The Secret Origins of the Bloody Mary

on 26/02/14 at 10:21 am

Booze News

bloodymary_OBFrom Prohibition, Paris, and something called a “Bucket of Blood,” to Hemingway, and your hangover.

When you think of the few “classic” cocktails that bartenders even know how to make anymore, none has a more storied past than the Bloody Mary, this year celebrating its 80th birthday. In fact, if it weren’t for the 18th Amendment and the Russian Revolution there would be no Bloody Mary.

While its original name and recipe may be disputed, its birthplace is not—except by one man, Colin Field of the Hemingway Bar at The Ritz Hotel in Paris, who happens to be the world’s best bartender but who refuses to believe the Bloody Mary originated around the corner at Harry’s New York Bar at 5 Rue Danou.

Harry’s (which is in no way associated with Harry’s Bar in Venice) opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1911 by Harry MacElhone after an American jockey had a New York bar dismantled and shipped to Paris. This novelty of a New York-style bar became such a welcoming destination for liquor-starved Americans during Prohibition that they learned to tell the Parisian taxi drivers “Sank Roo Doe Noo!”—which for a long time now has been painted on the bar’s window.

Around 1920, émigrés escaping the Russian Revolution began arriving in Paris, bringing with them vodka and caviar, so Harry’s bartender, Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot, began experimenting with the new spirit, which he found tasteless. At the same time Petiot was introduced to American canned tomato juice, which back in the dry days of Prohibition was called a “tomato juice cocktail” on menus.

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