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Gambling With Hemingway at the Ritz

The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris

Old-school author A.E. Hotchner recalls good times with Ernest Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1948:

“We pooled our capital and met every day at noon in the Little Bar of the Ritz to make our selections for that day’s [steeplechase] races. We were aided and abetted by the bartender, Bertin, a devotee of the track, whose expertise was more occult than scientific. (He claimed he had invented the Bloody Mary back in the 20s to help Ernest overcome a nasty hangover.) We were not doing too well until early one morning, when Ernest phoned me to report that he had just received a call from Bertin informing him that he, Bertin, had gotten a call from a source in the Auteuil jockey room, recommending a horse named Bataclan in the seventh race, at odds of 27 to 1. Ernest and I collected as many francs as friends and credit could provide and bet them on Bataclan’s nose. At the last turn, our horse was running a distant third, and I had given up on him, when, to my astonishment, on the final jump the two leading horses took bad spills. Bataclan romped home the winner, and we harvested a Matterhorn of large franc notes.

‘Now, Hotch, you have learned one of life’s invaluable lessons,’ Ernest said. ‘Never doubt the honesty of a jockey-room tip.'”

Great story. The Little Bar was later renamed as Bar Hemingway, which it remains to this day. The Ritz knows a good thing when it’s got it.

The hotel is closing for a two-year renovation. Hotchner’s trip down memory lane features appearances by Ingrid Bergman, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hermann Göring.

And yes, that’s the same A.E. Hotchner who helped Paul Newman invent Newman’s Own spaghetti sauce.

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