a jazz group from New Jersey from a young woman out of Juilliard who’s a master of violin. I did “On the Town” down there, the show I’m doing around the country now. That place is forgotten, wonderful gem of Greenwich Village. 
  • On September 21, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What is Dale DeGroff’s favorite place for brunch in New York?

    I go to a little joint called Cornelia Street Café. They have really good food and a brunch and wine program. It’s just a forgotten little village place. What I love about it is that they have a little basement showroom with the most interesting things every night, everything from a physicist giving a lecture to a jazz group from New Jersey from a young woman out of Juilliard who’s a master of violin. I did “On the Town” down there, the show I’m doing around the country now. That place is forgotten, wonderful gem of Greenwich Village. 
  • On September 21, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What are Dale DeGroff’s favorite restaurants?

    I love Thomas Keller’s restaurants in any of the cities where he’s opened — Napa Valley, L.A., New York and Las Vegas. I think he’s a fabulous chef. I got to put those way ones at the top. I’m also a comfort food kind of guy. You know, I’m about the neighborhood noodle shop or the 2nd Avenue Deli. A hamburger at P.J. Clarke’s, to me, is as exciting as going to Per Se. It really is. The noodle place called Son Lok Kee — I’ve been going there all my life. It’s a seafood and Chinese restaurant with absolutely no atmosphere. Bring your own booze, all they have is beer and there are communal tables. I would be happier there than I would in a restaurant in Paris. Their sauce recipes are 3,000 years old — how are you going to improve on that?
  • On September 21, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What are Dale DeGroff’s favorite hotels?

    Hotel Bel-Air — it just recently reopened after a renovation. What’s extraordinary about the property is the Japanese gardens and the layout. There’s nothing over two stories. You could drive to your bungalow without ever going to the lobby, which is why President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe had their affair there. The presidential limousine would pull around right up to their bungalow and they never had to see anyone and no one had to see them. The rooms are beautiful, the gardens are world-famous and have some of the rarest plants in the world — they’ve been there for many, many years.
     
    I’m such a huge fan of The Carlyle. The Carlyle is special — it’s a boutique hotel even though it’s bigger than most boutiques. What is lovely about it is the music scene, and the bar and the lovely little café. It just brings such life to that place. I took over a staff of seven people there, and I tried to train them in modern mixology. It was tough because they were really old veterans. Like Tommy Rolls, he’s still there two days a week — 55 years on the job. How do you teach a man like that to make a Pisco Sour? Who cares? He never did. And yet, everyone loves him. It was an interesting job and a lot of fun. Our film director friend, Woody Allen, has taken over the Monday nights — he does that once a month. It’s not about the restaurant, it’s about the music and the bar. 
  • On September 21, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What are Dale DeGroff’s favorite cities?

    New York has been the dream of my life. When I was a kid, I traveled with my dad who was a Navy pilot and I lived everywhere. I spent the first year of my life on an island in the South Pacific and ended my teenage years across the world living in Morocco and then in Spain. When I had a choice to live where I wanted to live, I chose New York City. I got here, and it was massively intimidating and it was everything I dreamed about: a 24-hour kick-in-the-ass kind of city. There was no let up and there was no mercy. New York is unique of all cities — it never changes and yet it never stays the same. For every generation, it’s an absolute magical place. It’s not true of very many cities — I would say Paris. I’ve also spent a lot of time in London. London is nice in a different way. It’s not like New York at all. It’s not that 24-hour, kick-in-the-ass kind of city.
     
    I loved living in L.A. I happened to be there at the right time. I lucked out and worked at an astonishingly wonderful place, Hotel Bel-Air. In 1978, I rolled up to Hotel Bel-Air in my 1969 Dodge Dart and walked straight into the bar. The head bartender was there, remarkably, because the day before he had fired the daytime bartender. He did not want to be there. He asked me a couple of questions and found out that I worked at Charlie O’s, the original one in Rockefeller Center. He said “Come back tomorrow, I’ll try you out for a couple of days.” I stayed there for six years. This is a top hotel — one of the top hotels in the world. Can you imagine this scenario today? 
  • On September 21, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What are Dale DeGroff's favorite bars in New York?

    The Pegu Club has what I think are the best cocktails in New York, if you want actual fancy cocktails. The best saloon in New York is P.J. Clarke’s on 55th Street and 3rd Avenue. I’ve been going there since I was 18 and it’s still the same even though it was changed a little bit. The inside is, remarkably, almost as it was, and there was a great amount of investment to keep it that way. Clarke’s has a reputation as a classic New York saloon. There is also McSorley’s, which has nothing but beer but it has such great surroundings that I will go there until the day I die. It’s just extraordinary. It’s the definition of what a neighborhood bar was, is and can be.
  • On August 22, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What does Dale DeGroff wear when traveling?

    I always wear Under Armour because it’s warm, it breathes and you don’t sweat. You can wash it when you’re traveling in the sink and dry it out in about three hours. I wear that stuff and I also buy some really lightweight shirts — fishing shirts that are made with a light fabric made from drawstring bags. It’s very light and dries very quickly. I look for items that I can turn over the next day after washing it. I travel with shoelaceless shoes so I don’t have to keep taking them on and off at the security gate. I also carry a backpack with a computer pad and that’s it. I travel pretty light with a backpack because I’m on the road a lot and I have all my tools. I can’t travel the way some people do where they put everything on the plane because I have knives. I try to travel really light, but now I’m traveling with my guitar too because I’m doing the “On the Town” thing all over the country trying to raise money for The Museum of the American Cocktail.
  • On August 22, 2012
    Dale DeGroff answered the question: Dale DeGroff

    What does Dale DeGroff wear when traveling?

    I always wear Under Armour because it’s warm, it breathes and you don’t sweat. You can wash it when you’re traveling in the sink and dry it out in about three hours. I wear that stuff and I also buy some really lightweight shirts — fishing shirts that are made with a light fabric made from drawstring bags. It’s very light and dries very quickly. I look for items that I can turn over the next day after washing it. I travel with shoelaceless shoes so I don’t have to keep taking them on and off at the security gate. I also carry a backpack with a computer pad and that’s it. I travel pretty light with a backpack because I’m on the road a lot and I have all my tools. I can’t travel the way some people do where they put everything on the plane because I have knives. I try to travel really light, but now I’m traveling with my guitar too because I’m doing the “On the Town” thing all over the country trying to raise money for The Museum of the American Cocktail.