The hotel has a tradition of keeping a cat that has the run of the hotel. The practice dates to the 1930s, when Frank Case took in a stray. Hotel lore says actor John Barrymore suggested the cat needed a theatrical name, so he was called Hamlet. Decades later, whenever the hotel has a male he carries on the name; females are named Matilda. The current Algonquin cat, a Matilda, is a Ragdoll that was named 2006 cat of the year at the Westchester (New York) Cat Show. Visitors can spot Matilda on her personal chaise longue in the lobby; she can also be found in her favorite places: behind the computer on the front desk, or lounging on a baggage cart. The doormen feed her and the general manager's executive assistant answers Matilda's e-mail. During 2011, Matilda was temporarily confined to upper floor or to the limits of a leash tethered to the check-in desk, due to a directive from the city Department of Health. As of late 2011, Matilda has been confined to the non-food areas of the lobby by an electronic pet fence.
Although the Algonquin was "dry" even before Prohibition (Case closed the hotel bar in 1917 and had harsh words for those who ran speakeasies), the hotel does have an eponymous cocktail, composed of rye whiskey, Noilly Prat and pineapple juice. More recently, a newer drink has hit the Algonquin's menu, the "Martini on the Rock," consisting of a martini of the buyer's choice with a single piece of "ice," a diamond, at the bottom of the glass. Hoy Wong is a notable bartender at the hotel and is the oldest person to hold such a position in the state, still serving aged 90 in 2006.
In keeping with Frank Case's long-standing tradition of sending popovers and celery to the more impoverished members of the Round Table, the Algonquin offers lunch discounts to struggling writers. Formerly, writers on tour could stay one night at the hotel free in exchange for an autographed copy of their book. although the practice has been amended to include a discount on standard room rates.
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