The first nips of hunger prod you gently awake.
Rolling lazily out of bed, you take a quick peek in the refrigerator when it hits you: it’s Sunday. Sunday means brunch, and brunch means a Bloody Mary. But did you ever wonder who we have to thank for this original brunch sidekick?
Common lore takes us back to 1921, where a barman by the name of Fernand Petiot at The New York Bar in Paris – later Harry’s New York Bar – was said to have mixed the first vodka and tomato cocktail. Not knowing what to coin the beverage, onlooker and entertainer Roy Barton mentioned that it reminded him of a waitress at a Chicago bar called Buckets of Blood. The waitress’s name was Mary.
Some claim instead that the name was a tribute to Queen Mary I of England, or possibly the Hollywood star Mary Pickford. Still, others have argued that Petiot named the drink after the customer he created it for, one Vladimir Smirnoff (of vodka fame), and English-speaking customers later morphed the original pronunciation of “vlady meer” into “bloody mary.”
Not only is the origin of the name questioned, but the drink’s creator is also in doubt. It’s been said that in the 1930s, Henry Zbikiewicz may have performed the original mix at Manhattan’s ‘21’ Club, where after WWII they were known for selling over 100 Bloody Mary cocktails daily before lunch. Avery Fletcher, the Marketing Manager for ‘21’ Club, casts some uncertainty on this tale, noting, “Though the Bloody Mary has been rumored to have been created at ’21’, we do not officially claim the creation of the cocktail.”
Another candidate arose in 1939 when Lucius Beebe printed the recipe in his gossip column, This New York, attributing the Bloody Mary to comedian and ‘21’ Club regular George Jessel. In 1964, Petiot himself finally sheds some light on the story and seems to corroborate Jessel’s claim by telling The New Yorker, “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.”
Petiot “took it over” at the King Cole Bar in New York City’s St. Regis Hotel. This is where he added the familiar ingredients everyone identifies with a Bloody Mary: Worchester Sauce, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. At the time, the name was too offensive for such an upscale hotel, so their offering was called the Red Snapper. While the more restrained moniker didn’t stick outside of St. Regis, you can still find a Red Snapper on the King Cole Bar’s menu to this day.
Over the years, many incarnations of this famous drink have taken shape. Bartenders have added Horseradish, Old Bay seasoning, and Tabasco. They’ve traded out the vodka for tequila, gin, and Scotch whiskey. They have also gone so far as to add ingredients such as Clamato juice, balsamic vinegar, beef bullion, and fish sauce. That’s the wonderful, but the slightly tricky, thing about being a Bloody Mary fan: the drink’s infinite variety. Spend your next year of Sundays hitting up brunch spots, and it’s doubtful you’ll find any two places that serve them the same way.
Harry’s Bloody Mary
- 2 oz. Vodka
- 2 oz. Tomato Juice
- 2 dashes Worcestershire
- 4 dashes Salt
- 2 dashes Pepper
- 2 dashes Cayenne Pepper
- Squeeze Lemon Wedge
Preparation: In a mixing tin half-filled filled with ice, add ingredients. Shake to mix well. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice. Serve with a straw.
- 2 oz. Vodka
- 1 oz. Tomato Water*
- 1 fresh Basil Leaf
- 1 dash Tabasco
- Squeeze Lime Wedge
Preparation: In a mixing tin half-filled with ice, add ingredients. Shake until the tin is frosted. Double-strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and ciliegine mozzarella on a pick.
Purée tomatoes with a pinch of coarse salt. Pour into the cheesecloth, gather and tie ends. Hang over a bowl in the refrigerator overnight. Keeps covered and chilled up to 4 days.