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The history of the classic Bloody Mary

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1921 | Paris, France

Having achieved worldwide fame primarily as an irresistible hangover cure, this blood-red cocktail trails much speculation and mystery behind it. Among its origin stories figure such names as Mary Tudor, who executed Protestants in droves; international film star Mary Pickford, who loved red cocktails; and finally, "Bucket of Blood," a Chicago bar.

Then again, there far more arguments that the cocktail appeared in Paris, in the famous Harry's New York Bar, where in 1921, bartender Fernand Petiot – or Pete for short – decided to mix vodka with a then-popular American innovation, packaged tomato juice. In 1933, Pete moved to New York, got behind the bar at the St. Regis Hotel's King Cole Bar, and showed his know-how to the boss: the hotel's co-owner, Serge Obolensky. The latter found the taste of vodka with juice too simple, and he added lemon juice, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. The hotel's other owner, Vincent Astor, then took issue with the reference to some unknown Mary, and he came up with a better-sounding name – the Red Snapper. It must be said that at the time, the United States didn't produce their own vodka, so the Red Snapper was more often made with gin. Therefore, the Bloody Mary and the Red Snapper were able to swim along in parallel and with time, both cocktails became the hotel's calling cards.

In the 1960s, a bartender at Chicago's Ambassador Hotel noticed how one of his clients stirred his Bloody Mary with a celery stick, and added this gesture to the recipe. At the same time, a new "bloody" version had appeared in Canada, the Bloody Caesar, where clam juice was added. As a result, a packaged mix of tomato and clam juice came out especially for the cocktail. Today, the Bloody Mary exists in a variety of preparation methods and variations of ingredients, as befits a classic cocktail.

See the recipe


Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev
Illustration: Mine
Journalists: Sara Davis, Samantha Johnson

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