Is the Bloody Mary as British as it sounds? Not.
So much myth surrounds the origin of the Bloody Mary. But if anything, cocktail historians agree at one thing: the Bloody Mary had been invented in New York and not Paris, and that it’s not associated with blood-thirsty Queen Mary 1 of England at all.
One of the most famous stories about the cocktail’s origins involves one named Fernand “Pete” Petiot, who brought the Bloody Mary from a Paris bar to St. Regis Hotel’s King Cole Bar in New York. Petiot used to work at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, a watering hole frequented by the likes of novelists Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, composer George Gershwin and actor Humphrey Bogart. When the Prohibition ended, Petiot moved to Manhattan, bringing the recipe with him to his new bartending stint at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel. In America, the Bloody Mary went by a new name: Red Snapper. Petiot tried to make the drink interesting by adding on handy seasonings like horseradish, Tabasco, lemon juice and salt. The rest was history.
Something seemed amiss with this popular story though, so Jack McGarry, a bartending veteran, went on a quest to get to the bottom of it. McGarry researched extensively on the matter, and the lack of documentation that the cocktail was invented in France—considering that culinary books like Harry MacElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails (1927) and Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) didn’t include a recipe of this trendy drink—led him to the conclusion that the drink wasn’t conceived in France nor did Petiot invented it. McGarry concluded that indeed, comedian George Jessel, who frequented the 21 Club in New York and was referenced by a gossip column in 1939 to have come up with the original recipe, invented the rudimentary half-and-half Bloody Mary, whose version Petiot only improved on.
The last origin story borders on the extreme—the extremely bizarre and fictional, that is. The Bloody Mary is believed to have been invented during the reign of Queen Mary 1 of England. The tomato juice, according to the Weekly World News, represent the bloodshed during the Queen’s reign, while the vodka, known as firewater then, represent the water torture the queen inflicted on martyrs.
The Bloody Mary’s recipe is very open to interpretation. People can tailor the Bloody Mary to their preference—they can add more spices or whatnot as they like, so long as the vodka and tomato juice dominate the bulk of the ingredients. Transform the Bloody Mary to a Bloody Ceasar with a dash of clam juice, or make it a Bloody Maria with tequila.
The Bloody Mary is a popular “hair of the dog” or hangover cure. The drink is high in antioxidants due to the tomato juice and hodgepodge of spices in it. Learn more about this popular cocktail and how to properly serve it at bars and restaurants by trying one of our Learn2Serve Liquor License courses.