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The Bloody Mary: All About The Classic Tomato-Based Cocktail

By: Shreya Goswami

Bloody Mary Cocktail

The Bloody Mary, famed for its piquant flavours and tomato-based allure, stands as a barroom classic dating back to the 18th century. Its adaptability remains its hallmark, allowing mixologists to tailor ingredients and garnishes to suit individual tastes. Variations abound, from distinct vodka choices to dashes of horseradish or Tabasco, even venturing into the realm of flavoured tomato blends. It's a cocktail revered not only for its brunchtime charm but also as a refreshingly savoury delight on balmy days. The nomenclature itself sparks debate—some link its name to England's Queen Mary, while others attribute it to Hollywood luminary Mary Pickford. 

Yet, the cocktail's origins remain veiled in mystery, woven with competing narratives that colour its creation: 

Fernand Petiot's Innovation (1920s) 

A prevailing tale pins the Bloody Mary's birth on Fernand Petiot, a bartender at Paris's New York Bar during the 1920s. Petiot, as legend goes, blended equal parts vodka and tomato juice with a medley of seasonings, birthing a concoction initially christened the ‘Bucket of Blood’ for its crimson hue, later reborn as the ‘Bloody Mary,’ in homage to a cabaret dancer named Mary. 

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Harry's New York Bar (early 20th century) 

An alternative yarn positions the cocktail's genesis at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, an enclave for American expatriates famed for birthing iconic libations. Here, Henry Zbikiewicz, also known as Harry MacElhone, purportedly crafted a drink akin to the Bloody Mary, termed the ‘bucket of blood.’ It's conjectured that this concoction might have sparked the evolution of the iconic cocktail. 

George Jessel's Assertion (1930s) 

Yet, American comedian-actor George Jessel lays claim to the cocktail's birth in the 1930s, recounting a request for tomato juice and vodka to vanquish a hangover. Naming it after an acquaintance, Mary Brown Warburton, this narrative, though less widely embraced, adds another layer to the cocktail's enigmatic history. 

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Hangover Cure or Myth? 

Often lauded as a ‘hair of the dog’ remedy, the Bloody Mary's touted curative effects against hangovers remain dubious. While its savoury and spicy palate offers a sensory awakening, it fails to directly address hangover causes—primarily dehydration and nutritional deficiencies arising from excessive alcohol intake. 

Though the tomato juice may provide some vitamins and electrolytes, the additional alcohol content risks worsening dehydration, leading to imbalances in electrolytes and inflammation. Umami-rich ingredients or glutamate sources, while metabolised into amino acids, do little to mitigate hangover symptoms. 

In conclusion, while the Bloody Mary's origins and variations add to its mystique, its role as a hangover cure remains more myth than reality, serving more as a sensory stimulant than a true remedy. 

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Here is the easiest Bloody Mary cocktail recipe for you to try at home. 

Ingredients: 

50ml Vodka 

150ml Tomato Juice 

15ml Fresh Lemon Juice 

4 dashes Worcestershire Sauce 

3-4 dashes Tabasco Sauce (adjust to taste) 

Pinch of Salt and Black Pepper 

Celery Stick (for garnish) 

Lemon Wedge (for garnish) 

Ice 

Preparation: 

Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. 

Pour the vodka and tomato juice over the ice. 

Add the fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt, and black pepper. 

Stir well to combine all the ingredients. 

Garnish with a celery stick and a wedge of lemon. 

Optionally, add additional Tabasco sauce for extra spice.