“There used to be a running joke among bartenders, ‘What’s going to last longer? My bottle of bitters or my marriage?'” Dale DeGroff said during a recent bitters seminar hosted by Dickel Whiskey and the SoHo Wine and Martini Bar.
DeGroff, a.k.a. “King Cocktail,” has long celebrated the history of spirits and classic drinks, and has been one of the key individuals behind the ongoing cocktail revolution in America. When he started making drinks in New York in the late 1960s, cocktail culture was still unfamiliar and uncharted territory for most of the country, but DeGroff has helped make great craft drinks accessible and affordable for just about anyone.
From his stint at New York’s legendary Rainbow Room, to the 2009 James Beard Foundation Award for his contributions to the wine and spirits industry, DeGroff has always approached drink-making with equal parts creativity, tradition and class.
“Bitters actually define what a cocktail is and it gives drinks tradition,” DeGroff told the audience. “But it’s a new world out there guys.” DeGroff shared his own aromatic bitters with attendees, which gave the whiskey a rich and complex taste.
DeGroff joined George Dickel National Brand Ambassador Doug Kragel to host the “San Antonio’s Best Manhattan” Competition,” before naming Luis Villegas of Costa Pacifica the winner.
DeGroff encourages bartenders and drink enthusiasts to think of the relationship between spirits and bitters as similar to the relationship between food and spices.
“I think you should be tasting everything you have back there, it’s a waste if you don’t,” DeGroff said.