MIGHTY CULTURE

The bloody history of the Bloody Mary cocktail

It's probably not a surprise that "Bloody Mary" is a real person, also known as Mary I of England, who earned her moniker for violently attempting to restore Catholicism to England. In her five-year reign, she had almost 300 religious dissenters burned alive for their beliefs. But that's not how the cocktail earned its name. The bloody part of the drink actually comes from the Russian Revolution.

Sorry folks, there's just not much blood when burning someone at the stake.


Simpsons did it.

After the Bolsheviks – Marxist-Leninists who would soon form the Soviet Union – toppled the Russian Czar in 1917, not everyone was particularly thrilled. In fact, many people were so not thrilled that they were forced to flee in fear of taking a bullet for the Soviet cause. One of those refugees was Vladimir Smirnov, who had a name so Russian, you might think I'm making it up. I'm not. The young Smirnov had his entire family fortune taken away by the Red Army.

If that name sounds familiar to you, you're onto something – Smirnov moved to the Ottoman Empire, Poland, and France where he began making vodka under the more Western-friendly spelling of his name, Smirnoff.

You definitely know that name.

The Bloody Mary as we know it today has its roots in Paris, where Russians escaping the bloody revolution in Moscow made their way around 1920. With them came vodka and a thirst for it, so a bartender at a New York-style bar called Henry's began to toy around with this newfangled liquor. Ferdinand "Pete" Petiot didn't think it tasted like much at all. Another fresh new flavor the bartender discovered was America's newfound love for canned tomato juice. Petiot wasn't the first to put the two together, not by far. But he did mix the spices into the drink for the first time. And the "Bucket of Blood" was born.

Americans loved it and christened it the perfect hangover cure. When Prohibition ended in the United States, Petiot moved to New York and began slinging drinks at the St. Régis Hotel's King Cole Bar. But then it was called the "Red Snapper," and its vodka was steeped in Black Peppercorns for six weeks before serving.

After all the drinking they did after Prohibition, they were probably hungover for a year.

But the rest of the town called it a Bloody Mary. When they started isn't exactly clear. When it gained its celery garnish isn't either. If they had thought of putting bacon in it, they probably would have. These days, there are many variations on the classic cocktail, but when you want something done right, you need to go to an expert. If you need plumbing work, call a plumber. The power goes out, call an electrician. If you need advice on how to make a drink, ask Papa Hemingway:

"To make a pitcher of Blood Marys (any similar amount is worthless) take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold. (This to prevent too rapid melting and watering of our product.) Mix a pint of good Russian vodka and an equal amount of chilled tomato juice. Add a tablespoon full of Worchester Sauce. Lea and Perrins is usual but can use AI or any good beef-steak sauce. Stir. (with two rs) Then add a jigger of fresh squeezed lime juice. Stirr. Then add small amounts of celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Keep on stirring and taste to see how it is doing. If you get it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka."