Was it George Jessel? Fernand Petiot? Ernest Hemingway? In one version of the story, Petiot, while a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, invented the Bloody Mary in the 1920s; Hemingway often drank at Harry’s, which is probably why he’s sometimes credited with the drink’s creation. In Jessel’s version, he invented the drink in the 1930s at the King Cole Bar in New York’s St. Regis Hotel, where Petiot was again the bartender. Most likely, as Petiot told The New Yorker in a 1964 interview, Jessel thought of the vodka and tomato juice mix but it was he, Petiot, who added the spices that turned the drink into the Bloody Mary.
And the name. Was it for Queen Mary I of England, often called “Bloody Mary”? To honor actress Mary Pickford by replacing a rum-based drink named for her? Perhaps for a waitress named Mary who worked at Chicago’s Bucket of Blood Club? Or was it simply named for its color?
If there are multiple versions of Bloody Mary’s birth and name, there are far more variations of the recipe: more or less vodka; salt or no salt; and yes or no on lime, pepper, celery salt and horseradish. Best start with a basic recipe like this one and add or subtract to your own taste.
When your desire for a Bloody Mary is greater than the time you have to make it from scratch, there are ready-mix packages. We tried The Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix, which was close in taste to a traditional one; just add vodka. Demitri’s Bloody Mary Seasoning is spicier; add tomato juice and vodka.
2 ounces vodka
4 ounces tomato juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Twist of lime juice
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Pinch celery salt
Pinch white pepper
Pour the liquid ingredients over ice and stir or shake. Add the celery salt, pepper and salt to taste. Strain into a chilled glass or pour over ice.
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