Originally a blend of primarily tomato juice and vodka, the Bloody Mary, or just the “Bloody,” has since started to include ingredients as diverse as basil and roasted garlic. Just as the tomato is one of the most fertile ingredients for cookery, tomato juice and vodka in the form of the Bloody Mary has been endlessly reinvented. One wonders why a recipe should be included here, since almost everyone already makes the best Bloody Mary. Let us say it is for the sake of completeness, and for yet another definitive version.
Created by Fernand “Pete” Petiot of Harry’s American Bar in Paris, the Bloody Mary was supposedly named for one Mary who spent long hours at the bar awaiting her lover. After Prohibition, Petiot went to New York to become head bartender at the Regis. Of course, vodka was not yet popular in the States, so gin was substituted. The Regis also thought the drink’s name a bit grisly, and it was changed to the Red Snapper. As much as one may drink like a fish, however, few want a drink named after one. It is unclear when the Bloody Mary came to be called for the eponymous English queen, Mary Tudor, but Ernest Hemingway, in typical bravado, boasted to a friend in a letter of 1947 that he brought the drink to Hong Kong in 1941, where it “did more than any single factor except the Japanese Army to precipitate the fall of that Crown Colony.” The Bloody Mary did not enter its full phase of glory until several years later, when John Martin used it along with several other drinks to promote a relative newcomer to the American drinking scene—Smirnoff vodka. The rest is history and the future.
The Bloody Mary will vary with every bar and bartender. When you find one you like, ask for the ingredients. It is also a drink the home bartender continually experiments with “the morning after.”
It is no secret that the Bloody Mary is the quintessential “hair of the dog that bit you” and is presumed to be an antidote to a hangover. Brunch is therefore the most common time to mix a batch of Bloody Marys, especially since you probably overslept breakfast. It is equally a stimulating predinner drink. You may as well bite the dog before it bites you.
As much as we emphasize that all drink mixtures should be made fresh, the Bloody Mary is one rare exception, but only during a particular instance—when traveling by plane. Since you may want an in-flight cocktail, the Bloody Mary will supply you with a much-needed stimulant while providing nourishment. A can of Bloody Mary mix will have to suffice.
Horseradish or no horseradish? Celery salt, seeds, stalk, or none? These are the questions. Whatever your choice, build your Bloody Mary fresh. Experiment with vegetable juice as an alternative to tomato. In the best of all possible worlds, New York barman Dale DeGroff may have the best solution: a Bloody Mary buffet. Set out a large pitcher of tomato juice and a cold bottle of vodka. Then place any ingredient ever used to concoct a Bloody Mary next to the two, and encourage guests to make their own. Note that the Bloody Mary is not a vegetarian drink, because Worcestershire sauce has anchovies. Keeping that in mind, try a dash of clam juice.
Bloody Bull: Mix vodka with equal parts tomato juice and beef bouillon. Prepare as above, omitting the salt and celery salt.
Bloody Caesar: Substitute Clamato juice for the tomato juice, or mix tomato and clam juice.
Bloody Maria: Substitute tequila for the vodka.
Bullshot: Substitute beef bouillon for the tomato juice. Add only 1 dash each of Tabasco and Worcestershire.
Danish Mary (Hamlet’s Ghost): Substitute aquavit for the vodka, and caraway for the celery salt.