The Bloody Mary


During the Prohibition, alcohol would be illegal, and so people would try to mask their drinks with various other ingredients.  The Bloody Mary is a drink that exemplifies that thought process really well, despite the fact that the drink is one which has little to do with the Prohibition.

“When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Calais’ lying in my heart.”

Queen Mary I of England
Queen Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII of the Tudor Dynasty, was a tyrant in English history, causing conflict mainly on account of religious differences: at the time that she ascended to the throne, after the death of Edward VI, England had adopted the Anglican Church.  Mary, a devout Catholic, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, wanted to restore Catholicism to the English people, and so earned her nickname as Bloody Mary for executing and burning many people who were classified as heretics.  Mary increased antagonism between her and her subjects when she married Philip II of Spain, most likely on account of the fact that Spain and England at that time had a not so steady relationship, probably partially due to amicable relations between Portugal and England.  Upon the death of Mary, Elizabeth, who would be considered one of the greatest Monarchs, ascended to the throne.

One of the major blunders of Mary’s reign, was the loss of Calais, a part of France, which would be the last English possession in France; she would lose this when Philip II encouraged her to join in his war against France.  Interesting, since the origin of the Bloody Mary is that it originates most probably from the mind of Fernand Petiot while he was working at the New York Bar in Paris (DeGroff 146).  Later, Petiot, when he would work at the Savoy in London, was invited to go to the St. Regis Hotel’s King Cole Bar in New York in 1933, where he would make the drink with gin, since Vodka was rather difficult to find in New York; as such the drink would be called the Red Snapper (Ibid).  The popularity of the vodka Bloody Mary would come a little over a decade later, thanks to the Efforts of John Martin.  If you remember, Martin of Smirnoff, was a marketing genius who played great roles in the popularization of Moscow Mule, and the “shaken, vodka” Martini (Ibid).

There is contention in where the cocktail originated from, and whether or not George Jessel was the original creator, instead of Petiot.  Petiot once said, that “George Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over” (Ibid).  Regardless of who it originated from, the other big argument in the ethos of the cocktail is how to garnish and flavor it: the three basic ingredients are always the same, but people will mix in their own various spices to construct a cocktail suiting their own taste.  Horseradish is one of the big points of contention, and while it does add to the cocktail, too much will overpower the drink and damage the flavors overall.  Yet, black pepper, celery salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco are somewhat staples now a days; the question is how much of each to utilize.  Sometimes, people will do their own twists on the cocktail: I have seen it with pepperocini’s, which add an interesting slight brine flavor to the drink, and I have seen it also with Ancho chili powder, which is what Robert Hess does (Hess).

Since this cocktail is one that, like most Highballs, tries to hide the alcohol behind a non alcoholic mixer, the point of the drink is to create a drink where the alcohol is barely noticeable.  As such, when making the cocktail, technique is really important.  The drink is one that you must never shake, since it damages the overall flavors found in the drink, by making the Tomato juice frothy and less sweet (Ibid).  As such the drink is one that should be rolled back and forth: to roll a cocktail is to pour the mixture between two glasses several times to mix the drink.  If you do shake the drink, you may damage the juice, and thus it becomes a lot thinner than it would be otherwise.  When mixing the drink, in order to dilute the alcohol, and make it even less noticeable, one should shake the alcohol by itself with some ice hard and quickly.  In doing this, you create fine bubbles in the vodka, as well as diluting it which tames the fiery burn of the alcohol.  This principle is one of the fundamentals of Kazuo Ueda’s hard shake: “the bubbles [which appear from shaking] act as a cushion preventing one’s tongue from direct contact with the harshness of the ingredients and liquor, leading to a smoother taste” (Ueda).  Yet, some people point out the cocktail should be built, rather than rolled, which disturbs the tomato juice even less (CocktailDB). 

The drink has many variations not only in the ingredients, but also the base liquor.  For instance, there is the Ruddy Mary, which features gin instead of vodka, or the Bloody Maria, which uses tequila (Wikipedia).  Essentially, this is a cocktail to revive and awaken the drinker, with the natural sweetness of the tomato juice, while hiding the alcohol, and yet giving it a little zing from the various spices inside the cocktail. The cocktail works really well this way, and functions nicely as a refreshing cooler during the summer months, or as a nice full bodied drink to go with a little food when a full meal is not necessary.

The Bloody Mary:

2 ounces vodka
4 ounces tomato juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Celery salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste
1 to 2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 to 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Horseradish, optional

Take the vodka, and shake it alone with ice until it is chilled.  Strain into a mixing glass.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Pour the mixture between the mixing glass and another one, back and forth, several times.  Strain the mixture into a chilled highball glass filled with ice, and garnish with a celery stick, and a lemon or lime wedge, if desired.


CocktailDB: The Internet Cocktail Database. “Bloody Mary.” (accessed April 13, 2010).

DeGroff, Dale. 2008. The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

Hess, Robert.  The Cocktail Spirit by Robert Hess.  “Bloody Mary.” Small Screen Network. (accessed April 13, 2010).

Ueda, Kazuo.  “Making the Greatest Cocktail.”  Cocktail Academy. (accessed March 1, 2010).

Wikipedia contributors. “Bloody Mary (cocktail).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. (accessed April 13, 2010).