This Sunday, Jan. 15 at Clarke’s, Miami has the opportunity to learn the story of the American cocktail from the man who pioneered its resurgence in the 1980s in New York City.
Dale DeGroff, affectionately referred to as “King Cocktail”, led the charge that revitalized the cocktail culture after decades of obscurity.
The “On the Town” event series features the colorful history of the cocktail through DeGroff’s eyes -- from pre-Prohibition through the rebirth and into modern time. Accompanied by guitarist Joel Perry, who was by his side at the bar of the famed Rainbow Room from 1989 – 1994, DeGroff shares his stories about the cocktails that represent each fascinating era. So you’ll understand why the late-19th century Absinthe Frappe (a goblet of absinthe, spring water and a couple dashes of anisette with shaved ice) was considered a refreshing way to regroup after a long night on the town.
“Drinks are a window into the era from which they’ve been drawn – a look at what is or was happening at a particular time in history,” said DeGroff.
The title of DeGroff’s event - A Salute to Saloons, Neighborhood Bars, and Legendary Cocktail Places - fits Clarke’s perfectly, a favorite among the members of the industry because of its relaxed vibe, attentive bar and delicious food. Laura Cullen, owner of Clarke’s, recalled how her parents, first generation Americans, met at an iconic New York City saloon. Her father went on to operate bars and restaurants in New York for more than 40 years. Hosting an event like “On the Town” felt like a perfect way for her to pay homage to her family’s heyday, she said.
“Dale is the single most positive influence in the cocktail culture we all enjoy today. It’s an absolute validation of everything I’ve worked for with this restaurant in the past six years,” Cullen said. “It’s like having Michael Jordan show up at your gym and teach you how to dunk.”
In 2009, DeGroff won the James Beard Award for his pioneering work in the food and wine industry that took culinary cocktails to the forefront, while reinventing recipes and classics that had been lost since prior to Prohibition. The Foundation acknowledged the growing phenomenon that DeGroff inspired with a new beverage category that did not exist before.
“Dale is as gifted behind the bar as any celebrity chef is in the kitchen. He’s a dedicated leader and a charismatic coach who is committed to teaching up-and-comers around the world to make the best cocktails they can,” said Cullen.
When a living legend like DeGroff comes to town, the bartending community takes notice. Guests should expect to be surrounded by Miami’s best and brightest bartenders, who regard him as a visionary. Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado, a history buff, or a general Wikipedia addict, Cullen says “it’s hard not to enjoy a spoken and sung history told with humor, passion, and a genuine love for the subject matter.”