The inception of the original Bloody Mary can be traced back to 16th-century England when Mary Tudor ascended to become the first Queen of England in her own right. As a devout Catholic, she assumed leadership of the predominantly Protestant country in 1553. In an attempt to reestablish Catholicism, she initiated a campaign of burning Protestants at the stake. Ruthless and maniacal, the masses progressively began mistrusting their monarch and awarded her with the infamous and notorious epithet "Bloody Mary."
Similar to many timeless cocktails, the roots of the Bloody Mary is a subject of contention. Nevertheless, a widely acknowledged narrative links its origins to a young bartender named Fernand “Pete” Petiot, who crafted the concoction in 1921 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.
In the 1920s, Paris served as a vibrant hub for numerous American expatriates. This included an elite list of members like Earnest Hemingway and others belonging to the "lost generation." Simultaneously, Russians fleeing the upheaval of their country’s revolution arrived in France. Consequently, vodka and caviar became a commonality in France and found their way into Petiot's bar. Despite Petiot initially finding vodka bland, he dedicated a year to experimenting with recipes until he discovered a concoction to his liking.
Petiot combined Russian vodka with American tomato juice, lemon juice, adding spices, and seasoning, resulting in the creation of the Bloody Mary. Icons like Humphrey Bogart and Rita Hayworth were holding suave glasses of the ruddy red drink at Harry's New York Bar, influencing the throngs to take up the spicy poison.
Post Prohibition, Petiot’s journey to Manhattan’s King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel created another home for this drink. But the Americans referred to the Bloody Mary as Red Snapper for some time.
The nomenclature of the Bloody Mary, a truly timeless marvel, is entwined with more than one narrative. One notably features comedian and actor George Jessel. Jessel asserted his association with the drink's moniker, attributing it to his friend Mary Geraghty during a 1939 Smirnoff vodka advertisement. An alternative storyline pivots around Jessel and links the name to a socialite, Mary Brown Warburton. According to this rendition, Warburton consciously spilled the cocktail on her dress, crafting an imagery reminiscent of blood.
These tales encapsulate the dual identity woven into the cocktail's history, where the convergence of celebrity endorsements and social mishaps is enmeshed with its evolution. The narratives underscore the cultural fabric surrounding the Bloody Mary, revealing how a cocktail’s legacy can be shaped by chance encounters and creative marketing. As the drink became a fixture in social settings, its name, whether tied to personal friendships or “inadvertent spills”, showcases the intersection of celebrity influence and happenstance in the annals of cocktail lore.
Pour some salt onto a small plate. Rub the juicy side of the lemon or lime wedge along the rim of a tumbler.
Roll the outer edge of the glass in salt until fully coated, then fill the glass with ice and set aside.
Add the vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Tabasco, Worcestershire, black pepper, paprika, plus a pinch of celery salt along with ice and stir gently.
Pour into the prepared glass.
Garnish with celery stick.