March 29, 2001

NIGHTCRAWLER

By JARED PAUL STERN

Master mixologist helps home-drinkers

DOOMSAYERS predict that when the current recession really hits New York, 1,000 bars and restaurants will close. This is not good news for nightcrawlers, of course. But the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the national trade association representing the producers and marketers of this country's favorite brands of distilled spirits, is looking on the bright side: people will be doing a lot more drinking at home. We wholeheartedly agree they should be doing it the right way and making us decent drinks when we deign to drop in.

"People are drinking better these days," declares DISCUS spokesperson Judy Blatman, who's overseeing the Council's new "Simple Pleasures" campaign, aimed at the "home mixology" market. Restoration Hardware is selling out of their cutesy cocktail shakers and ersatz-vintage barware faster than they can make 'em, but what's the point if no one knows how to make a decent martini? And if you're one of those people who think that real booze is "too hard," DISCUS helpfully points out that the Heart Association Science Advisory on Alcohol does not differentiate between distilled spirits, beer or wine, and that a "drink" is defined as either 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits, 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine.

So DISCUS has enlisted "master mixologist" Dale DeGroff, noted for his 20-year career as a bartender at famous watering holes like the Hotel Bel Air, the Rainbow Room and, er, Gracie Mansion. DeGroff is leading a series of show-and-tell seminars around town to teach people how to mix drinks properly and get the most out of cocktail hour. He'll tell you how to flame orange peels and effect the perfect lemon twist, and will even sell you a cocktail- making kit.

There's a private kick-off event at a TriBeCa loft tonight, and starting Saturday he'll be educating the public at Peter Kump's New York Cooking School on West 23rd Street ([212] 847-0770). DeGroff's classes range from Home Mixology ($80) and Cocktail Safari ($90, including a road trip) to Professional Mixology (five sessions for $450). He's even available for house calls.

Speaking of bartenders, when Snoodles and I were at Elaine's for the "Entertainment Weekly" Oscar party the other night, one of the bartenders complained that we'd been unfair in only assigning a nickname to one of the drink-slingers there, the infamous Aging Preppy.
"I want a name too!" he implored. "Even if it's just 'Old Bastard.'"So be it for the record, our two favorite bartenders at Elaine's are the Aging Preppy and the Old Bastard. They'll make you an axis of the adult world that'll knock your socks off.