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The History of Bloody Mary
"The Cocktail"


The Bloody Mary is a cocktail consisting of a base of tomato juice and vodka. It is then seasoned with savory, usually a hot spicey ingredient, and lemon juice. Traditionaly garnished with celery stick but can also have, pickled beans and whatever your imagination can come up with.

The restorative properties of this drink have been widely touted especially the morning after a few too many.

I went to look for the origin of the Bloody Mary and the articles start out by warning the origin of the Bloody Mary Cocktail is complicated or murky as the tomato juice that inspired the drink.When I write about the history of a favorite food I like to have something a bit more concrete,

With a little searching and putting 2 and 2 together I believe I have found some things that show some good food history and serendipity that brought this delightful morning cocktail into the spotlight and then into our food ways still today.

Like most food origins there is a reason why a dish occurs. The time is ripe or necessity was the mother/cook of invention. I believe that the Bloody Mary was on that course.

2 beverages came on to the food scene, in the 1930's and they were bound to meet.


The Tomato juice cocktail

Tomato juice cocktail was popular as a choice for a first course on many menus in the U.S. becoming even more popular when prohibition started. In fact bartenders had some interesting recipes for Tomato Juice Cocktail including one that was shaken well with cottage cheese.

More a bout the Tomato Juice Cocktail


1934 from Gordon's Cocktail and Food Recipes


Vodka comes to America

Vodka gained popularity in the U.S. during the short period as allies with the Soviet Union after WW2.

Vladimir Smirnov took over his father's vodka company, fled Russia during the revolution and took up residence in France. There he popularized Vodka. He sold the rights to Heublin company famous for A-1 steak sauce and began to market this "White Whiskey" in America.. The tasteless spirit didn't catch on however until it was mixed. First the Moscow Mule that really took off and then the Bloody Mary.

Moscow Mule, half Vodka and half Ginger Beer, and traditionally seved in a frozen copper mug.

Vladimir Smirnov

Smirnoff Ad

You can read more about it here .....

The history of how vodka came to America

Like many products of the post war period they used a celebrity to advertise their product.
One of the actors Smirnoff used was singer, actor George Jessel and the new drink he came up with.he called
a "Bloody Mary"



I, George Jessel, invented the Bloody Mary.'

I think I invented the Bloody Mary, Red Snapper, Tomato Pickup or Morning Glory,' reports George Jessel. 'It happened the Night before a Day and I felt I should take some good, nourishing tomato juice, but what I really wanted was some of your good Smirnoff Vodka. So I mixed them together, the juice for the body and the vodka for the spirit, and if I wasn't the first ever, I was the happiest ever.

The Recipe: To a glass of the best tomato juice you can get add a jigger of mellow Smirnoff 80 proof. Season with worcestershire and serve ice cold."
---display ad, Smirnoff Vodka, New Yorker , September 24, 1955 (p. 98)


Comedian George Jessel

George Jessel with Milton Berle, Groucho Marx and other celebrities.


Fernand "Pete" Petoit

While Jessel may have stumbled on the tomato vodka mix It was Fernand "Pete Petoit. ..pronounced pe-TYOO...that undoubtedly popularized the drink. Pete bartended in the famous Harry's Bar in France and then came to America and was head bartender at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel where he served presidents and celebrities every day.

However when interviewed on the 18th of July in 1964 by the New Yorker "I initiated the Bloody Mary of today," he Told us. "George Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice a 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. We need a hundred to a hundred and fifty Bloody Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms. "

However on the King Cole Website they say that Pete Petoit in 1934
was asked by Serge Oblensky a famous Russian man and BigWig in New York to make a cocktail like
he had in Pariswith tomato juice and vodka. So Petoit spiced it up and it was a hit.!

However this contradicts what Petoit said himself about Jessel creating it and
he initiated it.


The King Cole Bar at the St Regis Hotel , New York, NY.

Post card of the St Regis Hotel mid century.


When Vincent Astor took over the family hotel he thought the name "Bloody Mary" was too vulgar a name for his elegant clientele, so they changed the name to "Red Snapper". It is rumored that Gin was used instead of Vodka which may have been hard to find until the 40's. However that is unlikely since so many recipes written in the 30's ask for vodka.

How did it get it's name Bloody Mary ?

No one knows for sure, but one belief is that it is named after. either Mary Tudor the Queen of England that executed so many protestants she became known by her adversaries as "Bloody Mary".

Since Hollywood was somewhat involved in the invention or promotion of this cocktail some say it was named after Mary Pickford.

George Jessel said that he named it after a friend named Mary that spilled the cocktail all over her nice white outfit. Read the whole Story here ...

Old Bucket of Blood Saloon Building siIn Chicago


Still others say that it was named after a cocktail waitress named Mary at "The Bucket of Blood Saloon" That got it's name from the bucket used to mop up blood and beer in this notorious bar after fights broke out.

What was the original recipe for The Bloody Mary?

