Ah, the Bloody Mary. No cocktail is so quintessentially mid-morning—what with its bevy of veggies and tomato juice, it’s practically a healthy option in the way of brunch beverages! Few cocktails boast more creative garnishes (take, for example, the addition of a cheeseburger slider, hardboiled egg, or strip of candied bacon) and none have a more storied origination.
While the original name and recipe are widely speculative and typically disagreed upon, Paris, France, is credited as the official birthplace of the brunch superstar. In 1911, Harry’s opened its doors on Thanksgiving Day as a novelty New York-style bar in the City of Lights. Thirsty ex-pats and American tourists alike sought out Harry’s as a taste of home, solidifying it as a Parisian solution to American Prohibition.
In the 1920s, emigres escaping the Russian Revolution began appearing in droves in Paris, many of whom brought their home country’s infamous liquor of choice—vodka—along with them. Harry’s bartender Fedinand “Pete” Petiot began experimenting with Paris’ newest import at his post. However, unlike the fragrant tang of gin or the bitter headiness of absinthe, vodka was, by all accounts, tasteless to Petiot. In a muddling of fate and good timing, American canned tomato juice had just been splashed upon Petiot’s palate around the same time he became introduced to vodka.
Over the next year, Petiot went to work blending the vodka with multiple mixers, struggling to make something with enough zing to serve to his customers. Finally, in what was likely a last-ditch effort to make vodka taste like something, Petiot mixed it with tomato juice and a few seasonings. He deemed his new cocktail the Bucket of Blood after visiting American entertainer Roy Barton at a West Side Chicago Nightclub of the same name.
By the early ‘30s, the tomato juice cocktail had made its way onto American soil. It was touted for its hangover curing properties and renamed “Red Snapper” at famed King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel in New York. By the end of the ‘30s, the beverage’s red hue inspired a name change throughout the nation—The Bloody Mary. Some say the new name was in reference to Mary Tudor’s bloody reign, while others believe the official Smirnoff claim that it was a nod to a woman named Mary Geraghty—whatever the story, it’s fun to order, more fun to drink, and may very well save your life after you’ve hit it a little too hard the night before.
Order The Grill’s expertly spiced version of this lycopene-containing classic today, and be sure to stay tuned for Part II of the Bloody Mary Brief! Hint: It’s certain to be a real zinger.