The History of the Bloody Mary

Published On March 18, 2013 | By Brian Samuels | Cocktails, History of Mixology, Vodka

Everyone has their definition of what makes the perfect Bloody Mary.  Some folks think it needs to be peppery.  Some like to add in a splash of clam juice (I know, I know…it sounds kind of gross, but it’s actually quite good).  And then there’s the topic of garnishes: celery, olives, pickled green beans or asparagus, hot peppers…pretty much anything your heart desires.

But here’s the thing. In my opinion, the perfect Bloody Mary is a well-balanced one.  Seeing that this drink is often consumed after a night of partying, it should have just enough booze to take the edge off without actually getting you wasted.  There should be a good kick of black pepper and a zip from the lemon juice. Garnishes should be present, but they should not be overpowering (if you go to a restaurant and they load your glass with a ton of veggies, it probably means there’s not much in the way of vodka).

Since I’ve already explained a bit about what the drink is, let’s get straight to the history.

What’s the story behind the Bloody Mary?

The origins are a bit murky, but here’s what it looks like: the foundation of the drink was first created by Vaudeville actor George Jessel, who would mix together tomato juice and vodka.  However, the Bloody Mary we know of today was created at Harry’s Bar in Paris in 1920 at the request of Vladimir Smirnov, the successor of the Smirnoff Vodka Distillery.  This spiced up version came from bartender, Fernand Petiot. Here’s a quote from a 1964 article in The New Yorker from Petiot on the matter of who created the Bloody Mary:

“George Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over. I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour.”

The Bloody Mary has undergone a lot of makeovers over the years…but no matter how you serve it, it’s bound to be tasty.

Brian Samuels is Managing Editor at The Boys Club and blogger at A Thought For Food.

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About The Author

Brian Samuels
is the man that keeps this club running. He is a co-founder and Editor in Chief of The Boys Club and blogger at A Thought for Food. Brian on twitter @myfoodthoughts.

5 Responses to The History of the Bloody Mary

  1. Pingback: Bloody Mary - A Thought For Food

  2. Stacey says:

    I need one good recipe for a Bloody Mary – and this will be it. :)

  3. Carola Pince says:

    Cooks use the terms “horseradish” or “prepared horseradish” to refer to the grated root of the horseradish plant mixed with vinegar. Prepared horseradish is white to creamy-beige in colour. It will keep for months refrigerated but eventually will darken, indicating it is losing flavour and should be replaced. The leaves of the plant, while edible, are not commonly eaten, and are referred to as “horseradish greens”.;

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  4. Aidan says:

    If George Jessel created the foundation for the drink in Chicago in the 1930-40s how can you say that the drink as we know it was created by Petiot at the request of Smirnov in the 1920s? Based on the article from the 1960s Petiot says that he did take the drink from Jessel and make it what it now and he therefore could not have come up with the drink until circa 1940

  5. Pingback: The Bloody Mary - The Unexpected Traveller

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