POSTED Wed. Feb 4, 2015

Creative Culture

Museum of the American Cocktail Reintroduces Its New Orleans Collection
Sarah Ravits

New Orleanians know and respect the value of a good craft cocktail, especially now, as the mixology movement has grown tremendously over the past several years in the region. Making a memorable cocktail is an artistic skill that bartenders spend plenty of time honing, and our city is full of inventive types who constantly wow us by putting new spins on old classics. It’s widely known that New Orleans is a city that likes to sip as it celebrates – the two activities go hand-in-hand – and both are embraced by our locals and tourists alike.

One establishment that is vital to the education and expansion of this important (and just downright fun) aspect of our culture is the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC), which will reintroduce its New Orleans collection to the public with a grand celebration at its new digs at 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard on February 5.

Formerly housed near the Riverfront, MOTAC New Orleans is now situated in a grand, 16,000-square foot space that housed the Dryades Market in the 1800s. It shares the building with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum both establishments are programs that are run by the nonprofit umbrella organization, the SoFAB Institute.

Starting at 6:30pm on the 5th, the museum will re-launch its long-running seminar series under the “Touring the Cocktail” banner, co-hosted by Philip Dobard, vice president of the SoFAB Institute and director of MOTAC; and Dale DeGroff, MOTAC’s founding president.

The re-dedication of MOTAC’s New Orleans collection will allow guests to hear how the highly acclaimed mixologist DeGroff, known as “King Cocktail,” has traveled the world and revolutionized the craft cocktail movement over the past three decades. DeGroff will tell stories about how he developed his techniques and talents tending bar at renowned establishments, including Los Angeles’s Hotel Bel-Air and New York’s famous Rainbow Room, where in the ’80s and ’90s, he spearheaded a gourmet approach to recreating classics.

His accomplishments are impressive – he has a James Beard award under his belt and has authored popular books on the subject of mixology including “The Essential Cocktail” and “The Craft of the Cocktail,” now in its 14th printing.

“Many great bartenders and drink historians are responsible for the craft cocktail revolution, but if you have to point to one person more responsible than any other, it’s Dale,” says Dobard. “When we set the date for rededicating the New Orleans collection, I went to him with the idea of telling the story about the last quarter-century. We put together a program, and it will be punctuated by live music. Dale and I will sing and play guitar.”

The evening, he promises, will be full of fun learning experiences and of course, creative beverages.

Also joining the duo is Chef Ryan Hughes of Purloo, the restaurant housed inside the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Hughes, known for his lively personality along with his culinary expertise, will serve gourmet appetizers.

“These are very entertaining, theatrical events,” says Dobard. The following day, MOTAC New Orleans will be open to the public – just in time for Carnival season – allowing visitors and tourists alike to experience and celebrate the history of boozy libations.

Dobard, who divides his time between New Orleans and Los Angeles, has expanded the Museum of the American Cocktail’s programs to other major metropolises including Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and New York. Other highlights surrounding the re-opening include La Galerie d’Absinthe, which opens February 28 and showcases the absinthe collection of Raymond and B.J. Bordelon.

Image courtesy of the Museum of the American Cocktail.

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