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The Algonquin Cocktail

The Algonquin CocktailFrom Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

1.5 oz Rittenhouse Rye
0.75 oz Dry Vermouth
0.75 oz Pineapple Juice

Shake with large ice and strain.
No garnish, on the advice of the Doctor.

* * *

Right off the bat, the Algonquin puts two points on the board.  One point for being right up front in Ted Haigh’s “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails” (it’s the second recipe) and a second for being tailor-made for the 12 Bottle Bar.

Besides being a tasty little quaff, the Algonquin has survived the past half century pretty much on the basis of its name alone.  Throw a stone at any modern “gintellectual”, and you’ll find someone who has canonized the (in)famous Algonquin Round Table and its Vicious Circle much like many adult males canonize The Simpsons (I’m prepared to fight the Cultural Influence of Homer Simpson vs. Dorothy Parker battle if need be).  So, let’s dive into a bit a history first and then quickly dispense with it as unimportant to the subject at hand.

Remember those old movies where everyone — men and women alike — talks too fast, smokes too much, and is the pinnacle of wit?  That pretty much sums up the Round Table.  For the bulk of the 1920′s, a group of New York’s finest minds and drunks would regularly gather at the Algonquin Hotel (roughly in the Broadway district) — and at its large round table, specifically — to exchange barbs, stories, anecdotes, and what have you.  Members included poet and critic Dorothy Parker, humorist Robert Benchley, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrite George S. Kaufman, and New Yorker magazine founder and editor Harold Ross, among others (sometimes Harpo Marx).  They would gather, they would drink, they would verbally spar, and it would all filter back into the culture of the time.

So far, the Algonquin Cocktail has the merit we look for in a classic drink.  But, there’s just one problem:  the Vicious Circle (probably) never drank it.  They drank Martinis.  Religiously.  In fact, the Round Table was practically the publicist for that drink (all during Prohibition, mind you).  Parker and Benchley, in particular, contributed some of the great all-time Martini sentiments (see below).  So, where does the Cocktail fit in?  Sometime much later, by best guess — as an homage to a bygone era.

As cocktail allusions go, you could do much worse.  The burly shoulders of the rye keep the sweetness of the pineapple in check — and vice-versa.  A sweeter Dry Vermouth, such as the reformulated Noilly Pratt provides the bridge between the two.  It is not an overly sweet drink, nor a dry one — it winds up somewhere in the middle, which isn’t too bad of a place to be.  Ultimately, one of the nicest things about the Algonquin is that is suits either sex.  Much like the pecking order of the Round Table was based on wit and not gender, the drink is equal opportunity, which is saying a lot for a rye cocktail.

Witticisms from the Vicious Circle (and Friend):
Some of these come in various forms.  I picked one.

“Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”
- Robert Benchley

“I know I’m drinking myself to a slow death, but then I’m in no hurry.”
- Robert Benchley

“All the things I really like are immoral, illegal or fattening.”
-Alexander Wollcott

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.”

- Dorothy Parker

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”
- Dorothy Parker

“Beer… Now there’s a temporary solution.”
- Homer Simpson

“All right, brain. You don’t like me and I don’t like you, but let’s just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.”
- Homer Simpson

Algonquin Cocktail on FoodistaAlgonquin Cocktail

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