The King Of Cocktails

After an unhappy experience with the compilation film "And Now for Something Completely Different," the gang shot their first real movie, a hilarious, ultra-low-budget parody of the quest for the Holy Grail. Graham Chapman's King Arthur provided some gravitas to the knockabout action, featuring an increasingly-dismembered knight, a killer rabbit, and the rudest French Knights imaginable.
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Dale DeGroff has devoted his professional life to the art of great cocktails. He is considered the King of Cocktails by many in the restaurant industry and he has shared his knowledge and passion in a book titled, "The Craft of the Cocktail."

He joined The Early Show last year with some great New Year's Eve cocktails that he claims are easy to make.

The key to being a great bartender is to be a person who can be friendly, says DeGroff. "You don't have to know anything about making drinks. You just need a thick skin, a smile, and a willingness to talk. You need to understand people. It sounds easy, but it's hard."

DeGroff says he believes people are getting back into the style of entertaining we often saw in the '50s and notes that it is more special to spend five minutes making a nice drink when guests arrive instead of handing them a simple glass of wine.

Though making cocktails seems to be a difficult task, DeGroff says it is quite simple and notes that today, people are more sophisticated when it comes to cooking and entertaining.

Here are four of the drinks he showed how to make on The Early Show:

An easy way to liven up a cocktail party, you can use a demi-sec or dessert sparkling wine as an alternative to Champagne.

3 ounces cranberry juice
4 ounces Champagne (or see above)
1/2 ounce Cointreau

Method: Pour cranberry juice into a champagne flute and fill with Champagne. Top with a float of Cointreau.


1 ounce Irish whiskey
1 ounce Irish Mist liqueur
Lightly Whipped unsweetened cream

Method: Pour the spirits into a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill. Strain into a London dock glass and top with 1 inch of cream.

Old Flame:
DeGroff won first prize in the "Fancy Cocktail" category at the 2001 Martini and Rossi Grand Prix in Malaga, Spain with a version of this cocktail.
This cocktail is something he created while bartending at the Rainbow Room in New York City. The drink is easy and the little gesture of the flame makes the drink special.

1 ounce Bombay gin
1/2 ounce Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice
Flamed orange peel for garnish

Method: Shake all the ingredients well to chill and strain into a chilled 5 1/2 to 6-ounce martini glass. Garnish with flamed orange peel.

For the flamed orange peel: The aroma and flavor in citrus fruits is concentrated in the oil cells of its peel. Chefs and bartenders often extract this oil along with the juice to add the essence of the fruit to various dishes and drinks. In cocktails, the oil in the citrus peel provides an additional advantage because it can be flamed.

  • Always use firm, fresh fruit; the skin will have a higher oil content.
  • Use large, thick-skinned navel oranges.
  • The twists should be 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inches long. The peel should be thin enough that the yellow shows all around the circumference with just a small amount of white pith visible in the center. Cutting uniformly sized, thin oval peels that flame up well takes control, concentration, and practice.
  • Hold a lit match in one hand, and pick up the twist in the other very carefully, as if holding an eggshell; if you squeeze the twist prematurely the oil will be expelled.
  • Hold the twist by the side, not the ends, between thumb and forefinger, skin side facing down, about four inches above the drink.
  • Don't squeeze or you'll lose all the oil before you flame.
  • Hold the match between the drink and the twist, closer to the twist. Snap the twist sharply, propelling the oil through the lit match and onto the surface of the drink.

Coco's Punch:
Punch is an easy way to make a party special. It's easy to serve and easier to make.

3/4 ounces light rum
3/4 ounce Anejo rum
1/2 ounce dark rum
1/4 ounce Malibu rum
2 ounces fresh orange juice
3 ounces pineapple juice
1/4 teaspoon grenadine
Dash of Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry for garnish
Orange slice for garnish

Method: Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a large goblet or a specialty drink glass. Garnish with the maraschino cherry and orange juice.

DeGroff has been called the "Billy Graham of the holy spirits" by the London Tribune and "a master" by Martha Stewart. He is considered to be a premiere "mixologist" by many food and beverage writers.

For 12 years, he ran the bar at the famous Rainbow Room. He now serves as a consultant to top restaurants such as Balthazar. He has taught at the Culinary Institute of America and the New School.