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Dorothy Parker loved a good martini, so when news spread that the iconic New York writer’s remains were finally to be buried in the city, a Brooklyn distiller and diehard fan offered to help pay for her headstone — by creating a special batch of gin in her name.
Dorothy Parker Roundtable Reserve Gin will be available for sale Monday — the 54th anniversary of Parker’s death. A portion of the proceeds of the small-batch gin, created by the New York Distilling Co. in Williamsburg, will be donated to a memorial fund to help preserve her legacy. The bottles are $50 each.
Parker was a member of the Round Table, a group of writers and actors who met for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, beginning in 1919. The daily alcohol-infused lunches were attended by playwright Noel Coward, “New Yorker” editor Harold Ross and actress Tallulah Bankhead, among others. The group often engaged in charades and poker, and witty word play. During one particularly memorable game, Parker was asked to use the word “horticulture” in a sentence. “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think,” she deadpanned.
“I have been a fan of Dorothy Parker since I was in college,” said Allen Katz, owner of the distilling business, who told The Post that he and his wife exchanged their wedding vows by reading each other a Parker short story more than a decade ago.
“She was one of the contemporary cultural figures of the moment in New York City and had a direct impact on cocktail culture,” he said. “For me, it was a way to honor her memory.”
Parker’s ashes went on a long, strange trip after her 1967 death from a heart attack in an Upper East Side hotel room.
The satirist, poet, magazine writer and activist left her entire estate, including all future royalties, to Martin Luther King Jr. Upon his death, the estate was to become the property of the NAACP. But her will left no instructions on what to do with her remains. As a result, her ashes sat in an urn in a Westchester crematory for six years before they were sent to the Manhattan office of her attorney, where they languished in a filing cabinet for another 15 years.
In 1988, after gossip columnist Liz Smith wrote about the fate of the ashes, the NAACP decided to create a memorial outside its Baltimore headquarters. But when the group announced it was thinking of moving to Washington in 2006, Parker’s family intervened and demanded the ashes be disinterred and returned to New York to be buried in a family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
It took 14 years for the family to retrieve the ashes with the help of Kevin Fitzpatrick, head of the New York-based Dorothy Parker Society. Fitzpatrick took a train to Baltimore to pick up the urn, which was exhumed on Aug. 18, 2020. Parker’s remains were buried next to her mother four days later, on Parker’s birthday, with Fitzpatrick and civil rights activist Hazel Dukes among the handful of mourners.
“We’re glad she’s back in New York, and we’re thrilled about the gin,” said Susan Cotton, one of Parker’s grandnieces who lives in upstate New York. Cotton told The Post she was not able to travel to the city for the burial although she did commemorate her great aunt’s birthday by drinking a martini.
She will drink another one on Monday to commemorate Parker’s death, and is planning a trip to the Bronx with her two sisters for the unveiling of the $10,000 headstone in August.
The special gin will only be available at the hotel and The Shanty, the distiller’s bar, as well as online. Only 250 bottles with a drawing of Parker by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, will be available.
Although Cotton said the family has still not decided what the headstone will say, they might turn to Parker herself for inspiration, especially on the subject of martinis: “I love a martini. But two at the most. Three, I’m under the table. Four, I’m under the host.”
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