Cigar Aficionado

A Merry but Incomplete Bar

Last night I dropped in on one of New York City's grandest, most storied bars, the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel. Back in 1932, the bar received its signature item, a 30-foot-wide, eight-foot-tall mural painted by Maxfield Parrish depicting the merry old soul himself, surrounded by jesters and his court. If you've never been, you should go.

But an aficionado doesn't come here solely for the mural. This is where cocktails are made in careful (albeit, very expensive) fashion. This claims to be the birthplace of the Bloody Mary (it was born as the Red Snapper) and the bartenders truly know their drinks. I remember my first visit, years ago, when I ordered a Tanqueray and tonic and was surprised to be served a highball glass with a generous portion of gin and a great amount of empty space. Then came a small bottle of tonic water. I could temper the drink with as much (or as little) tonic as I wanted. Last night, I went with Jorge Padrón and Cigar Aficionado's associate publisher Barry Abrams and had a wonderfully mixed Knob Creek Manhattan, served straight up. This is no place to order a beer. (And truth be told, I'm not even certain they carry beer.)

As much as I enjoyed the drink and the glorious surroundings, my evening was far from complete. For it evoked my earlier visits to the bar, and the cigars that I smoked while sitting in the view of the legendary King.

I fondly remember puffing away on a Juan Lopez Selección No. 1 while sipping that bracing gin and tonic so many years ago, and the Fuente Fuente OpusX I smoked with my wife in the same room on a visit many Christmas seasons ago. This was a bar where cigars were welcome. Today, of course, like all bars in New York City aside from the few cigar bars, cigars are as unwelcome at the old King Cole Bar as a visitor wearing a tank-top and torn jeans.

I enjoyed my cocktail, the company and setting was superb, but something was missing. And that's a little bit sad.

"Justin O'Brien You are right. Obama is working on making us the The United States of socialism as we speak. Don't worry fellas we can always smoke on the fence line of the NYC parks." —May 26, 2011 22:47 PM
"Great write up David, I can picture it while reading. It is a sad day of age. The facist's have taking control. Some day, people will look back and realize how much harm they have caused by creating this jail like system that you in America are starting to have. We in Canada have been in it for many years now. The harm of the occasional cigar is far less than the harm in the banning of such pleasures. Socially, economically and emotionaly." —May 1, 2011 08:12 AM
"This brings to mind, before we left NYC Grandpa, Dad, and I would often go to the Oak Room bar at the Plaza. Grandpa preferred his pipes, but always enjoyed a cigar, especially with us. He introduced me to the pleasures of pipe smoking there. He is no longer with us, I enjoy his collection of briars immensely and the knowledge that he shared. He thought me how to switch-hit. It's a nice thought to think something as memorable could be shared with my sons . . . alas, not to be. " —April 30, 2011 16:08 PM