Where the rich and famous can knock back a $760 drink
There are thousands of bars in New York, but very few serve drinks that cost a small fortune and offer a view that's worth millions.
Welcome to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis New York, a place rich with history and famous patrons—from Salvador Dali, to Marilyn Monroe and Meryl Streep, to Middle Eastern royalty. Even the Jonas Brothers have knocked back a few here.
To hear bartender Robert Albright tell story, it's the birthplace of the Bloody Mary. That drink is still popular at the bar, along with Champagne and martinis.
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The bar also serves Frapin Cuvee 1888, a cognac that will put you back $760 a glass. The taste is worth it, according to Albright. "If you're a cognac drinker," he said, "you're going to love this."
The cognac comes in a Baccarat crystal bottle with an elaborate top made of 24k gold. It's so rare (only 1,888 bottles) that the St. Regis keeps it locked up. A bottle will run you north of $7,000.
"This one is kept in the safe downstairs at night," Albright said. "Security comes up and brings it back and forth each day."
When asked about some of the hefty bar tabs he recalls, Albright said, "I had a gentlemen here order … all our top cognacs, and his bill was over maybe $15,000."
More surprising, the patron didn't finish his drinks. "He kinda took a sip and went on to the next one and that was it. That was his night," Albright said.
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There are no windows at the King Cole Bar, which is on the St. Regis' lobby floor, but the spot's real value is still the view: a mural above the bar that fills three 10-by-8-feet panels. It's called "Old King Cole," and John Jacob Astor IV commissioned Maxfield Parrish to paint it in 1906 for $5,000. A recent restoration of the work cost $100,000. It's now worth more than $10 million.
The mural comes with a secret. Legend has it that Parrish set out to paint something the eye cannot see. What the painting does show is Astor depicted as a nursery rhyme character "Old King Cole," sitting on a throne with a sheepish grin on his face. All the other characters are painted with odd grimaces.
Albright knows the secret but won't tell. "You have to come here and figure it out."
A hint: It's the type of joke that never gets old, and it's not quite as classy as the St. Regis.
—By CNBC's Jennifer Schlesinger.