Thursday, April 17, 2014

The King Cole Bar at The St. Regis NYC

The story of St. Regis begins during New York’s Gilded Age, where America’s first aristocracy rose to prominence. Among this elite group of families were such illustrious names as Carnegie, Vanderbilt and Rockefeller. One of the leaders at the helm of this new high society was the matriarch Caroline, of the renowned Astor family. Visionary and tenacious, it was her son Colonel John Jacob Astor IV who was inspired to develop his vision of a private estate featuring technological advancements of the time and elegant touches such as butler service. These innovations debuted in 1904 when The St. Regis New York hotel opened inside Astor’s classic Beaux Arts landmark, located on 55th Street and Fifth Avenue, and ushered in a new era of lavish soirees and notable names, which have come to personify luxury and style.

The hidden jewel of the St Regis, the 30-foot long mural in the King Cole Bar

If the St. Regis is the grande dame of Midtown Manhattan, the Old King Cole Bar is its hidden jewel, a wood paneled room tucked away off the lobby and presided over by the beloved Maxfield Parrish mural over an elongated carved oak bar. The 30'x8' mural entitled 'Old King Cole' was commissioned in 1906 by hotel owner John Jacob Astor for his 42nd Street hotel, The Knickerbocker. The hotel was short-lived and the mural finally made its home at the St. Regis in 1932. Since then, Old King Cole has watched over many events including the birth of the 'Red Snapper' in 1934 and more recently received a $100,000 cleaning in 2007, which completely restored the masterpiece to its former glory.

Detail of the King Cole Bar Maxfield Parrish mural with John Jacob Astor IV 
portrayed as the King

"The bowl carriers"

"The Fiddlers Three"

"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"

In 1934, St. Regis bartender Fernand Petiot introduced the "Red Snapper," which was soon to be known as the Bloody Mary. Petiot began working on vodka and tomato juice cocktail in Paris in the late 1920's before coming to The St. Regis New York. The famed cocktail as we know it was created when Serge Obolensky, a well known man about town, asked Petiot to make the vodka cocktail he had in Paris. The formula was spiced up with salt, pepper, lemon and Worcestershire Sauce, but since "Bloody Mary" was deemed too vulgar for the hotel's elegant King Cole Bar, it was rechristened the "Red Snapper". While the name might not have caught on, the spicy drink most certainly did and over the years it has become the signature cocktail of the King Cole Bar. Today, the Bloody Mary remains the signature cocktail of the St. Regis, with each hotel crafting its own interpretation of the libation. Having just enjoyed a matinée performance of La Boheme at the Met, we went in search of a late afternoon cocktail and made a bee-line for the King Cole Bar, to drink in the ambiance and bask under the luminous glow of the Maxfield Parrish mural. Cheers.

Fernand Petiot, the bartender at The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar who perfected the recipe for a vodka-and-tomato juice cocktail he dubbed the Bloody Mary

The refurbished Maxfeild Parrish mural

The King Cole Bar cocktail menu 

The classic Hendricks Gin Martini with a wheel of cucumber

The Mary Terranea made with Grey Goose, St. Regis Bloody Mary mix, 
extra virgin olive oil and basil

One of The St. Regis bar snacks, a bowl of hot and spicy wasabi peas

Also a bowl of mini bite-size pretzels

The NYC St. Regis Red Snapper (aka Bloody Mary)
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of the King Cole Bar

4 oz premium vodka
1/3 gallon Bloody Mary mix
4 lemon or lime wedges, for garnish
4 stalks of celery with fronds, optional

Fill each 12-ounce Bloody Mary glass with ice. Add 1 oz of vodka and 11 oz of Bloody Mary mix per serving, and garnish with a wedge of lemon and stalk of celery if you like.

The Signature Bloody Mary Mix
Makes 3 Gallons
Recipe courtesy of the King Cole Bar

Juice of 3 lemons
10 1/2 cups tomato juice
5 oz Worcestershire sauce
10 dashes Tabasco sauce
2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground celery salt
2 tbsp whole black peppercorns

Pour the ingredients into a container and shake well. Use immediately or seal and refrigerate. Strain peppercorns from mix before adding alcohol.