Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Bloody Mary

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Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Bloody Mary

Look up the history of this iconic drink and you'll find varying accounts of how the Bloody Mary became an American classic. Louis Perrin first served tomato juice as a beverage around 1917 when he purportedly ran out of orange juice and needed a quick substitute. But it’s widely agreed that the forerunner of the Bloody Mary was first created in the late 1920s by the Parisian bartender Fernand Petiot. Find out more about this drink’s fascinating history.

Petiot's original Parisian cocktail was at some point named the Bloody Mary but numerous conflicting reports have second-guessed the name's true origin.  The most persistent tale reports that the drink was named after a girl named Mary who worked at a bar called the Bucked of Blood in Chicago.  The drink's moniker has also been linked to Hollywood star Mary Pickford as well as the original Bloody Mary, Queen Mary I.  Whatever its etymology, once Petiot arrived in New York he decided to refer to his updated spicy version of the drink as the Red Snapper, and to this day the cocktail served at the King Cole Bar in New York retains its Snapper title.  It is generally acknowledged, however, that the names Bloody Mary and Red Snapper are used interchangeably to refer to the same drink.

The standard recipe for the Bloody Mary is 3 parts vodka to 6 parts tomato juice and 1 part lemon juice.  The use and proportion of spices and other additions such as Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and celery salt tend to be based on personal choice, which means that there are many different Bloody Mary variations as there are types of tomato.  Essentially, the Bloody Mary has evolved into a cocktail with incredible complexity and variety, ranging from a light and delicate aperitif-style version like the Belvedere Bloody Mary Martini, to the meal-in-a-glass Mary that calls for beef bouillon or beef consommé in place of the tomato juice itself.  The development of experimental cooking techniques has also factored texture and flavor delivery into the evolution of this drink.  In particular, the Connaught Hotel in London serves a stunning Belvedere Citrus Bloody Mary with Celery Salt Air.  This cocktail really captures the deep, earthy characteristics of a homemade tomato juice that balances this with an ephemeral foam of celery salt that both serves to lift the fresh, citrus notes of the vodka and introduce an interesting and unique take on the traditional celery salt rim.  

Made correctly, the Bloody Mary is a cocktail with astonishing intensity and flavor and as such is a perfect vehicle for more creative methods of presentation.  For its celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Red Snapper (aka the Bloody Mary) this October, the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel will be serving an assortment of styles and variations of this esteemed classic, and I for one cannot wait to try them all.  I'm particularly looking forward to chef Wylie Duresne's WF-50 Bloody Mary and Steve Olson's Bloody Maria.  Hope to see you there.


Interesting facts about the humble tomato:

The "Deadly" Tomato:

The tomato was originally a native of Mesoamerica, cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas.  In 1519, Cortez found it growing in Montezuma's gardens, and it became part of the culinary bounty brought back to Spain (along with chocolate and turkeys) by the 16th-century conquistadors.  Most of Europe embraced the fruit, but the British believed it to be poisonous as tomatoes are part of the deadly nightshade family, the leaves of which are indeed poisonous if consumed in large quantities.

After five centuries of breeding, there are thousands of varieties of tomatoes in a vast array of shapes, colors and sizes.  The most common tomato types in the Unites States are rounded beefsteak and globe varieties, the pear-shaped Roma and plum tomatoes, and the miniature cherry and grape tomatoes.

Far from being poisonous, tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which seems to have an ability to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, according to medical research.  Tomatoes also contain antioxidants like Vitamin C and carotenoids (including beta carotene), which are believed to provide protection from free radicals that cause premature aging, cancer, heart disease, and cataracts.

Tomatoes are low in calories (about 35 for a medium tomato) but proportionately high in sugar - a corresponding 8 grams.  The juice is naturally low in sodium (one cup has 1% of the recommended daily intake) and zero fat.  It is also a good source of copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, and Vitamin K, and a very good source of folate potassium, and vitamins A, B6, and C.

Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The tomato that we eat is indeed the fruit of the tomato plant, and so, scientifically speaking, it is a fruit.  It is developed from the dry, ripened ovary in the base of a flower, and contains the seed(s) of the plant (though some cultivated tomatoes may be seedless).  It can be even further classified as a berry, since it is pulpy and has edible seeds.

Science notwithstanding, on May 10, 1893, tomatoes were declared a vegetable by the United States Supreme Court.  At the time, there were import tariffs on vegetables but not on fruits, yet tomatoes were still being taxed.  In 1887, an importing company had sued the tax collector of the Port of New York to recover duties collected on their tomatoes, which they claimed had been wrongfully classified as vegetables.  The court decided that the tariff act should be based "in common language of people," not botanists, so tomatoes should be taxed like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets et al.²

St. Regis Bloody Mary Recipes

Belvedere IX Snapper

2 oz Belvedere IX

3 oz premium tomato juice

5 drops Tabasco

5 ml lemon juice

10 ml Worcestershire sauce

2-3 drops ginger concentrate (pressed fresh ginger)

1 pinch salt

Roll ingredients and pour into a tall glass over cubed ice.

Garnish with a slice of lemon and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Belvedere Intense Deconstructed Mary

1.5 oz Belvedere Intense

4.5 ml fino sherry

Stir ingredients and pour into a tulip glass over ice. 

Add lemon twist, and discard the zest. 


2 oz Belvedere Intense

5 ml fino sherry

Stir ingredients and pour into a martini glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Side serve of:

Spiced/smoked red pepper agar:

2 or 3 red peppers

50 ml water

5.5 g agar

10 ml lemon juice

1 g smoked paprika

Cold-press 2-3 red peppers (approx 100 ml juice comes from 1 pepper) until you have 220 ml. In a small pot bring to a boil the 50 ml water, 5.5 g agar, and 50 ml of the pepper juice. Keep stirring over heat for 1 minute. Take the mixture off heat and let it sit for 1 minute. In the meantime, combine the remaining pepper juice with 10 ml lemon juice and 1 g smoked paprika and blend with a hand blender. Finally, combine both mixtures in a container and chill in the fridge. 

Celery salt foam:

400 g water

8 g celery salt

50 g lemon juice

20 g simple syrup

1.5 g lecithin

Combine all the ingredients in a shallow container. Blend with a hand blender for 1 minute. Continue to blend the surface of the liquid to create a foam. Let this foam set for 2 minutes and scoop.

To serve:

Alongside drink, on a Chinese spoon, serve a cube of red pepper agar with a scoop of celery salt foam on top, careful not to fully cover the agar cube.

Belvedere Bloody Mary Sorbet:

20 oz Belvedere Citrus

15 oz lemon juice

21 oz tomato juice

35 oz white sugar

50 oz grams water

Spicy mix to taste (shouldn't need more than 2 oz)

Heat the water. When the water reaches 110/120°F, pour in the sugar. Stir and bring mixture up to 185°F, remove from heat, and allow to cool. Add the lemon juice, tomato juice, spicy mix, and Belvedere Citrus to the syrup, blend well, and place in your ice cream machine.


¹ Anne Hattes.  "Tomato Juice."  Relish, Aug. 2009

² http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/MAIN/beverages/juices/best-tomato-juice-knudsens3.asp


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