Let’s consider the ALGONQUIN, named after the Manhattan hotel that hosted the celebrated gang of literary drinkers Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Harold Ross, Edna Ferber, Harpo Marx, Heywood Broun, and others, for most of the Roaring 20s.
The Algonquin Round Table is the subject of the underappreciated 1994 Alan Rudolph art film, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, which stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy Parker, Campbell Scott as Robert Benchley, and a lurking, out-of-his-element Ferris Bueller as the cad Charles MacArthur. This movie is about the relationship between literature and drinking and love and humor and meanness, all good topics to cover (especially at the end of a particularly grueling Rituals session).
“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.”
This is Dorothy Parker’s most famous bon mot, or at least it’s the one that survives most vigorously today. The Algonquin Round Table was a hard-drinking group of folks, however, and I know their tastes skewed toward the martini. So how authentic is the Algonquin cocktail? We do know the hotel still makes it today, but the question remains: Is there any connection between the Algonquin cocktail and the Algonquin Round Table, because I’m pretty sure anybody who consumed a drink with this much pineapple juice would have been crucified by that group!
Still, a drink that combines rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and pineapple juice sounds weird enough to be interesting, if it works, even if it’s not a literary cocktail necessarily. So we are still excited, at least for now.
2 oz. rye (Old Overholt)
1 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
1 oz. pineapple juice
Combine with ice; shake. Strain and add ice.
Eric: I hate this.
Brian: I’d rather have an Alfonso. I get total pineapple and total dry vermouth instantly.
Eric: Today is a day of pineapple. Pineapple and brown spirits.
Brian: There are two full ounces of rye whiskey in this drink and I can’t even taste them.
Eric: What a disappointment. I need an explanation. (reads from his phone) “Named for a historic hotel in midtown Manhattan, this vintage sipper combines rye whiskey, vermouth, and pineapple.” From the Ted Haigh book [Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails], by the way.
Brian: I still don’t like it.
Eric: “There are a couple of versions of the Algonquin Cocktail floating around but this is the one that the Algonquin Hotel serves today. This version uses rye whiskey, but it also includes a healthy slug of pineapple juice, which lightens up the drink and makes it perfect for spring and summer as well.”
Brian: Perfect for what?
Eric: “This is a smooth cocktail with a tang. And not too much sweetness. Excellent to whet your appetite before dinner.” Wait, another version takes blackberry brandy, Benedictine, and lime juice. And rum! It’s blackberry brandy time!
Brian: That’s very interesting. I still don’t get it.
Eric: We should be ruthless. This is terrible.
SCORES: Brian 1.5, Eric gives it a 2 for the historical context.