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Smooth operator

Dale DeGroff wanted to be an actor, and it shows. The man who could talk the zest out of a lemon instead utilised his charisma to become a bartender. But not just any bartender. Indeed, Dale could be called the ‘big chief bartender’, the ‘cocktail king’ or the ‘Yoda of mixology’ – and he has.
Dale is, after all, probably the world authority on cocktail creation, having recently written a definitive guide and being the former bartender at some of the most famous old-fashioned bars in the world, among them New York’s Rainbow Room. Unsurprisingly, he has plenty to say about how to make the best cocktails. “I’m passionate about ice,” says Dale, an adopted New Yorker. “The small, warm cubes you get from machines screw the customer because they melt rapidly and make the drink look bigger, and then also screw the drink. I like big, dense, sticky ice cubes. And I’ve even known people – who know their cocktails – who have wanted to keep their ‘seasoned’ ice from drink to drink.”
Naturally, he also has what you might call an unequivocal opinion as to the big question all would-be bartenders want answered: whether to shake or stir. Dale’s rule of thumb? Any cocktail made with juicy ingredients, such as a whiskey sour, is shaken so as to be effervescent, while a drink comprising all spirit ingredients, such as a Manhattan or martini, is stirred. “But,” he adds, “if someone asks for their vodka martini shaken, not stirred, I’ll make it, because pleasing the customer with the ceremony is what it’s all about.”

Caipirinha de uva
Makes 1
‘Muddle’ this for a backyard barbie.

˝ lime, quartered
4 seedless red or green grapes
1 tsp brown sugar
50ml 3-year-old Havana Club rum

Chill a rock/old-fashioned glass with cracked ice.
Place the lime quarters and grapes in a mixing glass with the sugar, and muddle or mash together until the sugar is well dissolved. (Use a big wooden spoon if you don’t have a bar muddler.)
Add the rum and the ice to the mixing glass and shake well, then pour the entire contents back into the chilled rock glass and serve.
Note: During the cherry season, use pitted cherries instead of grapes for a great-tasting take-off of the original Caipirinha.

Let Dale regale you with more stories and pour you three other great cocktails in this month’s delicious.

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