Featured Drink: Bloody Mary

Category:  Food & Drink
Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Featured Drink: Bloody Mary by Melissa Bruno
Contributed photo

You Say Tomato; I say Bloody Mary!

The Bloody Mary: An American Classic

Considered one of the most popular drinks in the alcoholic beverage world, the Bloody Mary has gained prominence and an array of different variations throughout the years. But first, a brief history of this delicious beverage:

Much like the drink’s recipe, there are discrepancies in the tale of how the Bloody Mary came to be a classic cocktail.  The first, more obvious story is that the drink is named after Mary Tudor of England. 

Historically hailed as a fascinating woman, she was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. In 1556, Tudor took the royal throne to reign over England and Ireland. During her control, the Queen burned hundreds of Protestants at the stake in the name of Catholicism, which is how she acquired the nickname “Bloody Mary.”  It is believed that the Bloody Mary drink was named in her honor.

Yet, it is unknown whether the drink or components of the drink, such as tomato juice, were even available for public consumption during that time. Therefore, one can only assume that this tale merely originated following the invention of the Bloody Mary centuries later.   

The second - more convincing story of the drink’s origin - began back in the early 1920s. It is said that Fernand Petior, an American bartender at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, mixed up equal parts of tomato juice and vodka. Petior had no idea that his concoction would become world famous when he agreed to name the drink after a suggestion by one of his customers. Petior’s bar patron said that the drink reminded him of the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago and a girl he knew there named Mary – and the Bloody Mary was born.

Following the invention of this vodka and tomato mixture, Petiot moved to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City in 1934 and subsequently brought the recipe with him. The hotel managers tried to change the drink’s name to the Red Snapper, which they thought would be easier on the ears than a harsh sounding “Bloody Mary.” But - much like a bad nickname you wish your friends would stop calling you – the Bloody Mary name stuck - and the Red Snapper instead became its own cocktail (a variation to the original Bloody Mary).

According to historical accounts, sophisticated New Yorkers were at first not too impressed with the tomato and vodka cocktail. They thought the drink tasted a bit bland and they asked Petiot to spice it up. He added black pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, lemon and - for those who wanted something a little more unusual - a generous splash of spicy cayenne pepper sauce and a celery stick. (Remember that in 1934, it was considered peculiar to garnish a drink with anything else but a lime or lemon wedge).

With time, the Bloody Mary became a fabled cure for the proverbial hangover. There may be a variety of reasons people think the drink helps cure the morning-after blues: it could be the fact that the drink is strong in flavor and that it wakes you up, or it may be taking the edge off from the night before. Either way, the Bloody Mary may not be quite the breakfast of champions that you had in mind, but the drink may actually be a more appropriate hangover remedy than most, because you are drinking tomato juice, which is loaded with vitamins A and C. And what a better way to start the day than to fill yourself with a good amount of vitamins?

The Bloody Mary has always been thought of as a morning cocktail, and that may be in part because some of the best food accompaniments to this drink are breakfast or brunch dishes.  Savory egg-based dishes pair exceptionally well with tomato drinks.  A vegetable omelet will work beautifully when paired with the drink, as well as huevos rancheros, which is a Mexican egg dish made with herbs, spices and peppers.

Why does the Bloody Mary work so well with breakfast/brunch dishes? In part, the drink is so food-friendly because of the high acidity of the mix of tomato and lemon juice, the invigorating and mouth-watering qualities of hot sauce, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce, and the stiff bite of vodka; in combination, these flavors go together with many dishes on the classic American breakfast/brunch menu.

Although Petior’s concoction gains the most popularity as a morning/afternoon drink (and granted, some lazy Sunday mornings, a Bloody Mary can sure do the trick), the drink does not have any time parameters for which it can be consumed.

Contrary to popular belief, the Bloody Mary can also be paired well with dinner items.  A loaded-with-horseradish Bloody Mary can really measure up to a bold flavored steak, while an extra-spicy-lemon Bloody Mary pairs terrifically with a mild fish such as tilapia or cod.

And that brings us to another issue – just what to garnish a Bloody Mary with. This is a topic that has been debated for decades, and although nothing set in stone, one can garnish this drink with so many different things – it eventually becomes a meal of its own.

The most consistent garnishes are typically a slice of lemon and lime, celery, and green olives. Some of the more fancy garnishes can include: pickled peppers, cheese, shrimp cocktail, shucked oysters, pepperoni, block chunks of ham or salami, fresh onions, carrots, cucumbers, radish…and the list goes on and on – literally – this is one drink where you can get away with garnishing however you like.

Another feature element of the Bloody Mary that lends to a range of adaptations is that of the choice of liquor. Although the classic drink has vodka (and I find that Absolut Pepar works wonderfully in this drink) there are also variations of what kinds of booze you can use. 

 If your favorite spirit isn’t vodka, try one of these:

  • Ruddy Mary: Replace vodka with gin.
  • Red Eye: Replace vodka with beer, also replacing tomato juice with Clamato juice.
  • Bloody Snowball: Replace vodka with bourbon
  • Bloody Bishop:  Replace vodka with sherry
  • Bloody Fairy: Replace vodka with absinthe
  • Bloody Geisha: Replace vodka with saké
  • Virgin Mary: Made without alcohol
  • Bloody Maureen: Replace vodka with Guinness
  • Bloody Molly: Replace vodka with Irish whiskey
  • Brown Mary: Replace vodka with any whiskey
  • Bloody Mariachi: Replace vodka with tequila

The Bloody Mary is certainly a drink with so many different variables, that it can be thought of as a blank canvas to experiment with while you play bartender. Add or leave out whatever garnishes you like, and freely experiment with different types of vodka, or different liquors in this tomato concoction all together.

Petior’s Classic Bloody Mary Recipe

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 cup tomato juice
2 tps fresh lemon juice
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Tabasco (or any other hot sauce) to taste
Celery salt and pepper to taste
1 celery stick for garnish
1 lemon wedge for garnish

Combine the vodka, the tomato juice, the lemon juice, the Worcestershire sauce, the Tabasco, 1 cup ice cubes, and celery salt (or regular salt will work just fine) 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.

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