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The Origins of the Bloody Mary Cocktail

Aside from the (stirred not shaken) martini, Bloody Mary is the most famous cocktail out there. Do you know that January 1st is officially the Bloody Mary day? That isn’t that strange, given that this particular cocktail is adored by many as a hangover cure. So, making the day after New Year’s the Bloody Mary day isn’t that big of a surprise.

If you’ve ever tried to dull the pain of partying a bit too hard with this deliciously biting cocktail, you already know that it’s one of the best cures out there. But what else do you know about it? Do you know its original recipe? Do you know how Bloody Mary came to be one of the most famous, if not the most famous alcoholic beverages?

What Exactly Is a Bloody Mary?

It seems like new cocktails are popping up left, right, and center. Nowadays, all bartenders seem to have their own recipes they please the crowds with. Unique, innovative cocktails with crazy names became so popular that you can barely find someone to fix you an oldie but a goodie.

Because of this, there’s a lot of confusion about what actually goes into traditional cocktails like Bloody Mary. Everyone adds something new or tries to improve the (already perfect) vodka and tomato juice cocktail recipe.

When you order a Bloody Mary, you know what you’re getting, at least appearance-wise. You’ll get a tall glass with a red substance in it, garnished with a wedge of lemon and a celery stick. But what’s on the inside?

Typically, Bloody Mary has vodka and tomato juice as its main ingredients. Initially, the recipe called for Stolichnaya vodka, but nowadays, people usually use Smirnoff.

Aside from that, a genuine Bloody Mary also has salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper sauce in it. The bartenders finish that concoction off with a bit of lemon juice and some Worcestershire sauce.

Sounds delicious, right? But how did people think to put those ingredients together in the first place?

The Origins of Bloody Mary

A long time ago, one small bar in Paris birthed a cocktail that we know today as Bloody Mary. Harry’s New York Bar was relocated from the United States (specifically New York) to Paris, back in 1911. The famous Ferdinand Pete Petiot manned the bar and made its patrons’ days better with his famous drinks.

Now, why does this matter? What does it have to do with Bloody Mary?

What Bloody Mary Came to Be

Well, around 1920, the Russian refugees brought vodka with them to Paris. It came to be one of the most popular spirits, but to Pete, it was tasteless and boring. So, he decided to spice it up — literally.

He added various spices and juices to it until he eventually experimented so much that he ended up mixing it up with tomato juice. Thus, a new cocktail was born!

How It Got the Name

Due to its vibrant red color, the drink was dubbed The Bucket of Blood. Pete, however, can’t get all the accolades since one of the most famous American entertainers was the one to name the drink after a famous Chicago nightclub.

After Mr. Petiot changed jobs in 1933 and started manning the bar in the King Cole Bar at the St Regis Hotel in New York, the Bucket of Blood became even more popular due to its “healing” properties. It was known to cure hangovers, and people lined up to get a sip of this “elixir.”

However, at the fancy hotel, the drink was no longer known under its (morbid) name, and it simply became the Red Snapper. People seem to have disliked that since most patrons started calling it Bloody Mary (in reference to Mary I of England and Ireland, known as a bloodthirsty leader).

How It Changed Over Time

Pete Petiot worked at the King Cole Bar for many years and made quite a few customers delightfully happy with his hangover cocktail. Although he stuck to the original recipe as much as possible, he still made changes to it from time to time. The legend has it that the Russian Prince Serge Obolensky requested the drink to have a bit more kick to it.

And, what was Pete supposed to do?  Say no to a prince? Of course not. He added Tabasco sauce and perfected the drink.

How It Traveled the Globe

So, after the Bloody Mary had enchanted Europeans and traveled across the ocean to New York, it was time to conquer the rest of the world. And who do we have to thank for that? None other than Ernest Hemingway.

He was one of the most famous Bloody Mary lovers. He loved it so much that he even had his own recipe for it that stated that making any amount of the cocktail smaller than a pitcher was “worthless.”

Hemingway also claimed that he was the one responsible for introducing the drink to Hong Kong in 1941. From there, the drink spread across Asia and became a worldwide sensation. Even today, you can get a Bloody Mary anywhere in the world. The only question is — how similar is it to the one from the New York bar in Paris?

The Bloody Mary Today

Today, people add a lot of things to their Bloody Marys. Clam juice, for example, is a popular ingredient nowadays. Others add Angostura or other bitters, celery salt, and even beer!

If you’re looking to try the original Bloody Mary, the Kind Cole Bar in New York still serves Pete’s original recipe. However, if you’re an adventurous drinker (or would like to try as many Bloody Marys as you can), there are plenty of variations out there. The Bloody Caesar, Canada’s national drink, has clam juice, while The Bloody Roman has beer and olives.

And is there hope for those who don’t like vodka? Yes, The Bloody Bulldog is made with gin instead! It also has a bit of garlic in it as well as tomato juice, making it truly a sanguine drink!