At a teary memorial service for former Cooking Channel star Darryl Robinson last month, his friends and family found something to laugh about.
“I went to the memorial service thinking I was one of his best friends,” recalls publicist Hanna Lee, who gave one of a dozen plus eulogies at the Feb. 21 service.
“But everybody who spoke thought they were Darryl’s best friend. I realized he had hundreds of admirers besides me. At a celebration the day after, we were all going around saying, ‘You thought you were his best friend? I was!’ It was a happy joke.”
Robinson’s loved ones have been grieving since the mixologist, 50, was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Feb. 5. The medical examiner’s office has said more tests must be undertaken before an official cause of death can be determined.
But members of Robinson’s inner circle say they are not dwelling on the circumstances surrounding his death, but instead have chosen to remember him as a handsome and engaging friend with a quick smile and a sense of style all his own.
“I never saw him wearing the same clothes,” Lee tells PEOPLE. “His style was unique and very colorful.”
Adds pal Thomas Farley, a host of the Web series New York Insider TV: “We went to a black-tie event at the botanical garden and he was in a beautiful light-brown tuxedo while everybody else wore boring black. He always wore an outfit that would knock your socks off.”
A New York City native, the charismatic Robinson graduated from Virginia’s College of William & Mary with a degree psychology before switching gears and pursuing a career in entertainment.
After moving to Los Angeles, Robinson scored some jobs in commercials, as a model and on soap operas.
A Big Break
But his claim to fame came when he moved back to New York City. There, while making ends meet as a bartender, he discovered his passion – and talent – for creating signature cocktails, eventually becoming a popular bartender at Manhattan’s glamorous Hudson Hotel.
“He was not a stay-behind-the-scenes bartender,” recalls Farley. “People came in and asked him for dating advice or told him their problems. He was very approachable.”
In 2010, Robinson finally got his big break: a gig as the host of the Cooking Channel’s Drink Up, on which he lived up to his nickname of DR Mixologist. He also appeared frequently as a guest on shows like Morning Buzz, Access Hollywood and The Wendy Williams Show.
At the time of his death, Robinson, who was single, had finished filming a pilot episode for a prospective series called Social Sipping, and was working on starting a foundation that would raise awareness on the dangers of underage drinking.
It’s that generosity of spirit that friends and family hope will be Robinson’s legacy.
Darryl had a way of making every single person feel special, says Lee, adding: “He was passionate about everything he loved, and he loved entertaining people and making them happy.”
Robinson is survived by his father, nephew and extended family.