There is a reason why so many fabulous foods and drinks — the bloody mary, eggs Benedict, Waldorf salad — find their way onto luxury hotel menus. A surprising number of nostalgic cocktails, classic salads, and decadent desserts were actually invented by hotel chefs and bartenders. A look at a few of the most famous connections:
The Bloody Mary, St. Regis New York
French bartender, Fernand Petiot, introduced this now-beloved brunch cocktail in 1934, while working at The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar. His inspiration for the spicy drink originated in Paris, but it was only after moving to New York that the bartender perfected his recipe — adding tomato juice to his creation of vodka, salt, pepper, lemon, and Worcestershire sauce — and naming it the ‘bloody mary.’ The name (not well received), was rechristened the ‘red snapper’ and served with breakfast at the hotel. Today, the bloody mary is a signature of St. Regis with each location putting its own twist on the classic drink – i.e. St. Regis Bermuda offers the Gates Bay Mary, made with native fennel, island hot sauce, Goslings black rum, and a special spice mix. But at the New York St. Regis, the cocktail still goes by its moniker, red snapper.
Waldorf Salad and Eggs Benedict, Waldorf Astoria New York
A New York City icon, the Waldorf Astoria gave birth to classics like Waldorf salad and eggs Benedict. Interestingly, it was the maître d’, Oscar Tschirky, who created the now-famous apple, celery, and mayonnaise salad, which debuted at the hotel’s first-ever charity ball. The salad is still served at Waldorf hotels around the globe, some recipes revised to include grapes, walnuts, and fancier dressing.
The add-on of eggs Benedict to the hotel menu came after a stockbroker, Lemuel Benedict, reportedly ordered poached eggs, buttered toast, bacon, and hollandaise sauce to cure his hangover. The chef swapped out the bacon for ham; the toast for an english muffin, and voila, the classic was born.
Marriott Hotels Rooted in Root Beer
Few may know that Marriott hotels started humbly (in 1927) as America’s first A&W root beer franchise. Newlyweds J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott opened their nine-stool root beer stand in Washington DC, and soon after added hot food, transforming into Hot Shoppes restaurants. By the late 1950s, the Marriotts were in the hotel business. While root beer is a favorite summer-time item (root beer float, anyone?), Marriott offers adult fizzy concoctions too, i.e., Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino offers the ‘Aruba mule,’ made with ginger beer, vodka, island aloe juice, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with mint leaves.
The Boston Cream Pie, Omni Parker House
Boston cream pie is synonymous with Omni Parker House (as are the hotel’s oddly shaped Parker House rolls). Boston’s famous cream pie is reportedly a remnant of a colonial-era New England dessert called pudding-cake pie. Parker House’s French chef, M. Sanzian, reinvented the rather drab original by drizzling chocolate onto a sponge cake filled with vanilla custard. The pie has since been designated the official dessert of Massachusetts.
Singapore Sling, Raffles Singapore
At the time this exotic drink was created (1915), it was taboo for women to drink in public. So Ngiam Tong Boon, the creative bartender at Raffles Singapore’s Long Bar, crafted a cocktail (colorless gin, pink grenadine, and cherry liquor) that looked like fruit juice. Today, the popular drink is enjoyed openly by women (and everyone else) worldwide, and has evolved to include pineapple juice, grenadine, lime juice, Cointreau, bitters, gin, Bénédictine, soda water, and a dash of cherry brandy.
Peach Melba, The Savoy London
Peach Melba was inadvertently created at The Savoy London for Australian opera singer, Nelli Melba. When the soprano visited the hotel (in the 1890s), she hosted a dinner party and asked Chef Auguste Escoffier to come up with a special menu. For dessert, the chef served plump peaches on a bed of vanilla ice cream with sugar spirals.
Piña Colada, The Caribe Hilton San Juan, Puerto Rico
Two former Caribe Hilton bartenders lay claim to having invented the piña colada in 1954: Ramon “Monchito” Marrero and Ricardo García. We appreciate both bartenders’ efforts, as the famed piña colada (declared Puerto Rico’s official drink in 1978) is one of our faves too. The Caribe Hilton Caribar original includes rum, coconut cream, heavy cream, and pineapple juice.
The Brownie, Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel
During the late 1900s, Bertha Honoré Palmer instructed the Palmer House chef to create a special dessert to place in the lunch boxes of women attending the (1893) Chicago World’s Fair. The chef came up with the chocolate brownie— a cross between fudge and cake, topped with sugary walnuts, which he cut into small squares. The original recipe is still executed at The Palmer House Hilton.
Sidecars and Mimosas, The Ritz Paris
Priced at $1,511, the sidecar — invented (in the 1920s) and still a signature drink at the Bar Hemingway, Ritz Paris — is one of the most expensive cocktails in the world. Blame it on the rare (1865) Ritz Reserve cognac infused into the drink. A less expensive, but still glam option, is the mimosa, also created here (1925) at the art-deco-inspired Ritz Bar.
Green Goddess Dressing, Palace Hotel, San Francisco
Green Goddess dressing (and salad) has evolved since its creation in 1923 by Palace Hotel chef, Phillip Roemer. Chef created the salad and dressing for a banquet held in honor of the hit play, “The Green Goddess.” The original version of the dish — created at a time when fresh produce was limited — was iceberg lettuce, canned vegetables, and a choice of chicken, shrimp, or crab. The salad has since elevated and is now made from locally grown California vegetables, farm-sourced mixed baby greens, and Dungeness crab topped (of course) with the famous Green Goddess Dressing.
Dry Martini, The Knickerbocker, New York City
This sexy drink classic became instantly famous in 1912 when Martini di Arma di Taggia, bartender at the ornate Knickerbocker in New York City, created and served it to none other than John D. Rockefeller. The martini is still a classic at the renovated Beaux-Arts landmark in Times Square. There’s even a Martini Suite.
Vichyssoise, Ritz-Carlton New York
This classically elegant soup came to be in 1917 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York. The story goes that French chef Louis Diat was inspired by the leek and potato soup his mother used to make for him, and which he cooled with milk in summer. Vichyssoise is served chilled as an appetizer, and is made with puréed onions, leeks, potatoes, chicken broth, and cream.