The Algonquin Hotel is one of New York City’s most storied hotels–full of quirky traditions it protects with pride. The Algonquin was home to the famous literary circle known as The Round Table from approximately 1919 to 1929. This literary aristocracy included Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, Harpo Marx, George and Beatrice Kaufman and Tallulah Bankhead as members. You can still request a seat where the world’s most famous writers and actors once held court.
The Algonquin’s history is rich beyond The Round Table, too. Lerner and Loewe worked 24 hours a day at the hotel while writing My Fair Lady. The hotel’s owner threatened to remove the piano from their suite if they didn’t turn down the volume. The hotel bar was dubbed “the Blue Bar” by actor John Barrymore at the end of Prohibition in 1933. Barrymore convinced the general manager to add blue gel over the lights “because people look more attractive in blue lighting.”
Maya Angelou stayed at the Algonquin when visiting New York. She wrote the screenplay (adapted from her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) on Algonquin stationary.
Curiously, the Algonquin’s been the abode of a resident hotel cat since the 1920s. Currently, an orange tabby stray named Hamlet (the seventh of his name) resides at the hotel, and there’s an annual cat fashion show for charity at the Algonquin.
One of the more extravagant traditions at The Algonquin Hotel is the $10,000 Martini, also known as the “Martini on the Rock.”
Ordering the $10,000 martini is not quite so simple as bellying up to the hotel’s Blue Bar and requesting one. Ordering the martini requires a 72-hour pre-order notice. Once the order is placed, customers visit to the hotel’s in-house jeweler, Bader & Garrin, to select their preferred diamond (and setting if desired). The martini is then served in the Blue Bar.
The first $10,000 martini was ordered in 2005 by a young man who proposed to his girlfriend with the drink. “When all was said and done, the proposal cost almost $13,000,” according to the hotel. The same year, NPR reported on a certain John Ridley who also ordered the drink, opting for James Bond’s martini of choice, the Vesper. Ridley sold the diamond for $7,000 and with a $1,000 donation from The Algonquin Hotel, donated the proceeds to charities that support returning military service members and their families.
We asked The Algonquin Hotel if they know how frequently the drink is ordered. The response was that they don’t keep a record, but “it is a pretty rare occurrence.” Still, you will always find the drink available on The Round Table menu, where it has become an intriguing and spirited tradition.
-Michelle Young/C&S Staff