Everyone's favorite hair-of-the-dog hangover cure, the Bloody Mary, turns 75 years old today, according to legend.
The most popular theory has it that Fernand Petiot invented the cocktail at Harry's Bar in Paris in 1920, when it was known as the Red Snapper because it was so harsh. But he didn't transform it into the brunch drink we know today until he was at the St. Regis Hotel in New York in the 1933 and added the special ingredient: Tabasco sauce. That's when it became the Bloody Mary. ( New York City officials celebrated with a toast in Times Square at 11:30 am today.)
A competing origin story has it that the cocktail was originally created by actor-producer George Jessel, and that Petiot simply added the finishing touches in 1939. As Petiot was quoted saying in a 1964 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. 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 a hundred to a hundred and fifty Bloody Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms."
Either way, the official "standard" Bloody Mary is recognizable to any tippler now. Here's the recipe according to the International Bartender Association:
Long drink (highball)
4.5 cl (or 3 parts) Vodka
9.0 cl (or 6 parts) Tomato sauce
1.5 cl (or 1 part) Lemon juice
Add dashes of Worchestershire sauce, Tabasco , salt and pepper into highball glass, then pour all ingredients into highball with ice cubes. Stir gently. Garnish with Celery Salt and lemon wedge (optional).
Note that I said "standard" in quotes. Next to the martini, the Bloody Mary is probably in the running for most variations on a single cocktail. I have friends who won't serve it without a Slim Jim or beef jerky, those who use Clamato instead of tomato juice; I've had it with an untold number of spirits that weren't vodka (usually not as successfully), and with Vietnamese "rooster" sauce instead of Tabasco. I've seen heated arguments break out over exactly which brand of Worcestershire to use, or precisely how many turns to take on the pepper mill (and then you get into the black pepper vs. white pepper debate). Of course, there's the Virgin Mary.
What variations of the Bloody Mary do you enjoy and/or push on your friends? How are you celebrating the Bloody's 75th? I've haven't tried a Bloody Mary granita, so if any of you do, make an extra one and call me over.
Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn , New York . He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago , and journalism as a graduate student at New York University . His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times,the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. He has feasted at a picnic with the king and queen of Malaysia , and dined on roadside kebabs while disguised as a Hazara tribesman in Afghanistan . He runs a monthly grilling competition in New York City and actually owns a kitchen torch.
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