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Cocktail Hour: History Gives Bloody Mary A New Take

The Bloody Bull. Credit: The Lanesborough Hotel, London

The Bloody Bull. Credit: The Lanesborough Hotel, London

An arranged marriage between vodka and tomato juice, infinitely customizable with an assortment of stalk-like accoutrements, the Bloody Mary is thought to have been created shortly after World War I. An unknown American bartender in Paris usually gets the credit for creatively availing himself of some of the first tins of tomato juice imported from the United States.

The original recipe did not contain booze. Bartender Fernand Petiot at The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar in 1934 added vodka to tomato juice and came up with the name. It was apparently inspired by a bar regular named Mary, left waiting for her man while nursing one of Petiot’s tomato cocktails. Bar Mary’s plight was likened to that of England’s Queen Mary I, and thus the Bloody Mary was born.

The name was considered a little racy, so Petiot improvised a new version of the Bloody Mary with gin and called it a Red Snapper. But once Smirnoff vodka took America by storm in the 1960s, making vodka more mainstream, the Bloody Mary roared again.

It has a reputation as a hangover remedy, and the Bloody Mary is abidingly good after a big night out thanks to the richness of the tomato juice, which also provides acidity. Spice comes from the traditional Tabasco, though some bartenders prefer Louisiana hot sauce, horseradish or other concoctions of their own.

Themes on the classic Bloody Mary abound, and in honor of its history, each St. Regis hotel has its own signature Bloody Mary. The luxurious Lanesborough Hotel in London, part of the St. Regis family, makes one with fresh yellow tomato juice and rosemary-infused vodka. In Kauai, the Aloha Mary is a blend of organic Hawaiian vodka, Clamato juice, wasabi, Sriracha and local guava wood-smoked sea salt, garnished with sea asparagus. For this week’s recipe, master barman Tony Abou-Ganim provides a very spicy take on the old classic, the Bloody Bull, thought to have originated in New Orleans.

Bloody Bull

Courtesy Tony Abou-Ganim, “Vodka Distilled”

Serves 1


2 ounces vodka, preferably one made from rye or mixed grain

2 ounces tomato juice

2 ounces beef bouillon

½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

Pinch of kosher salt

Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper


1. Place all ingredients into a mixing glass.

2. Add ice and roll contents between mixing glass and shaker tin until well mixed.

3. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.

4. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

Top photo: The Bloody Bull. Credit: The Lanesborough Hotel, London

Zester Daily contributor Virginie Boone is a Sonoma Valley-based wine writer. She has reported on the Northern California wine scene for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and its affiliate food and wine magazine, Savor, and is a contributing reviewer of California wines for Wine Enthusiast.

  • Joe 9·16·13

    Tabasco *is* Louisiana hot sauce.