I am too fond of the stars,
To be afraid of the night.
My favorite author, Oscar Wilde, truly epitomizes my sentiment with the hours of the night. For I am, to many, known as King of the nightlife, but unsuspectingly so. For I do not venture strictly to clubs and bars in an effort to get forgetful. I instead like to savor my nights. And one such evening was fulfilled at the iconic St. Regis Hotel New York, literally soaked in history and refinement.
As a timeless icon on 5th Avenue New York, it is almost a century old and has seen the upswings and upheavals of New York since. Founded by John Jacob Astor IV, this is the first of the now worldwide chain, an ode to historic architecture and art expressions. With velvet curtains, glistening chandeliers with gold cupids and fairies, tall libraries and tiled floors, it is home to mysteries, stories and timeless grandeur. Apparently a household name with the affluent families of New York (the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Rockefellers), it was the son of Caroline of the Astor family that founded this hotel. At a time when butler service was an innovation at the turn of the 1900s, the hotel relished and provided teas, comfortable spaces and legendary service to artists, politicians, socialites and nobles over the years. One of my favorite facts is that Salvador Dali called it home once, too.
My shadows and footsteps took me to a darker parlor of sorts tucked in the center of the hotel, the King Cole Bar and Salon. Complete with a large mural of Maxfield Parrish‘s Old King Cole himself, covering an entire wall as it eyed the guests in suits and ties, Tiffany rings and a thud of AmEx black cards in Chanel purses. The mural was the result of art created in 1906, and was ironically first placed in the Knickerbocker Hotel of New York… only to eventually make its way to people watch the elite crowds of the St. Regis in 1934.
With an apt seat for my favorite sport, people-watching, I received a book for a menu with apperitivo, all a token of class for a mind that was, coincidentally, already made up. The drink I ordered was a legend in itself, and the very reason for my departure from the more yuppy and lively staples that had mushroomed all over New York. For the St. Regis is precisely where the Sunday Brunch staple, the Bloody Mary, was invented.
In 1934, Fernand Petiot came up with a Red Snapper, the original name for the spicy tomato drink. It was the bartender’s interpretation of what Serge Obolensky had drunk in Paris, a vodka based drink with tomato and sauces.
Ever since, it has become a staple in St. Regis hotels worldwide, with a cultural and localized twist in every location. At a steep price of $25 per drink, it definitely merits a spot on the must-taste-once palettes of food connoisseurs worldwide. To think that back in the days, the name Bloody Mary was deemed to racy for hoteliers!
The modern interpretations included seafood, cajun and other liquors, but the original was a clean, refreshing and un-muddy taste of pure vodka with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and a host of herbs and spices included a dash of black pepper, cayenne, celery and more. Unlike other vegetable renditions that made the drink an entire meal, this one reserved its grace by being poured in a wine glass, and sans the density of its fibrous ingredients. And one was potent enough to render me fairly happy with my surroundings.
The bartenders were friendly too, perhaps unfamiliar with having a youthful chatterbox in their company, and pointed me in the direction of a custom menu Table 55, with a bespoke wine list and a $2500 menu, served nightly for one lucky (and affluent) couple.
With a few more sips, I left the rest to exploration and imagination. And funnily enough, maybe it was my Tom Ford blazer of simply my literary blood that made me think of Oscar Wilde as I swooned below the chandeliers on my way to bed. Ready for a Sunday Brunch, likely with the knockoff of the iconic, original Bloody Mary.
Why be a copy when you were born to be an original?