At the Byrd House, we make the best Bloody Mary’s around, hands down. However, we did not invent it. We just perfected it. That being said, where did the drink come from one might ask? The Bloody Mary’s origin is unclear, and there are multiple conflicting claims of who invented the Bloody Mary. However, one of the most credible claims comes from a man named Fernand Petiot.
Fernand Petiot, a bartender in Paris, claimed to have invented the Bloody Mary in 1921. He was working at the New York Bar in Paris at the time, which later became Harry’s New York Bar, a frequent hangout for Ernest Hemingway and other American expatriates, when Petiot spoke to The New Yorker magazine in July 1964, he said:
“I initiated the Bloody Mary of today but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I did. I covered 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 serve a hundred to a hundred and fifty Bloody Mary’s a day”
The name “Bloody Mary” is associated with a number of historical figures—particularly Queen Mary I of England. Some drink aficionados believe the inspiration for the name was Hollywood star Mary Pickford. Others trace the name to a waitress named Mary who worked at a Chicago bar called the Bucket of Blood. However, another argument for the origin of “Bloody Mary”, is that the name in English simply arose from “a failure to pronounce the Slav syllables of a drink called Vladimir” gains some credibility from the observation that the customer at Harry’s Bar in Paris for whom Fernand Petiot prepared the drink in 1921 was Vladimir Smirnov himself, of the Smirnoff vodka family.
We know the drink as one that is a common “Hair of the dog” drink, reputed by some to cure hangovers. Its reputation as a restorative beverage contributes to the popularity of the Bloody Mary in the morning and early afternoon, especially with brunch.
The drink is traditionally served over ice in a tall glass, such as a highball, flared pint or hurricane glass. The two critical ingredients, vodka and tomato juice, are relatively simple; however, the drink almost never consists of these two ingredients alone. Among the more common additions to the juice base are salt or celery salt (either mixed in or as a salted rim), cracked pepper, hot sauce (such as Tabasco), citrus juices (especially lemon or lime), Worcestershire sauce, celery seed, horseradish, clam juice or olive brine, brown sugar or molasses and bitters. A common garnish is a celery stalk when served in a tall glass; other common garnishes include olives, cheese cubes, a dill pickle spear, lemon wedges, dried sausage, and shrimp (as the taste of the drink is often reminiscent of shrimp cocktail sauce).
There is a considerable amount of variation available in the drink’s construction and presentation including the use of different base spirits like bourbon, rye, tequila and gin. In addition to the aforementioned, more traditional ingredients, practically anything can be added to the drink itself or as a garnish according to the drinker’s wishes or the bartender’s or establishment’s traditions. Some variations of the Bloody Mary are designed to be a meal as well as a drink, coming with massive “garnishes” on skewers inserted into the glass, including ribs, miniature hamburger “sliders”, grilled or fried shrimp, kebabs, sandwich wedges, fruit slices, and even sashimi. The drink itself can be served in any of a variety of glasses, from wine glasses to schooners or beer steins, according to tradition or availability. It is a tradition in the upper Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin, to serve a Bloody Mary with a small beer chaser.
Our bartenders are the best in Western New York. They are well trained, experienced and in high demand. They can make a mean Bloody. Of course, on Sundays for brunch, you can make your own with their help and our Bloody Mary bar.
Remember, Sunday brunches are served from 10:00am to 2:00pm with a whole wealth of options ranging from Eggs Benedict to Steak and Eggs and much, much more. However, when you come next time, you come bearing more knowledge about the Bloody Mary and it’s history.