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By Pink Lady
Something just feels right about reaching for a gin cocktail in the spring, especially if you happen to be doing so at a tony restaurant while living your best “cafe society” life. The Colony restaurant was an epicenter of this lifestyle for the “see and be seen crowd” of New York society for almost 50 years. It’s where our cocktail of the month was created: special thanks to Boston-based writer Robert Dimmock of ETIQUETTEER for telling us all about it.

Opened in 1919 by Joseph L. Pani, The Colony would become a status destination after it was purchased in 1922 by staffers Ernest Cerutti, Alfred Hartmann, and Gene Cavallero, Sr. Early on the joint was known for a gambling club upstairs where men could meet their mistresses, but it would go on to be discovered by Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, wife to the wealthy heir, and become a hangout for the well-heeled. Like many establishments that catered to the privileged, The Colony never stopped serving alcohol during Prohibition: they simply swapped glassware for cups and kept the liquor stashed in a service elevator. If they received word that Feds were en route for a raid, barman Marco Hattem would simply send the elevator full of booze up to a different floor.

The Colony: Portrait of a Restaurant and Its Famous Recipes by Iles Brody, describes the Colony Special Martini, which was devised by Marco Hattem to mask the flavor of the rotgut gin available during Prohibition. His recipe calls for a dash of absinthe (and when that was no longer available, Pernod) and that the drink should be shaken versus stirred. There isn’t much daylight between this recipe and that for New Orleans’s Obituary Cocktail, but who’s to say who mixed the drink up first?

When The Colony closed in 1971, its rich and famous regulars were very sad: “Truman Capote cried and said he would never eat another plate of spaghetti,” wrote the NEW YORK TIMES. “Mrs. Robert Considine cried, too, and said, ‘I’ve spent my life here — this is like losing your home.’” After seeing some of my favorite establishments shuttered since the pandemic, I have to say I can totally relate. Cheers to great restaurants and the special space they hold in the hearts of their regulars!


4 parts gin
1 part dry vermouth
1 dash absinthe

POUR into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and “SHAKE MERRILY” as Iles Brody instructs. STRAIN into martini glass, ADD a twist of lemon, and serve.