Who killed the Bloody Mary?

Contributed by Scott Coscia

I’m a child of the 70’s.  Anybody else remember the time?  It was one of the first real times in American history where hedonism was considered a cool thing, and my parents adopted the philosophy as best as they could.  They would throw parties and instead of illicit substances (Dad was a member of the law enforcement community,) the booze would flow freely.

I can remember staying up past my bed time and asking Mom who was loosened up by liquid refreshment, for a sip of her cocktail.  Her drink of choice was the spiced tomato juice cocktail known as The Bloody Mary.  It was a simple recipe, Gordon’s Vodka, and Mr. And Mrs. T’s Blood Mary Mix, pour over ice and garnish with a lemon.

The sips I would take hooked me, and hooked me hard.  No my parents weren’t contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  For me it was all about the taste, and nothing about the alcohol.  As time progressed, I would ask for my own Mary, but mine was of the virgin variety.  Heck I couldn’t order tomato juice in a diner without putting salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon in it.

When I became an adult my romance with the drink did not end.  Sundays would be the day I would make my own, but it wasn’t over brunch or anything like that.  This was before football where I would make a big pot of chili to create my own indoor tailgating experience.  It was a manly experience.  I would fool around with different mixtures and spices like a mad scientist till I came up with the perfect mixture.  I found the formula that I found to be ideal, but more on that later.

I would order them when I was out, and couldn’t find many that I found to be anywhere near as good as my own.  I found that most places would try and substitute heat for flavor.  They would make their own mix, but add too much horseradish, or make Tabasco the main component of the mix.  I never forget one particular bistro added so much that I thought I was drinking the hot pepper sauce on the rocks.  I could not even taste the vodka.  For a moment I thought that somebody was playing a joke on me, but this was way before that skinny guy with the trucker hats had his show on MTV, and I wasn’t famous anyhow.

As much as I remember the bad, I remember the good.  The Oak Room at The Plaza was known for their Blood Mary’s; I was especially impressed with the fact that they garnished each one with a jumbo shrimp.  I remember vividly that a particular Applebee’s in Staten Island had the perfect mixture of zesty tomato, tangy citrus, bold spice and after bite of vodka.  Don’t go trying to find the drink again.  I have since been back and the mix is like every other chain restaurant’s version…just lacking.

I still order them to this day.  On a trip to the carnivore’s mecca, Peter Luger’s, I ordered one while everybody had ordered the local Brooklyn Lager.  People looked at me, and I responded “It’s like an appetizer drink.”  I guess that can best describe how I feel about the drink.  It’s great to start things off, but would you really make a meal out of clam’s casino?  Could you imagine the acid reflux after a night of pounding spicy tomato juice?

There are many variations of the drink.  Unlike the Cosmo, and the Perfect Manhattan, you will find different recipes for the drink in different bartending manuals.  Its history is also in dispute; the common story is that it was started in Paris by an American ex-pat named Fernand Petoit at Harry’s New York Bar.  I’ve heard that it was created in a roadside bar in Texas but it was made with beer.

The variations of the drink are as diverse as the people who drink it.  I’ve heard of the Blood Maria made with tequila, the Bloody Bull which is made with the addition of beef stock, the Bloody Miho which substitutes wasabi for horseradish, and the unbeknownst to me why it was ever conceived, the Blood Caesar which was made with Clamato.  I’ve sampled the Salsa Mary, which doesn’t leave much mystery as to how it got its name, and the Red Snapper which is made with Gin. Which seems like the origin of its name came from the color coupled with the snap you get at the end of drinking any gin based beverage.

I am a purist and find vodka to be the only liquor that should be mixed with tomato juice.  As far as what liquor I use, I find that any old vodka will suffice, whether it be Popov, Mr. Boston, or Grey Goose.  I like my martini’s made with Grey Goose, but to save money, the house vodka suffices.  In a Bloody Mary, you don’t know the difference between the vodkas because the other ingredients are so powerful.  The only major difference is how you feel after consuming many of them.  I’ve found the better the vodka, the lesser the hang over, but subsequently the lighter my wallet.

As to answer the title of who killed The Bloody Mary?  I will hark back to the 70’s when I respond in a Clue like answer:  It was the The Sex in The City crowd, in the trendy lounge with the Mojito.  I guess spilled tomato juice is just too tough to get out of Prada.

Here is my recipe for the Perfect Bloody Mary:

1 oz. vodka, any kind
1 bottle Mc Ilhenny and Co. Tabasco brand Bloody Mary Mix
1 bottle Hot Sauce
Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon Chopped Horseradish
Stalk of celery
½ lemon cut into two pieces
½ lime cut into two pieces

Fill a tall glass ¾ with ice.
Add vodka.
Fill the glass a little from the top with the Bloody Mary Mix.
Add hot pepper sauce taste.
Add horseradish.
Squeeze one piece of lemon and one piece of lime into drink.
Shake in generous amounts of Old Bay.
Stir with a spoon and garnish with celery stalk, lemon and lime.

Notes: Some say use tomato juice as opposed to a mixer. Tabasco makes a quality mixer, but it does need some doctoring.

Some recommend shaking, but I have found that if shaken too much, the drink can take on a carbonated effect.  Any hot pepper based sauce will work, but you want to avoid anything that cuts down the heat with fruit.  I like a brand called Yucatan Sunshine which uses carrots to lessen the burn of the habaneros.