THE BLOODY MARY
Origins and history... possibly!
So where did Bloody Maries come from? Well, there are two versions, so if you're sitting comfortably (preferably with a glass of Big Tom Bloody Mary in your hand), then we'll begin...
When Fernand 'Pete' Petiot, an American bartender at Harry's New York Bar in Paris during the 1920s, mixed equal parts tomato juice and vodka, he had no idea his concoction would become world famous.
In 1934, when Petiot moved to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis in New York, he brought the recipe with him. The hotel tried to change the name to Red Snapper, but it didn't stick. Sophisticated New Yorkers urged Petiot to spice up the drink because it was too bland, so he added black pepper, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, and a generous splash of Tabasco sauce for patrons who liked it even more spirited. Thus, an American classic was born...
Apparently, Petiot explained the name by saying “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.”
However, according to Joseph Scott and Donald Bain (The World's Best Bartenders' Guide, HP Books, 1998) and John Mariani (The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, Hearst Books, 1994), when Petiot became head bar man at the King Cole Bar his fabulous Red Snapper, as he'd named it, was a flop. Although it was touted as a hangover cure, noone wanted to drink a dead fish - especially when they happened to feel like one - and it flopped. But soon the drink began to be widely known as the Bloody Mary, and the rest, as they say, is history.
But there's more dispute over the name. According to Scott & Bain, either it was named after Mary I of England, who was nicknamed "Bloody Mary" because of her propensity to put people to death. Or, it was named after the character of the same name in James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, a woman whose teeth were permanently stained red from chewing on betel nuts.
Mariani also cites Mary I of England as the drink's namesake, although he also mentions that entertainer George Jessel named the drink after a friend of his, Mary Geraghty, in 1929.
We pick Mary I of England, because it lends the drink a certain class. And besides, it was the British who renamed the Virgin Mary (America's alcohol-free version of the drink) the Bloody Shame, because devout Catholics in Great Britain objected to ordering a drink by that name...
But don't think that's an end to the controversy. Some bartenders rim the glass with salt; some shudder at the thought. Some purists claim it's tacky to garnish a Bloody Mary with a stalk of celery instead of the traditional swizzle stick.
And some think that any bartender who serves a Bloody Mary without the celery, should be, if not fined, at least severely reprimanded. We also favour celery sticks that have been peeled of all strings so they can be eaten with ease.
Scott & Bain say the celery stick garnish was created at The Pump Room in Chicago by a customer whose Bloody Mary was swizzle-stickless. The customer looked around the bar, spotted a dish of celery sticks, nabbed one and tucked it in the drink. However, Mariani says that Butch McGuire's Bar in Chicago claims the honor of adding the celery stick.
Just to reinforce its stature, the late Ernest Hemingway (according to Mariani) says that it was he who introduced the Bloody Mary to Hong Kong in 1941, further claiming it “did more than any other single factor except the Japanese Army to precipitate the Fall of that Crown Colony.”
Unarguably, the Bloody Mary really went mainstream in the sixties, and has held its place on the top pop charts ever since.
Now, time for a refill...