Dale DeGroff & 1897 – One of Heering´s 200 Years

Interview by Hayden Wood @DrinksNetwork #MrLiquidKitchen

DALE DeGROFF – MORE BLOOD THAN SAND

Dale DeGroff quotes David Wondrich and stands by his claim that ‘the cocktail’ is not only, “a metaphor for the American people, but also the very first American culinary art form”.

Within the 200 year history of Heering there have been many drink trends to come and go. It was DeGroff who dug up the term ‘Mixologist’ from early 19th century drink scriptures. He was dubbed a ‘master mixologist’ (at the frustration of many who felt bartender was sufficient). He did this to differentiate his craft as one who understands the process of not just mixing spirits and liqueurs, but also how they’re made, by whom and where. He can also lay claim to the resurrection of the Blood and Sand cocktail and the continuance of heritage brand rejuvenation.

As an educator, public speaker, and patriarch of bartender culture, DeGroff’s  contribution to his craft has inspired countless thousands by way of online education through the BarSmarts course. This platform hosts consistently evolving and updated course content for young bartenders to learn; bartending, cocktail recipes, tasting, front and back of house skills before being then accepted to sit an annual five day face-to-face MasterClass with his collective brain child group of educators, Beverage Alcohol Recourse (BAR).

At 69 years young the stately gentleman says, “his cocktails are numbered”. So, taking shots at the bar with his mates or drinking every drink on your menu are not inherently assumed as a path to greatness, merely; he prefers to sip and spit menu tastings, “no offence” he says.

DeGroff speaks with all the conviction and purpose of well made Blood and Sand. He notably sips Talisker, a dram with it’s inception formed long before the American whiskey acts he so proudly touts as one of the prime ingredients in the metaphorical establishment of America. He gets to the point, he is quietly charming – the sign of a true master. Moreover, he’s humbled by life’s gifts, grateful for his career challenges and victorious in his life living in New York with his steadfast wife and two sons.

 

DeGROFF AND HEERING

Cherry Heering came into my orbit when I was researching old pre-prohibition drinks for the first Rainbow Room Menu in 1986. I came across this godawful recipe called the Blood and Sand with four very unlikely ingredients; orange juice scotch Cherry Heering and sweet vermouth… At first, I just dismissed it out of hand as an impossible combination. But it kept popping up in very prestigious cocktail tomes so I made one and to my astonishment it was really good. That was the moment I realised I needed to taste drinks before condemning them to the trash can.

I came to discover after using the drink for my first cocktail dinner at the Rainbow Room in the mid 1990s, paired with a meat dish that the drink could only work with Peter Heering Cherry Heering, something I would also discover about the Singapore Sling. They needed a world class cherry liqueur to really taste correct.

My partners and I in a company called Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) began with a once a year masters class in 2005 that lasted a week and ended with a day of testing. The drinks company Pernod Ricard came to us and asked us to create a similar but not-so-advanced interactive online course for the journeyman bartenders. We were a bit leery about the branding aspect (the Five Day Program is not branded and never has been). But Pernod Ricard had such a vast portfolio that included many recognised classics almost all  categories that we made a deal and proceeded.

We made it clear going in that the course would be comprehensive and would require the use of multiple non-PR products and they were cool with that. So we created the BarSmarts Course.

The online version took a couple years to perfect but as of this year we have topped 14,000, bartenders and the number grows each year. We added a live advanced element that is a day-long event for 150 bartenders that include lecture and live testing to certify. The testing includes blind tasting spirits, practical bartending that requires making a round of drinks for judges as well and a 100 question written exam.

This is what is trending. Education. Not just our program although it may be the most ambitious, but programs like it around the world that finally offer the kind of education that has not existed in this profession since prior to prohibition certainly in our country certainly and has existed for hundreds of years on the culinary side of the business on the apprentice master format as well as in prestigious culinary academies.

 

DeGROFF’S CHOSEN YEAR IN HEERING HISTORY

I chose 1897 because my drink is based on Americas whiskey.

The first popular whiskey in colonial times was rye whiskey which of course led to the true American heritage product of Bourbon whiskey.  E.H. Taylor the founder of OFC (Old Fashioned Copper) distillery and John G. Carlisle, Secretary of the Treasury in 1897 worked together to convince Congress and the president to pass the Bottled in Bond act that went a long way down the road to protecting America’s heritage product bourbon. Unscrupulous rectifiers who bought barrels of Kentucky whiskey stepped on whiskey traditions with all kinds of additives and then sold it cheaper as “fine old Kentucky Bourbon”.

The bottled in Bond Act did the following:

  1. Whiskey made from one distillery
  2. Made in one season
  3. Aged for four years in a government bonded warehouse
  4. And bottled at 100 °
  5. Federal excise Tax added after ageing
  6. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law on March 3, 1897.

Some believe that the protection of the bourbon whiskey led to a much wider look at all food and drugs leading to the passage of the 1906 Pure food and Drug Act. That act added protections to the definition of American whiskey expressing that pure whiskey could have no additives except water.

1909 Taft amended the whiskey definitions to say that the neutral whiskey blended into straight whiskey had to be made from grain not molasses. Straight whiskey and blended whiskey were defined, straight whiskey could have no additives except water to bring the proof down; everything else was blended whiskey.

1938 the law was amended again to include the use of only new white oak barrels. Congress amended again in 1964 to include the working made in the USA only. Oddly the home of 95% of the bourbon produced in the United States the Commonwealth of Kentucky named milk as the official state beverage.

Today  there is a resurgence of Bottled in Bond bottlings in American whiskey and not just bourbon   but including Rye Whiskeys as well.

 

DALE DeGROFF’S RYE & CHERRY PUNCH

Please follow these amounts and directions exactly …     : > ))

MARTHAS CHERRY & RYE PUNCH *

(Batch recipe for 1 gallon and 2 liters of punch) Inspired by the Cherry Bounce by Martha Washington made with Georges farm produced rye whiskey and Farm produce cherry brandy.

Ingredients

2 x liters American Rye Whiskey

12 oz. Rainwater Madeira (This can be sourced from a number of producers like Leackcocks, Sandeman’s or Blandy’s) No substitutes

20 oz. Peter Heering Cherry Heering  No substitutes

2 liters spring water Refill each of the Whiskey bottles  ( the punch is  low alcohol hence the same amount of water as whiskey).  

DOUBLE SHRUB (use a quart container with a top that seals

8 lemon zests and 2 orange zests; the fruit MUST be firm and fresh. Prep. early the day of or the day before the event … needs about 6 hours to work. The steps cannot be skipped in other words the lemon zests must sit in the sugar for the full time to work… no liquid until the sugar has pulled all the oil from the lemon and orange peels.

Ingredients:

8 very fresh and firm fancy lemons

2 fresh and firm navel oranges fresh

2 cups Granulated sugar

2 cups Fresh Lemon Juice

Preparation:

Using a peeler remove only the zest from lemons and 2 oranges no pith. Pound the zests with 2 cups of sugar in the quart container. Screw down the top when finished and shake well right side and upside down… set aside for six hours …

 AFTER 6 HOURS or the next day if you made the shrubs the day before:

Add 12 ounces of FRESH lemon juice to each double shrub … screw down the top and shake well until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the zests and place them all in a large bowl and cover them with the spring water … this will remove the last of the sugar lemon flavor, use that water as part of the 2 liters of water for the punch

Punch finish Preparation: Assemble the rye whiskey, Rainwater Madeira, Cherry Heering and the six double shrubs in a 10 gallon batching container. Add 12 liters spring water and stir. Keep cold in a walk in box till ready to use. Serve in goblet over a couple ice cubes.  Garnish: dust w/grated nutmeg  (3 oz. (90ml) pour)

* Original Recipe by Dale DeGroff

 

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