It was introduced to America in New York’s St. Regis Hotel by Fernand “Pete” Petiot, and it’s become America’s favorite morning-after drink, the ultimate hangover remedy and infamous hair of the dog.
So if you really want to honor this beverage I suggest you high tail it to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis. Not only is this where Petiot and his Bloody Mary were introduced in the 1930s, but it’s also a lounge of exquisite beauty. Everything you want a bar to be, all wrapped up in darkly stained wood. This ambiance is highlighted by an extra large mural of King Cole himself, surrounded by an entourage of nursery rhyme characters. To this drinking man it’s nirvana. The perfect place to get to know the iconic Bloody Mary.
According to the book The Bloody Mary (yes there’s a book, it’s by Christopher O’Hara) the Bloody Mary wasn’t actually invented in the King Cole Bar. That’s merely where it gained its world-wide following. Because Petiot had been making them at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris all during America’s Prohibition period. With the end of that doomed experiment, Petiot came to New York and began serving this cocktail to New Yorkers. The basic recipe consisted of vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper. Which isn’t too far off today’s accepted version.
It was supposedly named after Queen Mary Tudor. A vicious monarch who, during her five-year reign, earned the nickname Bloody Mary when she began an Inquisition-style mission to kill off Protestants in her country.
Parisians thought the bloody story was hilarious. But Americans at that time were far more delicate. When the drink was introduced in New York, Petiot decided that it needed a bit of Americanization. He began calling it by the more friendly name Red Snapper. He even replaced the vodka with gin once he realized that gauche Americans had not yet developed a taste for vodka.
Of course eventually all that changed. Today the Bloody Mary is typically made with vodka. Horseradish and celery are now also expected, though quite a few bartenders resist the notion of horseradish as it demotes this cocktail to something akin to cocktail sauce in their minds. But I think horseradish adds the right bite and balance and I have included a healthy dose in my version. You can lighten it up if you like. I also make mine by the pitcher. To me the Bloody Mary is a party drink. Particularly a brunch party. I never make just one.
But none of this information really accounts for the popularity of this beverage. I think its popularity can be attributed to its attributes. The Bloody Mary is “simple yet complex, commonplace yet special, and familiar yet exotic.” But I wonder if that English Queen with a bloody bent would be at all pleased with her legacy. So you better make hers a double. GREG