Bloody Mary 4-13-2011

Perfecting the American cocktail.

What you need to know about the Bloody Mary.

Baseball. Hot dogs. Apple pie. The novels of Ernest Hemingway. These are some of the things an American gentleman has to be at least passingly familiar with. They round you out. They give you something to chat about at parties. Or, in the case of hot dogs and apple pie, they give you something to eat so you can avoid a conversation with a self-styled critic giving their banal assessment of how flawed Islands in the Stream happens to be. And, starting now, you should become familiar with the Bloody Mary, too.

Why it’s important.

The Bloody Mary is one of those drinks that has transcended being a cocktail into becoming something more. Just like we know what will come out of James Bond’s mouth when he steps up to a bar, your guests, whether you’re having people over for brunch or are gathering with friends before a polo match, will expect that you’ll have a pitcher of Bloody Marys standing by.

“Many people feel that the Bloody Mary is the answer to all next-day worries and since its creation it has become one of the two most favorite lunch time cocktails in New York.” –House & Garden Magazine, January 1956

How it all started.

As with many important events, the exact origin of the Bloody Mary is a disputed thing and two men lay claim to having invented the drink. The first, and most repeated story, is that a bartender, Fernand Petiot, at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris began serving a mixture of tomato juice and vodka in 1926. Petiot said, “One of the boys suggested we call the drink ‘Bloody Mary’ because it reminded him of the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago, and a girl there named Mary.”

From there, Petiot moved to New York and began working at the St. Regis Hotel where he introduced the “Red Snapper,” a spicier version of his original. It was a huge hit, although the decision to replace the name “Bloody Mary,” which was thought to be too vulgar for the hotel’s patrons, didn’t catch on.

The other origin story revolves around Hollywood actor and Academy Award-winning producer George Jessel. Known as “The Toastmaster of the United States,” he is said to have created the drink in 1927 at his home in Palm Beach. He claimed the name came about after he accidentally doused a friend of his named Mary with the drink and her reply was, “Now, you can call me Bloody Mary, George!”

Jessel even went so far as to take out an ad in Collier’s in 1956 to back up his claim. “I invented The Bloody Mary, Red Snapper, Tomato Pickup or Morning Glory. It happened on a Night before a Day and I felt I should take some good, nourishing tomato juice, but what I really wanted was some of your good Smirnoff Vodka. So I mixed them together, the juice for body and the vodka for spirit, and if I wasn’t the first ever, I was the happiest ever.”


How to make yours.

Just like acquiring a personal style requires some trial and error, getting acquainted with the cuts, patterns, and colors that look best on you, making “your” Bloody Mary takes time, too. We’ve provided the recipe for the classic Bloody Mary as a rough guide, but experimenting is greatly encouraged. More spice? Less spice. Secret hot sauce? Oh, and for the same reason you don’t use clip-on ties, skip the pre-bottled “Bloody Mary Mix.”


The classic Bloody Mary recipe:

Combine in highball glass
• 2 ounces vodka
• 4 ounces tomato juice
• Worcestershire Sauce
• Cayenne pepper to taste
• Salt to taste
• Black pepper to taste
• Juice of 1/2 lemon

Stir. Add ice cubes and celery stalk. Serve.


The rewards of getting it right.

Why put the effort into getting “your” Bloody Mary right? It has incredible curative properties, that’s why. And because no matter if someone disagrees with you about a baseball team, or what novels of Ernest Hemingway are worth a second look, the fact that you make a good Bloody Mary will be what sticks with them. “He may be wrong,” they’ll walk away thinking, “But he makes a darn fine Bloody Mary.”

TAGS: Bloody Mary | Cocktail | Collier’s | Ernest Hemingway | Fernand Petiot | George Jessel | Harry’s New York Bar | Home & Garden Magazine | James Bond | King Cole Bar | Morning Glory | Red Snapper | St. Regis | Tomato juice | Tomato Pickup

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  • avatar
    Yes. Definitely horseradish! And I prefer Cholula over Tabasco (heat with flavor rather than just heat), and also add a splash of soy sauce, or even better a couple splashes of Maggi.
    43 months ago | Report abuse |
  • avatar
    Horseradish is a MUST to make it a great Bloody Mary! And give it a few shakes of celery salt while you're at it...
    43 months ago | Report abuse |