When you’ve had a bit too much fun in London the night before, there’s nothing more restorative than a Bloody Mary. It’s the best way to inject some fun into a weekend breakfast or brunch with friends.
But making the perfect Bloody Mary is something of an art form, so much so that American scientists have called it the most complex cocktail ever.
To celebrate The Cumberland Hotel’s Bloody Mary Brunch, we travel back in time to discover the origins of the cocktail, look at how it’s shaped popular culture and share our own take on it with you…
The origins of the Bloody Mary
The Bloody Mary is said to have been born at the legendary Harry’s Bar in Paris. The year was 1921 and bartender Fernand Petiot started blending tomato juice, vodka and spices as a pick-me-up for the bar’s patrons.
Of course some disagree with this version of history, claiming that the drink was really invented across the pond in the 21 Club in New York, where comedian George Jessel was often spotted sipping on a drink which was made with 50% tomato juice and 50% vodka.
The truth is probably somewhere in between: Jessel did indeed mix his vodka with tomato juice, but it was Petiot who added the spices and flavourings which gives fans the jolt they’re so addicted to.
Even so, the concoction didn’t become the Bloody Mary we know today until Petiot returned to America. Working at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, he added one important magic ingredient: Tabasco sauce. While everyone has their own idea of what the ideal Bloody Mary should be made from, nobody would dream of leaving the Tabasco sauce out. That would be sacrilege.
According to the International Bartenders’ Association, these are the definitive ingredients for a Bloody Mary:
• 4.5 cl (or 3 parts) vodka
• 9.0 cl (or 6 parts) tomato sauce
• 1.5 cl (or 1 part) lemon juice
• Dashes of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper
The mixture is served on the rocks in a high ball glass and garnished with celery salt and an optional lemon wedge.
But for some devotees, their recipe isn’t nearly as specific enough. They argue over whether or not to use white or black pepper, what brand of vodka to use or even what a ‘dash’ of Worcester sauce amounts to.
And since traditions are there to be tinkered with, so there’s no shortage of twists on the classic with a dizzying array of accoutrements.
If you follow Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe, you’ll have to set the alarm clock early, pack your fishing net and head out to catch some clams (it calls for the addition of fresh clam juice). And Bon Appetit deviated from the original recipe wildly when they published their Bloody Mary recipe featuring — deep breath — curry powder.
The Bloody Mary has countless alter egos from the Bloody Scotsman (which replaces vodka with whisky) to the Bull Shot (which substitutes the tomato juice with beef consommé) and the non-alcoholic Virgin Mary which does away with alcohol altogether.
While every bartender will have their own signature Bloody Mary recipe, have a conversation with them if you know how you like yours made. Most will be happy to tweak their recipe for you.
A cultural phenomenon
The Bloody Mary pops up in all sorts of pop culture scenarios. The Arctic Monkeys sang about a Bloody Mary which lacked Tabasco sauce (heaven forbid!) in Florescent Adolescent.
And when Emmett Brown passes out in Back to the Future Part III, the bartender revives him with a Bloody Bull Shot (a variation of the Bloody Mary containing beef stock), which does the trick nicely.
Our Bloody Mary recipe
Everyone has their own idea of what makes the perfect Bloody Mary, but we’ve managed to prize this recipe for The Cumberland Hotel’s Bloody Mary from their bartenders, who think they’ve cracked it.
The ingredients they’ve chosen are:
• Worcester sauce (Lea & Perrins only)
• Tabasco sauce
• A dash of salt, black pepper and celery salt
• Lemon and lime juice
• Mustard (English only)
• Horseradish sauce
• Tomato juice
Teodoro Garcia Calvo, the hotel’s bar and restaurant manager, explains the recipe:
“The horseradish gives it a fantastic kick and brings all the ingredients together while the unexpected inclusion of lime (as well as lemon) juice gives it yet another dimension which cuts through the spices.”
Why not earmark some time to linger over our Bloody Mary Brunch which takes place every Sunday in The Brasserie restaurant?
Choose from brunch classics like Eggs Benedicte, waffles (with all the trimmings) and Kedgeree or pick from a spread of oysters, cured meat, roasted peppers and freshly baked bread from our market table. Now that’s a reason to get out of bed!
What goes into your favourite Bloody Mary?