King of Cocktails Dale DeGroff opens up about today's craft bar scene

For the next month, we’re bringing back some of our greatest interviews. As part of our ‘best-of’ podcast series, you’ll be hearing four of our most popular conversations with cocktail royalty. This week, the first of those is with ‘King Cocktail’, Dale DeGroff.

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If you're stirring down behind a bar in 2019, you're used to being bombarded with a plethora unorthodox cocktail requests.

With a spirit for every mood, season and occasion on the back bar, there's an infinite amount of possibilities in the glass. And those on the other side now actually know their stuff - the internet has brought recipe secrets and ideas into everyone's repertoire.

But just how new is this phenomenon? And who or what really drove it?

One man who's more than qualified to pull it all apart is Dale DeGroff. Known as King Cocktail, he was a pioneer of the style of bartending we see today. He's seen the profession evolve markedly since he began keeping bar in the 1970s, plus he's also a respected author and “one of the world’s foremost cocktail experts” according to the New York Times.

We were lucky enough to interview Dale DeGroff on the other end of the phone when he was in Australia in late 2018, to chat about the cocktail industry he’s a part of today versus the one in which he began his career and plenty of stories in between.

Dale's the go-to guy when it comes to advice for young players, so during our interview we asked him what pearls of wisdom he tends to offer right now. He's adamant today's mixologists should constantly top-up their education, so that they’ll “be at least as smart as the people sitting at the bar.”

Previously, he's said that we're still "decades away" from a true cocktail revolution, but does he still believe that? Turns out, no - cocktails have well and truly arrived.

He's also got some interesting thoughts on what's behind the insurgence, likening it to that of nouvelle cuisine and crediting the big booze companies with driving consumer education.

If you didn't catch it at the time, make sure you tune in to our value-packed interview with the King of Cocktails, Dale DeGroff.

You can find Living Proof on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Resources mentioned during the interview

Key points

  • 02:50 How does Australia’s cocktail culture stack up to the rest of the industry internationally?
  • 05:20 Have we reached the true cocktail revolution that Dale forecasted previously?
  • 10:10 What is Dale currently drinking?
  • 11:30 Where to next for the bartending industry?
  • 13:50 The advice Dale would give to young bartenders starting out today.
  • 19:45 The drink Dale believes is the true test of a bartender.
  • 21:25 Dale's Rupert Murdoch story