What’s In a Name: Cocktail Naming Advice (and a Recipe!) from Dale DeGroff

Dale DeGroffOne of my favorite parts about working on Brooklyn Spirits was having several excuses to hang out with an old pal, Dale DeGroff. I first met Dale back in the 1990s when he was working behind the bar at Blackbird. In fact, one year we celebrated my birthday there when Dale was behind the stick.

Subsequently I took a cocktail class from him and his enthusiasm for what he does was infectious. I was working at Clarkson Potter when they wisely chose to publish his awesome Craft of the Cocktail and that only furthered my education at the hands of the master.

Dale was a great interview – perhaps I’ll publish that as a future blog in its entirety – but he also devised a couple of cocktails for us. One featured his amazing bitters along with chocolate liqueur, cognac and cointreau noir called Brandy Coco (recipe on page 67 of Brooklyn Spirits).

Devil's Due cocktailThe other is called Devil’s Due. It is the very first cocktail devised for New York Distilling Company’s rye whiskey. How do we know it was the first? Because we had to get some from the barrel a few months before its release to get to Dale to make the drink. That was a fun day at Long Island Bar. It was basically a blizzard, and Dale, Chris, Max and I holed up with Toby Cecchini, shooting the breeze and tasting amazing drinks for a couple of hours. Some days being a writer isn’t all that bad

Here’s the recipe:

2 oz NYD rye
1 oz aged premium rum (I’ve been using El Dorado 12-year)
½ oz Cynar
an orange twist

Build in a rocks glass and give it a good stir. Flame the peel (optional) and drop it in.

One story that didn’t make the final book: We asked Dale about the name, which we loved but didn’t quite understand. He gave us a lesson in Cocktail Naming 101, “If I were to tell you there’s a story behind it I’d be lying. It just popped in my head when I tasted it. I thought, ‘this should be called the Devil’s Due.’ Sometimes you work for a week to get a good name for a drink. Sometimes it just happens. And it’s amazing how important it can be. You can have a spectacular drink that doesn’t get much play because people don’t take the name. Another drink that’s just OK will sell like crazy because of the name.”