Bloody Mary Day is celebrated on January 1, and as anyone will tell you, a Bloody Mary is the perfect drink on a Sunday afternoon, over brunch or while watching a game. After a night of ringing in the new year, nothing is better in the morning (as a brunch cocktail or hangover cure) or on a cold January day than the spicy tomato flavor of a Bloody Mary. The Bloody Mary is, of course, a staple of the American brunch and a universal hangover cure.
The Bloody Mary’s origin myths are as murky as the tomato juice it contains. This “savage combination of tomato juice and vodka” — as master bartender Jack Townsend deemed it half a century ago — has managed, in the fullness of time, to escape the “Freak Drink” category where he located it. Yet, the Bloody Mary went from “low brow” to upscale in one generation). In fact, this upstart is now second only to the martini in cocktail consumption.
The drink’s origins are oft-rumored to involve a bartender named Fernand “Pete” Petiot, who conceived of a rudimentary version in the early 1920s while working at the famed Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. After Prohibition, Petiot brought the drink to Manhattan when he presided over the dapper King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel. For a time, the cocktail was rechristened the Red Snapper in a nod to more delicate American sensibilities. And while at the St. Regis, Petiot dolled up the tomato-juice concoction with various seasonings—horseradish, Tabasco Sauce, lemon juice and celery salt.
It caught on. A classic was born.
The Bloody Mary is not a spirits-driven drink—and that’s part of the appeal, especially among weekend home bartenders. A glance at the Bloody Mary’s component parts — neutral spirits, restorative juices, salts, capsaicins, and other volatile oils — indicates that its origins lie in the shadowy world of the hangover cure. The tomato juice and vodka form a blank canvas on which one may create freehand artistry in the medium of spices—more horseradish or black pepper for some, a touch of clam juice (which makes it a Bloody Caesar) for others. You can make it as spicy or mild as you want, using either more or less hot sauce, or add the spice of tequila to make a Bloody Maria. Bloody Marys are often garnished with a celery stalk, but many will either use a pickle spear or both.It’s a cocktail that doesn’t require a jigger, and is open to almost any interpretation as it doesn’t follow rigid rules.
The classic Bloody Mary recipe is as follows:
- 1-1/2 ounces (1 jigger) vodka
- 1/2 cup tomato juice
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Worcestershire sauce to taste
- Tabasco to taste
- Celery salt
- Ground pepper
- 1 celery stick for garnish /or pickle spear for garnish
- 1 lemon wedge for garnish and/or lime wedge for garnish
Combine the vodka, the tomato juice, the lemon juice, the Worcestershire sauce, the Tabasco, 1 cup ice cubes, and salt and pepper to taste, shake the mixture well, and strain it into a tall glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish the Bloody Mary with the celery stick and the lemon wedge.
Although there are no rigid rules regarding this drink, there is one that you should keep in mind: do not order a Bloody Mary during the evening. The Bloody Mary is not an evening drink. It is, however, a known antidote to the common hangover, consumed in the morning by people of knowledge and unerring discernment. Cheers!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to subscribe to receive notification of future Wine Examiner articles, simply add your email address to the subscribe button at the top of the page. Comments welcome.