King Cole Bar Serves its Millionth Bloody Mary

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The King Cole Bar, birthplace of the Bloody Mary, just served its millionth.

The Bar is located to the right of the St. Regis hotel’s lobby, just past Astor Court. The bar is appropriately dark. Years ago, it moved from its original location in the hotel. The new version is smaller, but the bar’s eponymous mural by Maxfield Parrish moved with it. There is wood paneling and a leopard carpet. Gold sconces with beige lampshades adorn the walls. There are four large mirrors and two smaller ones. Cushioned banquets line the perimeter. Many are reserved. The after-work crowd does not mind. They convene near the bar. It’s after 5 p.m. and many are sipping Bloody Marys. Few would order a brunch cocktail in the evening anywhere but here.

Robert is one of the bartenders. The key to the Bloody Mary, he says, is “really good tomato juice.”

Legend has it that the Bloody Mary was created in 1935 by bartender Fernard Petiot. Serge Obolensky, asked him to recreate a vodka-based cocktail he had enjoyed in Paris. The formula was spiced up with salt, pepper, lemon and Worcestershire sauce, and a new name. Bloody Mary did not feel appropriate. The drink was referred to as Red Snapper. It didn’t catch on.

The original recipe calls for: 1 oz. vodka; 2 oz. tomato juice; 1 dash lemon juice; 2 dashes celery salt; 2 dashes black pepper; 2 dashes cayenne pepper; 3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce. The bartenders are so versed in creating the drink that they all eyeball the measurements, Robert says. He estimates that they serve between 50 and 100 Bloody Marys a day.

The King Cole Bar is more cocktail lounge than bar. It has hosted many famous patrons. Diane Keaton came in with her daughter. Politicians enjoy grabbing a drink there. Newt Gingrich sat there recently. As did John Boehner. The bar’s name references an old English nursery rhyme:

Old King Cole was a merry old soul,

And a merry old soul was he;

He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl,

And he called for his fiddlers three.

Every fiddler he had a fiddle,

And a very fine fiddle had he;

Oh there’s none so rare, as can compare,

With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

No doubt the Bloody Mary will continue to make customers at the King Cole Bar merry for a million more quaffs to come.

The King Cole Bar is located in the St. Regis Hotel, 2 East 55th Street. The bar is open from 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday; and from 12 p.m. on Sunday.


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