Dale de Groff Interview

Dale de Groff Interview

Dale de Groff has a reputation as one of the world's foremost bartenders and cocktail experts. We caught up with him somewhere in the Big Apple for a chat about drinks and bartending.

What are you up to in New York at the moment?
I've got a couple of projects going on. I'm doing some training work for the Marriott hotel in the North East - training their bartenders. And I'm also about to embark on a month long book tour, promoting my new book, The Craft of the Cocktail. So that's what's taking up my time! After that I'll be over in the UK, hitting a couple of distilleries up in Scotland.

You've also been running a few courses, and a cocktail safari I hear.
I did one last week, and I'm doing one again this week. I teach two courses as well, one is for the interested amateur, called Home Mixology. I also teach a five-week sort of bartender boot camp, which is more extensive and for professionals, at a place called the Institute for Culinary Education here in town.

What do you think about the cocktail explosion here in London?
I've just finished an article for Beverage Media, which is a buyer’s guide to drinks here in the States. The article was about my ocean hopping life these days, and about how I'm running into a tremendous amount of excitement and creativity in London, and especially a really wide range of fresh juices in the cocktails. Lemon and lime juice are the critical ones, and there are lots of bars using them.

You said you'd be visiting some distilleries when you're over here next. How much of a chance do you have to do that kind of thing?
These days, a lot. I just got back from Kentucky and Tennessee, where I went to the Jack Daniels distillery for their entertaining tour and some good whiskey and then to the Labrot & Graham for a tour of the Woodford Reserve distillery. I had an unexpected treat; I acted as a judge for eight bartenders from the UK who were presenting their Woodford Reserve cocktails at the corporate headquarters of Brown Forman in Louisville.

But when I was working full-time I didn't have that much of an opportunity, as I was pretty much tied down to my gig - I was working a 6 or 7 day a week position for many years. I didn't travel much in those days, so I'm kind of making up for lost time now!

It is amazing these days how the public awareness of brands and different flavours has really come on. Somebody in your position obviously has to keep ahead of all that!
I think what happened was that there was a give and take in the marketplace. When I was working at the Rainbow Room and we were reviving these lost classics, a lot of the liquor companies wanted to get involved, they were trying to find ways to present their product that were attractive and classy.

The liquor guys were also watching the market drift towards more premium spirits, and so they started producing more premium spirits. So the single batch bourbons and the malt scotches kind of exploded. I mean, in the early seventies we had about 3 or 4 malt scotches in the United States. I'm serious, and now we have over 100.

You see it in pretty much every category too - vodka, gin, rum. There's dozens and dozens of new products coming out yearly in these categories, and it's all driven by the cocktail market.

People like the fact that when ordering a cocktail they have the chance to be a bit original. Much better than just asking for a beer!
Yeah. Tanqueray is producing an old fashioned, if you will, gin in their classic bottle. And they're producing a kind of new age gin, in their Tanqueray 10 bottle. They're trying to take that brand to a younger group, so they've taken some of the juniper and covered it over with some citrus, so that the guys who've grown up on Cosmopolitans with Absolut Citron can now try Tanqueray 10 and find it more approachable. More approachable than the Tanqueray that their parents drank!

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Content updated: 22/01/2018 04:07

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