A Sunday morning staple, the Bloody Mary is regarded as a “hair-of-the-dog” brunch must-have. Obviously we all know that it doesn’t actually cure hangovers, but it sure as hell is tasty. The idea of breakfast cocktails may seem like a thing of the past, yet every weekend morning there are Bloody Marys strewn across cafe tables around the world. Tomato juice and vodka might seem like a very odd combo, but then you add in the usual suspects like salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, olives, celery, and so forth, and it begins to seem ridiculous. So where exactly did this crazy concoction come from?
The origin of the Bloody Mary, like other good cocktails, is a bit of a mystery. Fernand Petiot claimed to have invented the drink in 1921 while working at the New York Bar in Paris, which later became Harry’s New York Bar, a frequent Paris hangout for Ernest Hemingway and other American expatriates. Another claim attributes the creation of the Bloody Mary to the comedian George Jessel, who frequented the 21 Club in New York City. Fernand Petiot seemed to corroborate Jessel’s claim when the bartender spoke to The New Yorker in July 1964, saying:
“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, then shake, strain and pour.”
No matter what its roots are, the Bloody Mary has grown well past its original concept. Nowadays, the trend seems to be focused on how to make the most outrageous Bloody. From the Minnesota-based Icehouse that serves up a Bloody Homer, complete with candied bacon and a donut, to Sobelman’s in Milwaukee, where they top your Bloody Masterpiece with everything from asparagus and shrimp to a full bacon cheeseburger slider, the demand for crazier Bloody Marys is never-ending.
Whether you prefer a classic and simple drink, or you want one with a fully cured salami and an old shoe, Bloody Marys have been around since the early 1900’s and with the cocktail renaissance focusing on the fresh and fun, they are not going away anytime soon. See you at brunch.