From Pete Petoit
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. We need a hundred to a hundred and fifty Bloody Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms. "

When was the celery stick added?

The first mention of the celery stick was about 1960. Legend has it that they were out of swizzle sticks and so they used what they had for a stirrer.


Does the Bloody Mary really have Restorative Powers?

In the United States, the Bloody Mary is a common "Hair of the dog" drink, erroneously reputed to cure hangovers due to its combination of a heavy vegetable base (to settle the stomach), salt (to replenish lost electrolytes) and alcohol (to relieve head and body aches). However, the alcohol only numbs the discomfort; only rest, water, and electrolyte replacement can cure a hangover, and the amount of salt traditionally in a Bloody Mary is insufficient to have any real effect.[15][16][17][18][19] Its reputation as a restorative beverage contributes to the popularity of the Bloody Mary in the morning and early afternoon, especially with brunch. (Steve Gabarnio, The Bloody Makeover)

The famous author John Steinbeck also wrote about the healing properties of the Bloody Mary,

John Steinbeck would later describe its curative powers in terms that embrace the drink's ruddy name and appearance: 'It is elixir, it is pretty close to a transfusion.
"Pursuits; Food & Drink--How's Your Drink? Hold the Horseradish," Eric Felton, Wall Street Journal , March 2, 2007 (p. 9

Go Here for Some Bloody Mary Recipes through History
And some creative ideas to garnish your next cocktail!

The World I Live In  

George Jessel's story of the origin of the Bloody Mary

George Jessel in his autobiography entitled "The World I lived in!", 1975; says he created so the mix of vodka and tomato juice in 1927 in Palm Beach.

"In 1927, I was living in Palm Beach, or on a short visit, I do not remember Which, where nearly every year I captained softball team for a game against the elite of Palm Beach: such as the Woolworth Donohues, the Al Vanderbilts, the Reeves, and their ilk. My team was made ​​up of rag-tag New York cafe society. Because I Had Been around Broadway and baseball characters, I managed to slip in a ringer now and again. We Generally won.

"Following the game myself, and a guy named Elliott Sperver, playboy in Philadelphia, went to The Maze's and started swilling champagne. We were still going strong at 8:00 am the next morning. I had a date with 9:30 volleyball at Vanderbilt . I was feeling no pain at all. We tried everything to kill our hangovers and sober up. Then Charlie, the bartender, enjoying our plight, Reached behind the bar.

"'Here, Georgie, try this,' he said, holding up a dusty bottle I had never seen before. 'They call it vodkee. We've had it for six years and LifeTips ever asked for it ....'

"I Looked at it, sniffed it. It was pretty pungent and smelled like rotten potatoes. 'Hell, what have we got to lose? Get me some Worcestershire sauce, some tomato juice, and lemon; That ought to kill the smell,' The Commanded Charlie. I also remembered That Constance Talmadge, destined to be my future sister-in-law, always used to drink something with tomatoes in it to clear her head the next morning and it always worked - at least for her.

"'We've tried everything else, boys, we might as well try this,' I said as I started mixing the ingredients in a large glass. After a few cheesy taken quaffs, we all started to feel a little better. The mixture Seemed to knock out the butterflies.

"Just at that moment, Mary Brown Warburton Walked in. A member of the Philadelphia branch of the Wanamaker department store family, she liked to be around show business people and later had a fling with Ted Healey, the comic. She Had Been obviously out Because all night she was still dressed in a beautiful white evening dress. 'Here, Mary, take a taste of this and see what you think of it.' Just as she did, she spilled some down the front of her white evening gown, Took one look at the mess, and laughed, 'Now, you can call me Bloody Mary, George!'

"From That Day to this, the concoction I put together at The Maze's has Remained a Bloody Mary with very few variations. Charlie pushed it every morning when" the gang "was under the weather. Now, about a year later, the benefits for Joe E. Lewis was to be held at the Oriental Theater and I was sitting in my hotel room with Ted Healey before leaving for the theater. Ted, as usual, was slightly inebriated. He happened to pick up a copy of a Chicago paper and read an item in Winchell's column. It said That I had named the Bloody Mary after Ted's then steady girl, Mary Brown Warburton.

"Ted turned white. 'What the hell are you doing making a pass at my girl, you son of a bitch,' he yelled. And just as he did, he pulled out a pistol and tried to shoot me. I ducked and the shot missed, but as the pistol went off within at foot of my right ear, I was completely deaf for a week. I had a hell of a job doing the benefits That Night. "

Between the two protagonists of this story, some traces dated 1939, would give the favorite George Jessel.
Two newspaper articles of which always that dated December 2, 1939 was written by Lucius Beebe, author of the cookbook of 1946 "The Stork Club Bar Book"; first field manual describing and naming the "Bloody Mary".


Everything in the Bar

The Bloody History of the Bloody Mary

Oxford Dictionary of Food and Drink.

The King Cole Bar

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