King Cocktail’s New Venture

Dale DeGoffDale DeGoff is a booze business entrepreneur and somewhat of a renaissance man. His latest endeavor moves him from behind the bar into the realm of a manufacturer. He’s been credited as the inventor of the Cosmo and, more important, is a really nice guy.

I first met Dale back in the day when he was tending bar at some great places, most notably the Rainbow Room. From that point on, he was at the forefront of what’s been described as the gourmet (or mixologist) approach toward cocktails, particularly the classics.

I suppose that’s why he’s known as King Cocktail, although I think of him as a booze business equivalent of Wolfgang Puck – a celebrity barman (but without an accent).

The man has a list of awards, including the James Beard Award for Wine & Spirits and has written a number of books about cocktails. But wait, there’s more – he’s a partner in the bar training program called Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR, get it?) and founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail. He also tours the country with a one-man show called “ON THE TOWN! A Tribute to Bars, Speaks, & Legendary Saloons.”

You’d think that would be enough to keep him busy, right? Wrong. Dale has recently launched his own brand of bitters called Dale DeGoff’s Pimento 2bottles-3inchlrAromatic Bitters. It’s designed to be very similar to Pimento Dram, an ingredient Dale often used, but is no longer available. He joined forces with Ted Breaux, of recent Absinthe fame, to produce it.

I think that before I go any further, we should talk about bitters and their use in cocktails. If you’re a booze maven, you probably know this but indulge me anyhow.

According to Wikipedia (my go to information resource), bitters is an alcohol beverage (DeGoff’s is 90 proof) flavored with a range of herbs and spices. He uses select botanicals and allspice, which is made from the pimento berry (not to be confused with the little red things stuffed in olives). Adding a little bit of bitters to cocktails and you won’t believe how it enhances the flavor and taste.

Check out these recipes from his website .

So, Mr. DeGoff jumps over the bar and joins the ranks of other bar personalities and companies making commercial bitters, including Gary Regan (Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6), Angostura, Peychaud and others.

Welcome to the producer’s side of the bar, Dale.

 

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Maker’s Mark: Lessons Learned

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Maker’s Mark is an iconic brand with fiercely loyal consumers and, thanks to social media, they’re not afraid to speak up (make that holler) when the company decided to mess with the brand.

Last week, the company announced that, to “meet demand” they would lower the alcohol content. They explained it to Wine and Spirits Daily by saying that the brand is encountering shortages and among the solutions (including lowering the age, raising the price) they chose lowering the proof from 90 to 84. The outcry among their consumers was deafening with “watered down” the rallying point.

This week they announced that the decision would be reversed.

Maker’s and Beam made a number of errors. First, their explanation of lowering the proof to meet demand was seen as BS, with industry cynics shouting that their real motive was taking the tax savings (approximately $1.5 million) to the bottom line. I don’t buy that. It’s not worth it for a million case brand to take the “goodness” out for a buck. They either should have had a better rationale or spent more time than they did talking to their consumers about the decision.

So, they made a PR mistake.

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Blizzard Booze

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What’s your favorite drink when it’s cold, snowing and you want to feel cozy?

I posed this question to friends on Facebook and via email all across the country. The answers ran the gamut from expected to exotic and everything in between including weather related, as in “Hey, I’m in the sunbelt, I don’t have that problem.”

Amidst the Sidecar, Hot Apple Pie, Hot Buttered Sorel (from my friend Jack at Sorel Liqueur), Manhattans, 25-year-old single malts, and a Cognac near a fireplace; I received some interesting comments –

My friend the blogger and foodie Mary Ellen Griffin, “I am just a simple, old fashioned girl who likes a very well aged (and properly decanted) vintage port in front of the fire.” Her blog is here. Hmm, Port gives me heartburn but I love the imagery.

From my daughter and former partner Michelle (the “M” in AM Shapiro), “Hot cocoa with a shot of Godiva liquor. I think u taught me that one!”  Atta girl, but ever since Diageo got its hands on Godiva, we no longer speak of it.

For you ex-Seagram folks, here’s a bunch from Mark Levine in Seattle, “Gosh, hard to decide: Igor the invisible or Pasha with a touch of Cherry Swiss…. no, no wrong. It must be Sabra…no, no…I know it this time…without question, my favorite, and I wish I could get it…. Lochan Ora warmed in a snifter.” That’s a trip down Memory Lane (maybe Nightmare Lane).

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