Bloody Mary

I’ve always been partial to a good Bloody Mary. It works not only as tasty preprandial, but also an early morning breakfast before the tummy has properly woken up. I’ve drunk more than a few in airline lounges, or in the Eurostar lounge waiting for the 06:10 to Brussels. So when I happened on this SeriousEats article, The Bloody Mary: The History and Science of an Oddball Classic, I didn’t hesitate to click on the link.

The author, Kevin Liu, gives an overview of the ingredients and their taste components. Disappointingly, he throws cold tomato juice on the theory that a Bloody Mary is an efficacious hangover cure, though a Virgin Mary might be some help.

More interesting was a link to a series of articles by Jack McGarry. Jack works at The Dead Rabbit in New York. The Dead Rabbit was voted World’s Best New Cocktail Bar in 2013 and Jack was International Bartender of the Year. In his article Jack traces the history of the Bloody Mary from its origins in the 19th century oyster cocktail, through the non-alcoholic tomato juice cocktail, the random availability of an unused bottle of vodka drunk by American actor, George Jessel in 1927, to the cocktail’s polishing by Fernand Petiot of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

The story goes that Jessel, after a long night, was trying to sober up for a morning game of volleyball. The bartender had a bottle of vodka (apparently not very popular in the US at that time) that had been hanging around “for six years”. It didn’t smell too good, so George asked for tomato juice, Worcester sauce and lemon juice to cover the smell.

It had been thought that the Bloody Mary was invented by Fernand Petiot. McGarry concludes that:

What Petiot did is give a short back and sides: he gave the bland and boozy vodka and tomato juice combination created by Jessel a much-needed makeover. He modified the proportions, added citrus and herbs and savoury notes… he took an existing recipe and made it his own.

There’s more to the story, but I’ll leave it to you to read on your own, except to quote Jack’s final words:

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the Bloody Mary is the fact that she keeps reinventing herself. The Bloody Mary is the Madonna of the cocktail world.

The four-part article is on diffordsguide. Part 4 isn’t linked from the earlier articles, so here are the links for all four: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

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