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Shakes and the City: king of the cocktails makes Belfast folk go all Cosmopolitan

By Maureen Coleman

The man credited with creating Carrie Bradshaw's favourite tipple is in Belfast this week to add a little bit of New York glam to the local cocktail scene.

Dale DeGroff, who has made cocktails for American presidents, the Sex and the City actresses and popstars like Madonna, is the "Mr Big" of the international cocktail industry after his Cosmopolitan became one of the world's most-sought after drinks.

Dale, who started his career as a dishwasher before moving on to bartending at the famous Rainbow Room in New York, is a guest of the Merchant Hotel's Connoisseurs Club.

Last night, he hosted a five-course meal in the hotel's Great Room and tonight will go head -to-head with another master of mixology, Tony Conigliaro, working with the Diagio portfolio, to give cocktail lovers an insight into their expertise.

After showing off his Cosmo-making skills, Dale spoke about his involvement with the Sex and the City series and how he believed the show had helped put the sex back into cocktails.

"It's often been reported that I was the man responsible for making all the cocktails during the series, but what happened was that the producer of the show invited me along to his parties and I created a drink for each of the girls' four characters," he said.

"The Cosmopolitan was actually devised by a woman in Miami, but I reinvented my own version and that is the one used in the show.

"In fact, it was really Madonna who put the drink on the map. I was working in the Rainbow Room when Madonna came in one night. Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra were both there too. I made Madonna a Cosmopolitan and she was photographed with the drink in her hand.

"The next day I was inundated with telephone calls asking me what Madonna had been drinking," he said.

"Of course the drink really got famous through Sex and the City. It's an iconic show and it's an iconic drink, representing a lot of things for women £ empowerment, creativity, sexiness, independence.

"Cocktails were starting to get sexy again but Sex and the City definitely helped the industry and made it cool to be a bartender again."

Dale said he had hoped to become an actor when he was younger, but took up bartending quite by accident.

"As John Lennon famously said, 'life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans'", said Dale. "I enjoyed bartending and had a great time working at the Rainbow Room.

"Anyone who was anyone came into the bar and I got to make cocktails for them all."

Dale said there was more to being a good mixologist than just knowing your drinks.

"The most important thing is how you are behind the bar, how you get on with the customers," he said.

"You have to be friendly and fast, sometimes a shoulder to cry one, other times the person to dish out advice.

"Some people like to be left alone in a bar, others just want someone to talk to. You need to know what way to read customers. If you're not a people person, give the job a miss."

Dale was joined last night by Audrey Saunders, who owns the Pegu Club in Soho, New York.

Tickets for the dinner sold out, but there are still some left for tonight's event at the Merchant Hotel.

Belfast Telegraph

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