History: The sixteenth-century English monarch Mary Tudor is infamous for burning at the stake hundreds of religious heretics… Oh, you were wondering about the history of the Bloody Mary cocktail, not the first queen of England to rule in her own right? Fair enough, but this origin is no less clouded by time and schisms. Some swear that bartender Fernand Petiot introduced sallow vodka to sexy tomato juice in 1921 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, a hangout for the likes of Hemingway and Bogart, and perhaps dubbed the union after the aforementioned wrathful queen, or more convolutedly, after a waitress at notorious Chicago dive Bucket of Blood. Petiot eventually crossed the Atlantic to bartend at New York’s St. Regis Hotel, where the cocktail’s moniker was briefly and absurdly changed to Red Snapper, but the formula otherwise improved by the addition of hot sauce for a Russian prince who desired a spicier kick.
But forget all that, because others insist that vaudeville comedian George Jessel, aka the “Toastmaster General of the United States,” invented the whole shebang to salve his society pals’ collective hangover while on a Roaring Twenties rager in Palm Beach. That Florida angle grants Southerners a smidgen of provenance on the world’s most robust day drink, but pfffft, we’d claim full title even if the origin were irrefutably traced to a Mesopotamian cave wall. After all, you can’t make a real Bloody without our hot sauce, and pickled okra kicks celery’s anemic tail as garnish. Plus, Museum of the American Cocktail curator Liz Williams contends that we also originated brunch—a Bloody’s natural habitat—at a New Orleans restaurant that catered to market workers seeking their first sustenance at mid-morning. “We like them especially in the morning,” Williams says, “because they give you nutrients, and it doesn’t feel like you’re drinking.” So there, the Bloody Mary is Southern. Prove us wrong and we’ll pitcher the next purchase—oh, you know what we mean.
Mixologist Tip: Master the “slow roll,” rather than a shake, to keep the tomato juice from going too thin.
Variations: Beyond all the riffing on spicy elements and garnishes, booze it with tequila for a Bloody Maria, or sub Clamato for tomato juice for a Bloody Caesar.