We had the opportunity to interview Dale DeGroff, the proclaimed King Cocktail. He has a long background in mixology and is today president of the Museum of American Cocktail in New Orleans. He fierly crackles with energy when discussing spirits and gives every indication that he can regale and declaim for hours on the subject without boring anyone who is even partially interested in understanding spirits. For him, Repeal Day carries special significance not only because it released America to rediscover its "spirituality" but also because it gave rise to today, with what is truly a golden age of spirits.
"I've had a front row seat to how the cocktail has evolved and changed over the last many years!" he announces. "It's very similar to what’s been going on in culinary side where the audience has become sophisticated and understands ingredients. They expect real quality on plates along with lots and lots of choices. The 60s were about sour and soda guns… that’s not cutting it anymore."
All-natural flavors, exacting tools, meticulous attention to detail... all of these things have created a mixology industry out of what used to be a bartender industry. It's amazing to think of what has really happened from Repeal Day through to today. Particularly with spirits themselves.
DeGroff claims purveyors have gone from 1,500 spirits to over 7,000 and the whiskey world has become nothing short of astonishing. "There’s a group of people preparing themselves for rich careers: if you know wine and spirits and their history, then you’re a valuable commodity because people who own high-end establishments need to offer it in order to compete. We’re certainly in a golden age—one can find astounding products for under $30 if they know how to look."
Well, if there's one thing Proof66 is good for, it's to help you look.
With the celebration of Repeal Day in mind, here is DeGroff's recommendations for "unforgetting" classic cocktails... three of the most famous of whiskey cocktails in their classic setting. We give the marketing nod to those brands that DeGroff recommends for eaach.
Bulleit Rye Sazerac
1.3 oz. Bulleit Rye
1 tsp. demerara syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
5 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass.
George Dickel Rye Old Fashioned
1.3 oz. George Dickel Rye
1 maraschino cherry
0.25 oz. bitters
1 sugar cube
1 splash water
1 slice orange
1 lemon twist
In an old-fashioned or rocks glass, muddle sugar, bitters and water. Add ice cubes and George Dickel Rye. Garnish with lemon twist, orange slice and cherry.
Crown Royal Black Manhattan
1 oz. Crown Royal Black
0.25 oz. Cragganmore Distiller Edition
0.25 oz. sweet vermouth
1.25 oz. simple syrup
0.25 dashes of bitters
1 piece maraschino cherry
Stir all together in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cherry.