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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dale DeGroff enthralls audience at Portland Cocktail Week

Dale DeGroff sings at the
2011 opening reception.
Cocktail luminary Dale DeGroff, often credited with kicking-off the modern cocktail revival, has taken the history of the American cocktail and his bartending experiences on the road in an (almost) one man show titled “Dale DeGroff – On the Town,” presented last night at The Living Room Theater in downtown Portland.  As part of the festivities scheduled for Portland Cocktail Week, this sold-out event presented a panoramic view of the history of the cocktail, an American invention.

Much of the time, DeGroff talks about his first love: bars and bartending.  He is a talented raconteur, and one gets the feeling that he is just scratching the surface of the stories he could tell about bars he has worked in or visited, and the gossip about the famous people who frequented those bars.  The multi-media presentation covers events in 300 years of cocktail history, from the rise of Rum in colonial America (George Washingtom owned five stills) through the cocktail glory days of the late nineteenth century and the down to the dark days of prohibition.  DeGroff’s own part of the story begins in 1969 when he went to New York as a young man looking for work, and continues through the cocktail revival until today.

On cue during DeGroff’s presentation, cocktails related to the era being described were served.  The drinks, some historic cocktails and others developed by DeGroff, included Punch Royale, The Fitzgerald, Absinthe Frappe, and a Major Bailey.  Dale has provided the recipes here.  If you have ever had the chance to meet Dale DeGroff, you know that he is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people around, and his personality really comes through in his show.

If you love cocktails and cocktail culture, this is an event worth seeing.  The show usually only plays only one night, so if it might come to a venue near you, keep an eye on the schedule and buy your tickets early.  Ticket sales for the event, sponsored by Pernod Ricard and Hendrick’s Gin, benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.

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