Harry MacElhone’s ABC Of Mixing Cocktails is widely acknowledged as the go-to book for authentic mixology. Harry MacElhone was the owner of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris – a firm favourite with the Hemingway crowd – and either personally created or offered some of the earliest cocktails, many of which have become enduring classics.
The Bloody Mary is such a drink. Although at least three people have laid claim to inventing the drink, the story that’s most credible is that the Bloody Mary as we know it today was created by Fernand ‘Pete’ Petiot, a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1921. A man named George Jessell is one of the bartenders who claimed to have mixed vodka with tomato juice for the first time, but it’s Petiot that first mixed it with lemon juice, Tabasco sauce and salt (tomato juice in the Twenties was sold without salt having been added, unlike today) to give us the basis of the drink that’s become a staple hangover cure today. (There are some decent arguments for why the antioxidants in the ingredients make this the best hair of the dog out there, but sadly received scientific wisdom would argue that nothing’s better than water to overcome the night before’s shenanigans.)
Petiot claims he first prepared the drink for two Chicagoans who had visited Harry’s Bar, and the name stemmed from them wistfully recalling a bar back home called The Bucket Of Blood and a specific waitress called Mary who worked there. Others have claimed it was named after Queen Mary. We’ll never know for sure, but we can be assured that the addition of spice – principally to please the American palate – was every bit as inspired a move as mixing tomato juice and vodka in the first place.
Although variations of Bloody Marys are now ten a penny, Petiot’s original recipe which is included in MacElhone’s ABC Of Mixing Cocktails is firm on one divisive ingredient: ‘above all no celery salt’. Thus he would turn in his grave at the Blood On The Snow – named after a track from Snow Globe – which not only includes the offending inclusion but also horseradish sauce.
Unfaithful to a proper Petiot Mary it might be, but this is a drink that deals well with extra spices, and so adding that alongside Tabasco and worcestershire sauce still makes for a great drink, even if drinking lumpy horseradish sauce takes a bit of getting used to. I’m with Petiot and MacElhone on this one though – you can keep your celery salt. And if you find the idea of drinking vodka with brunch the next day a little hard to justify (poor, poor you), ditch that and prepare it as a virgin version – you won’t notice its omission through the spice.
(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence