top of page
Chef, Nick & Alec Smiling.jpg
Gold Sparkle2.png

The Story of The Drake

Without knowing the remarkable back-story, it would seem unlikely that the fabled Drake Hotel in New York City would have much in common with The Drake in Laguna Beach. One is now lost to history, and the other is quickly claiming its place as one of Orange County's most sought after dining and live jazz/blues destinations. The single thread that unites the "Two Drakes" is entrepreneur/founder Alec Glasser.

Alec, a native New Yorker, first became passionate about music while attending public school band programs in Queens. He was fortunate enough to receive both musical instruments and instruction in junior high and high school, where he learned how to play the saxophone, clarinet, and flute. As a result of these publicly funded programs, he was able to earn some spending money performing at bar mitzvahs and sweet sixteen parties. Eventually he secured gigs in teen bands at upscale summer resorts in the nearby Catskill Mountains.


But his teen musical career was abruptly halted by his father who arrived unannounced to the Catskills demanding that Alec pack his gear and "get in the truck." The drive home, as Alec recalls, included a lecture about finding a job with a "real paycheck and a future." His budding musical career was firmly—and literally—in the rearview mirror.

mohammed ali.jpg

Enter the Drake Hotel at the swanky address of 440 Park Avenue in New York City. It was here that Alec spent his teenage summers working the night shift as an elevator operator and bellman. Instead of living at home and commuting between the two boroughs, management allowed him to stay at the hotel in exchange for being on-call 24/7 if needed. As a result, between school years, Alec literally lived at, absorbed and enjoyed the experience of the Drake during these very formative years as a growing young man. The Drake experience never left him.

When the Drake opened its doors in 1928, it ushered in a new era of elegance along with a client list that read like a Who's Who. Silent screen star Lillian Gish lived at The Drake and later singer/actress Judy Garland.

During Alec's tenure at the hotel, it was also the preferred address for touring musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Led Zeppelin, as well as boxing legend Mohamad Ali and "Rat Pack" members Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. Socialite Lee Radziwill and actress Julie Newmar were known to frequent the hotel's nightclub, Shepheard's, which was touted as one of the city's first discotheques — long before Studio 54 entered the pop culture realm.

led zepplin.jpg
Marilyn Monroe (5)_edited.jpg
the who.jpg

The summers Alec spent living and working at the Drake Hotel not only had him opening doors—albeit the elevator variety—but doors were also being opened for him by many of the artists, celebrities, and influential businesspeople with whom he forged relationships. As a result, management permitted Alec to run "after hours" parties in unoccupied hotel suites with the food and beverage provided by the Drake. His life as an entrepreneur had begun and quickly expanded in many directions.

After spending three summers at the Drake, Alec left New York City as a college grad bound for California and armed with enough cash earned to put himself through law school. A long career later followed as a commercial real estate developer, much of the success for which he attributes to lessons learned and wisdom gained from his experiences at the Drake Hotel.

While Alec's time at the Drake Hotel has long been behind him— it was demolished in 2008— the memories always remained present and strong in his heart and soul. And, decades later he reinvented an updated version of the Drake experience in his new hometown, opening The Drake in Laguna in 2019.


The Art Deco-style decor of The Drake in Laguna is inspired by its iconic hotel namesake and offers the same unique New York City supper club-style experiences. Subtle signs from decades past add to the overall aesthetics, from the "elevator dial" that rests above the front door to the image of the Manhattan skyline clandestinely placed inside a skylight behind the restaurant's dining room. Even the curved gilded lines embossed above the lounge's bar are recollections from Alec's days spent behind the doors of the Drake Hotel, linking the past to the present.


Also connecting the "Two Drakes" are noteworthy performers and talented chefs. The Drake Room during its heyday served as the backdrop for some of the 20th century's greatest musicians, while its Laguna Beach counterpart is now a welcoming door to top musical performers who play nightly. Menus the Drake Hotel that once offered Steak Diane—a dish created there in the 1950's—and Lobster Thermidor have been updated by the contemporary and imaginative fare of award winning Chef Paul Gstrein who oversees the new Drake's culinary efforts.

The journey from New York City to Laguna Beach has been a long and winding road for Alec Glasser. But he's back where he has always felt most at home –The Drake – creating, mixing, mingling and enjoying its reimagined and time-tested experience with his guests. A swanky city place "where great food meets great live music".

Gold Sparkle2.png
bottom of page