MARY, MARY QUITE CONTRARY

Bloody Brilliant Mary

Bloody Hell!

Bloody MaryThe Bloody Mary drink has spawned more variations than the Queen ‘Bloody Mary’ had stepmothers.

Writing in 1947, Ernest Hemingway claimed of the Bloody Mary, “I introduced this drink to Hong Kong in 1941 and believe it did more than any other single factor, except perhaps the Japanese army, to precipitate the fall of that Crown Colony.” Hemingway went on to give a recipe using a large pitcher, anything less being “worthless,” which called for the hearty proportions of one part vodka for one part tomato juice.

It is likely that the first Bloody Mary resembled Hemingway’s. The history of cocktails is shrouded in the fine mist of vermouth being sprayed into Martini glasses, largely created by veteran storytellers at the bar rather than by exacting historians. It is generally accepted that Fernand Petiot invented the Bloody Mary at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the 1930’s. He later wrote that one of the two American drinkers for whom he created the drink compared it to a girl called Mary at the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago, certainly a remarkable name for a club… so not Queen Mary I, as you thought.

Petiot moved to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, but the management thought Bloody Mary was not all that sanguine a name and tried to change it to Red Snapper. Bloody Mary stuck like blood on the floor. It was at the King Cole Bar that Petiot added the Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco, lemon, celery salt, and other sharpeners.

Everyone has personal Bloody Mary secrets. There is the American South version, where they will use lime juice, and a pureed cucumber to cut through the drink. I was introduced to the Wasabi Bloody Mary at the Rambagh Palace hotel in Jaipur, offering a cleaner and sharper flavour than horseradish sauce, which essentially turns the drink itself into a sauce. Hemingway added Cayenne pepper.

Bloody MarySome swear by horseradish vodka. In America, the fashion at the moment is to use Aquavit, the Danish caraway seed spirit, which certainly adds a pleasant new dimension to the drink. Sherry is an old trick, but horrifyingly gastro-pub bartenders have a habit of using sweet sherry. Those who use sherry and no vodka are drinking a King Harry. Countless variations on the vodka base are known, including tequila (the Bloody Maria). And for those who opt out of alcohol altogether, it is a Bloody Shame, a far better name than the anodyne Virgin Mary.

Some swear by pureeing fresh tomatoes, others think plenty of lemon juice provides perfection. Some use V8 vegetable juice in place of tomato juice, in which case it becomes an 8-Ball. A host of pre-mixed juices exist, but there is no doubt that none of them are spot on. Every Bloody Mary fan has his own specifications, and the only solution to a truly fine Bloody Mary is making it at home – and in a large pitcher.
— Orlando Bridgeman

The Bloody Mary of the American South

Serves 4

  • 4 cups of clamato Juice
  • Half a cucumber – peeled and pureed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Vodka to taste
  • Lots of ice
  • 1 sprig of fresh coriander to garnish

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