It’s apparently 100 years since the celery-festooned tomato and vodka-based cocktail called the Bloody Mary made its first appearance – in Paris of all places. Fiona McDonald reports.
Whether it was named for the Queen of England known as Bloody Mary for her persecution of Protestants, the Hollywood star Mary Pickford, an actress by the name of Mary who appeared in a stage production of Buckets of Blood or a vocalised mangling of the name Vladimir, the Bloody Mary remains one of the most popular cocktails worldwide.
Cocktail researchers concur that there are a number of possible origins but it appears that the bragging rights belong to French bartender Fernand Petiot of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. (A favourite of author Ernest Hemingway, apparently.) In 1921 Petiot is believed to have mixed tomato juice and vodka together for the first time, so the story goes. And it was called a Bucket of Blood which lends credence to the theory involving the actress Mary, appearing in the play by the same name.
However, a counter claim is put forward by the famous 21 Club of New York which claims bartender Henry Zbikiewicz invented it in the 1930s – while a third theory has it that 21 Club regular, comedian George Jessel, came up with it. A report in a gossip column This New York published in 1939 mentions Jessel’s “newest pick-me-up which is receiving attention from the town’s paragraphers, is called a Bloody Mary; half tomato juice, half vodka”.
But in the New Yorker magazine in 1964, Petiot, who was behind the bar of the King Cole Room at the St Regis Hotel in New York during the 1930s, was quoted as having said the following: “I initiated the Bloody Mary of today. Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over. I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour. We serve 100 to 150 Bloody Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms.”
The official International Bartender Association recipe for the Bloody Mary is as follows:
45 ml vodka
90 ml tomato juice
15 ml lemon juice
Add dashes of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper into a highball glass. Pour the three ingredients into the glass, along with ice cubes. Stir gently before garnishing with celery salt and (optional) a lemon wedge or stalk of celery.
It’s popular as a “morning after the night before” drink and there are a host of tweaks and twists which people swear by. Some maintain that the pepper sauce must be Tabasco, or that the pepper must be freshly cracked black – or alternately the lighter, finer white version.
When it comes to mixing up the spirit and deviating from the original vodka, things get interesting according to Wikipedia. Switch to gin and the drink is called either a Red Snapper or a Ruddy Mary. Use absinthe and it goes by the name of Bloody Fairy since the spirit was known as the green fairy. When the Mediterranean spirit Arak, known for its aniseed flavour, is substituted the drink becomes a Bloody Miriam. Go Japanese by making it with sake and it’s a Bloody Geisha.
Alternatively skip the spirits altogether and simply enjoy a Virgin Mary.