In her new book, Lush Life: Portraits From The Bar, self-described “saloon artist” Jill DeGroff has captured the personalities of the cocktail world — bartenders and barflies alike — in living watercolor.
But she doesn’t stop there. As you would with a well-mixed drink, Ms. DeGroff balances sweet and bitter by pairing her subjects with anecdotes chosen in opposition to the tone of their portraits: the text informs the art, and vice versa.
To take one poignant example, New York bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez’s broadly smiling caricature accompanies his stinging memory of a father who “didn’t really like me until I could have a drink with him.” On the flipside, Maine mixologist John Myers’s rather forbidding stare counterpoints his hilarious tale of a quadriplegic customer, born “severely edited,” who hounded a pushy liquor sales rep out of Myers’s bar thusly: “Yes, I know all about your latest stupid vodka … yes, I know it will not give me a hangover, especially since I will not drink it.”
As an added bonus, Lush Life pairs each portrait with a drink created by its subject. Myers’s alone is worth the price of the book. Here’s his Touchable: Into your shaker pour 1 ounce each B&B, gold rum, and dry vermouth, followed by 1/2 ounce each fresh lime juice and pure maple syrup; shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.