The Algonquin on West 44th Street is a 181-room hotel that opened in 1902 that saw its rebirth as a literary haunt in the 20s and 30s when its owner and manager Frank Case transformed the place into a popular meeting place for writers. To this day, it offers discounted rooms to struggling writers in return for an autographed book and has housed a cat, either named Mathilda or Hamlet depending on the gender, in honor of the hotel’s original cat since the 30s.
Is it starting to become clear that ‘normal’ isn’t exactly the way the Algonquin does it? Here’s another head-scratcher: the hotel’s Blue Bar has been serving what it calls a ‘Martini on the Rock‘ since its $3 million renovation in 2005, a martini of the customer’s choice with with a diamond, its single ‘rock,’ placed at the bottom. The drink costs $10,000.
Ordering the ‘$10,000 Martini’ is coincidentally not as easy as walking up to the bar. In fact, reservations for the drink must be made at least 72 hours in advance and requires a meeting with the hotel’s in-house jeweler to discuss the diamond in question’s size and clarity. The hotel prefers that the drink be used for marriage proposals, but doesn’t outrightly say it won’t sell its Martini on the Rock to someone simply looking to treat themselves.
Post WWI, The Algonquin served as the meeting place for the Algonquin Roundtable, a gathering of writers and playwrights who would meet over drinks and discuss the topics of the day. Some of the most notable frequenters included writer Dorothy Parker, founder of The New Yorker Harold Ross, critic Alexander Woollcott, comedian Harpo Marx, and playwright George S. Kaufman. Legend has it that they preferred martinis over anything else to accompany their high-brow repartee. The infamous drink that has been served since 2005 was proposed by hotelier Anthony Melchiorri, who told The Boston Globe that the martini was meant to increase coverage of the hotel’s re-opening after being closed for 29 days while its renovations were underway.
The drink doesn’t appear anywhere on the hotel’s official website, but its existence still has the city abuzz today. So if you’re ever in the mood for a diamond instead of an olive in your drink, feel free to call them up and schedule a consultation.
Next, read about 7 literary bars frequented by writers of the Beat Generation in NYC. Get in touch with the author @jinwoochong.