“I’m not a writer with a drinking problem, I’m a drinker with a writing problem.” – Dorothy Parker
The name Algonquin cannot be mentioned without visions of the [in]famous Round Table, graced by the likes of Edna Ferber, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Harpo Marx. Magazine editors, writers, playwrights, and critics representing Harper’s, The New Yorker, Broadway, and Hollywood, throwing bon mots and quips like expert knife throwers, and their barbs could cut with surgical precision. Actually, they were probably there just to grab a bite to eat and chew the fat with those of their own literary ilk who sat down to lunch one day and stayed for ten years.
The Algonquin Hotel, located on West 44th Street in Manhattan, opened in 1902 as a residential hotel. In 1919 the Round Table met for the first time. Various members drifted in and out over the years, with others hanging about the periphery. This little society of literary cut-throats could be an inspiration as well as a distraction. Eventually, some, like Robert Benchley, had to move out of the hotel so he could get some work done.
“I know I’m drinking myself to a slow death, but then I’m in no hurry.” – Robert Benchley
I can’t find the origin of this drink anywhere, but neither can David Wondrich writing for Esquire Magazine, so I don’t feel bad. It is doubtful whether any of the Round Table gang ever had this drink at the Algonquin (or anywhere else) as Prohibition was in full swing during this period. It didn’t stop them from drinking, mind you, they just didn’t do it at the Algonquin which strictly observed the laws against selling intoxicating liquors. My guess is that the drink was invented sometime after the bar reopened. Every hotel needs a signature drink, after all.
“ ” – Harpo Marx
The Algonquin Cocktail
1 ½ oz Rye Whiskey
¾ oz Dry Vermouth
¾ oz Pineapple Juice
Stir with ice until cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Get a fresh pineapple and muddle it for the juice, if you can. Otherwise, use an unsweetened canned juice. I’ve seen this cocktail with the addition of a dash of Peychaud’s or Angostura bitters and I don’t think it hurts the drink one bit.
The Algonquin Round Table eventually faded away, the members drifting apart, some moving to Hollywood. The Algonquin Hotel (currently run by Marriott) has reconstituted the Round Table. At least they have a round table in the dining room with a picture of the “Vicious Circle” on the wall. How many literary types it attracts, I don’t know, but we are unlikely see the likes of the original Round Table anytime soon.
“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” – Dorothy Parker
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