Ever enjoy a delicious cocktail made with fresh-squeezed juices and premium spirits by a bartender dedicated to the craft of mixology? You have Dale DeGroff to thank. The drinks legend kicked off the modern cocktail revival back in the ’80s at New York’s famed Rainbow Room, where he served long-lost classics to a never-ending parade of celebrities and other famous diners, earning in the process the nickname “King Cocktail.”
For his efforts, DeGroff won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional. He’s also published two books (The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail, became the founding president of the Museum of the American Cocktail and mentored countless talented bartenders as a partner in the Beverage Alcohol Resource training program.
Naturally, he keeps on top of the local Big Apple cocktail scene, and I got DeGroff to share his current three favorite drinks to have in Manhattan.
Garibaldi at Dante
The Garibaldi is nothing more than Campari and orange juice. Then why are cocktail geeks going nuts over it? Because of the way barman Naren Young makes it here. Fresh oranges are run through a high-speed Breville juicer, which adds a lot of air, giving the drink a frothy, “almost Orange Julius texture,” says DeGroff. Young worked all over the world for more than two decades before settling down last year in the West Village as the managing partner of Dante.
Old Cuban at Pegu Club
Among DeGroff’s many disciples, Audrey Saunders might be the biggest success story. She kickstarted her career by taking a seminar from the man himself back in the ’90s, and since 2005, Saunders has presided over Pegu Club, her Soho boîte styled after a 19th-century British officer’s club in Southeast Asia. DeGroff’s favorite drink there is the classic Old Cuban, essentially a Mojito topped with Champagne: “Whether July 4th or New Year’s Eve, this one is right at home on either date,” he says.
Lively Up at Sons & Daughters
The brand-new Sons & Daughters brings some pretty out-there cocktails to the Meatpacking District, like the Lively Up, a tiki tipple that uses armagnac, of all things, as its base spirit. There’s also a Girl Scout drink made with gin, creme de cacao and minty Branca Menta, garnished with an actual Thin Mint cookie. The spot features culinary and mixological talent from several of the city’s top spots, including Leo DeGroff, who created this drink. Yep, that’s Dale’s son, and he’s been working in bars since he was 18. And so, the DeGroff cocktail legacy continues.