The Story Behind The Algonquin

Well before the tiki boom and the advent of the Piña Colada or the Jungle Bird, pineapple juice rarely found a home in cocktails. But there were a few exceptions that slipped into the canon. Immediately, we think of the Pisco Punch; then there’s also the lesser-known Algonquin: a shaken or stirred blend of rye whiskey, French vermouth, and pineapple juice.

Although cocktail creation was at a fever pitch at the turn of the 20th century, many of the era’s drinks have kept nebulous identities. Sometimes the blame lies on murky, often conflicting origin stories. Other times, the bartending community just can’t seem to agree on a spec. The Algonquin falls into both camps.

The first time the cocktail appeared in print was in the 1935 book “Along the Wine Trail: An Anthology of Wine and Spirits” by New York-based wine and restaurant critic Gustav Selmer Fougner. Oddly listed under the subhead for “Gin Cocktails,” Fougner documents the drink as the “New Algonquin” with no information other than a list of ingredients: two parts rye, one part French vermouth, one part pineapple juice. 1941 saw the publication of the “Algonquin Special” — a two-ingredient drink of fino sherry and tawny port — in Crosby Gaige's “Cocktail Guide And Ladies’ Companion.” And 10 years later, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel’s publicist Ted Saucier published another completely different “Algonquin” cocktail in his book “Bottoms Up,” containing rum, blackberry brandy, Benedictine, and lime juice. From then on, the various Algonquin specs fell in line with the original spec, which was republished in a few cocktail books over the decades, including Stanley M. Jones’ 1977 “Jones’ Complete Barguide,” and Ted Haigh’s 2004 book, “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.” The confusion, though, doesn’t end there.

For one, bartenders still haven’t arrived at a consensus as to whether this drink should be shaken or stirred. Albeit, drinks with fresh juice are usually shaken, but some insist on stirring the Algonquin even though the original recipe never came with instructions. Secondly, in Saucier’s “Bottoms Up,” he cites his rum and brandy-fueled Algonquin as the recipe used at NYC’s Algonquin Hotel, although the hotel currently serves Fougner’s 1935 spec.

Regardless, the cocktail is widely believed to be named after the hotel, or more specifically, the Algonquin Round Table, a social club of esteemed writers, critics, actors, and thinkers of the time who routinely met at the hotel for lunch. Among the group were Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Blyth Daly, and George S. Kaufman. Oddly enough, the Algonquin was a dry hotel even before Prohibition, and given that the Round Table was active from roughly 1919 to 1929, it’s unlikely that the attendees ever drank at their meetings. Whether or not the cocktail was even invented there, the hotel has more or less adopted it as its own.

While we can’t pinpoint the drink’s origins, the Algonquin does have the symptoms of a Prohibition-era speakeasy creation. Much like the Bronx, it sees a spirit, vermouth, and a splash of juice, presumably to mask the off-flavors of bootlegged liquors. This was a time when cocktails were created out of necessity, and since the original written recipe was so sparse to begin with, it’s not surprising that bartenders have argued over a proper preparation all these years.

Some insist on using bianco vermouth over dry; others add simple syrup and Peychaud’s bitters to balance out the drink’s inherent dryness. There are also a few Algonquin specs that swap pineapple juice for syrup, like the one at Oregon’s now shuttered Clyde Common. All of which is to say, the cocktail takes many forms, and may have to be tinkered to the drinker’s preference.

For the recipe below, we kept it near identical to the original, but opted for canned pineapple juice for consistent sweetness, a smidge of simple syrup to keep the burn at bay, and chose to shake the drink to give it a nice frothy texture.


  • 1 ½ ounces rye whiskey
  • ¾ ounce dry vermouth
  • ¾ ounce canned pineapple juice
  • 1 bar spoon simple syrup
  • Garnish: pineapple wedge and a Luxardo cherry


  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake until chilled, no more than 10 seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with a skewered pineapple wedge and Luxardo cherry.

Rate This Recipe:

(2 votes)

Yield: 1
Calories: 171
Updated: 2024-02-29

The Algonquin