I was lucky enough to get to sit down with “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff in New York recently when we were doing some photo shoots for our 25th anniversary coverage. We talked about the evolution of New York’s bar scene, the shift to fresh and seasonal juices and produce, his top drink recipes and more.
Dale was an early supporter of Cheers when we first started out in 1990; he was at that time, as many know, the head bartender at New York’s acclaimed Rainbow Room. The bar—and Dale—became famous for exceptional service and classic, handcrafted cocktails made with fresh ingredients.
His influence extends to nearly every working bartender today—most of today’s bar stars have said that meeting Dale has had a pivotal effect on their careers. If you did a mixology family tree from the past 25 years, pretty much everyone would descend from Dale DeGroff.
For instance, Dale mentored Audrey Saunders, who went on to open The Pegu Club; she mentored Jim Meehan, who went on to open PDT, and then he mentored…you get the idea. Dale has helped countless bartenders raise their game through his books, seminars and chance meetings in a bar or at a show.
While Dale was an easy choice to top our list of the 10 most-influential people of the past quarter century, it was much more difficult to narrow down the rest of the picks—so many have made an impact on the industry.
The same goes for selecting the top 10 cocktails, top 10 concepts, and the most significant trends of the past 25 years—it was no small undertaking. So we hope you enjoy our special anniversary features, and let us know what you think.
Special thanks to the many industry insiders who provided their input, and to Keens Steakhouse in New York for letting us shoot some photos there—and for lending us one of their bars so that Dale could whip up a proper Cosmopolitan. (Contrary to popular belief, though, Dale didn’t actually create the Cosmo; for more on the cocktail’s history, see The Top 10 Drinks of the Past 25 Years.)
We at Cheers are delighted to mark 25 years as the leading beverage business magazine for full-service restaurants and bars. It’s an incredibly dynamic industry and an exciting time to be covering it. Thank you for joining us on this journey.