The History of the Bloody Mary Cocktail

  • 12th October 2018

The Bloody Mary cocktail has undergone something of a revival of late. The ultimate hangover cure, this is a dangerous cocktail to drink, since the tomato juice can often mask the taste of the alcohol. Before you know it, you are drunker than you intended to be and with a hangover that another Bloody Mary cant cure!

Who Created the Bloody Mary?

The most likely creator of the Bloody Mary cocktail is bartender Fernand Petiot.  He originally claimed to have invented the drink in 1921 when working at the New York bar in Paris. At first, the drink consisted of only tomato juice and vodka – equal measures of each.

However, his story changed slightly later on. He was head-hunted for a job in New York at the 21 Club. Petiot then insisted that he created the drink in 1934, after George Jessel had laid claim to it. Jessel was a regular at the 21 Club in New York and is said to have made the drink in 1939. Upon hearing this news, Petiot back-tracked slightly, saying that Jessel may have introduced the vodka and tomato juice, but that he had turned it into the drink we know and love today. Adding a layer of black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and ice gave the drink that extra dimension which Petiot is keen to be remembered for.

Meanwhile, Henry Zbikiewic, a bartender at the 21 Club, also lays claim to the drink and is thought to have invented it in the 1930s. As with any classic cocktail, there is always more than one story, so it is up to you to decide who you believe!

What’s In A Name?

The story of the name is just as complicated. Some historians believe that the cocktail was named after the famous British monarch, Queen Mary, who was responsible for killing over 300 protestants during her short reign. The name was thought to be a sort of dark joke, poking fun at Europe, which was struggling with war at the time.

Others think that it was an ode to a barmaid he liked at the Bucket of Blood nightclub in Chicago. Obviously, her name was Mary.

What is clear, however, is that when Petiot first started serving this drink, it was actually known as a Red Snapper. This name has stuck in some establishments, so keep an eye out for it in order to get your tomato juice fix!

If you are more inclined to believe that Jessel invented the drink, then there is a different story regarding the name! The tale is that Jessel and his friends were often trying out new cures for their stinking hangovers. On one morning, one his friends handed him a new spirit, known as Vodka. With nothing to lose, except for a terrible headache, Jessel directed his friend to bring him some Worcester sauce, lemon juice and tomato juice in an effort to kill the smell. The drink seemed to do the trick, and the group enjoyed a few cocktails before their other friend, Mary Brown Warburton walked in. She took one sip of the drink and then spilt it down her white dress. She was named Bloody Mary thereon after, and the drink gained the same name.

So who can really lay claim to the recipe and the name? I suggest we mull this over a few Bloody Mary cocktails! Bring on the tomato juice!