Who Invented the Original Bloody Mary?

by Richard Peristere

The origins of the Bloody Mary are a bit nebulous...was it Hemingway to hide his vodka breathe from his wife? Or was it Henry Zbikiewicz at the 21 Club in New York City? Here at A Few Cocktails tend to lean towards Harry's New York Bar in Paris...after all it's one of our favorite bars in Paris.

bloody mary, cocktail, bloody

Where did the first Bloody Mary come from?

Vodka and Tomato Juice...what an odd combination. At least it was until Fernand Petiot mixed the first Bloody Mary in Harry's New York Bar. Stroll into Harry's Bar and you will find yourself transplanted into a 1911 pre-prohibition era New York Bar. The polished Mahogany bar was meticulously deconstructed on 7nth avenue in Manhattan and transported to the Rue Daunou in Paris.

What was the original Bloody Mary?

When Fernand Petiot made the first Bloody Mary it was a simple combination of vodka and tomato juice. Rumor has it that Fernand Petiot decided to mix the two ingredients because Ernest Hemingway needed a cocktail that allowed him to drink in the morning without his breath smelling like vodka when he returned home. Prior to being called the Bloody Mary, the drink was referred to as the "Bucket of Blood" .

Fernand Petiot

Why do they call the drink Bloody Mary?

The name Bloody Mary is assumed to be derived from the English Monarch, Queen Mary Tudor of England. She attempted to re-establish the Catholic Church in England by force. Her campaign led to mass blood shed, hence the name Bloody Mary. The name pairs nicely with Petiot original name, Bucket of Blood. Bloody Mary is a bit more palatable.

Queen Mary Tudor

Where was Bloody Mary drink invented - Option Two

The New York 21Club has two strong claims on the origin of the Bloody Mary. Their bartender Henry Zbikiewicz began mixing tomato juice and vodka in the early 30's which in theory would put the origin of the bloody mary at a bit earlier at 21club. However, Petiot disagrees with the 21Club's claim to fame and describes his cocktail in an article with The New Yorker in 1964

21 Club

"I initiated the Bloody Mary of today. Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over. I cover 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 Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms."

King Cole Bar, St. Regis Hotel

Sadly, the 21Club closed during the Covid Pandemic and has yet to reopen its doors. Fortunately, the King Cole Bar remains open and currently lays claim on its website to have invented the bloody mary.

The George Jessel - Option 3

Of the many bartenders who lay claim to have invented the bloody mary, George Jessel may have the weakest claim but let's hear him out. George Jessel was a famous comedian during 1920s and 1930s America. Known affectionally as the toastmaster general of the United States. Throughout his life he laid claim to inventing the bloody mary beginning in 1927...which would have put him before "Pete" Petiot (Fernand Petiot's nickname)

The apocryphal story goes "At 8 a.m., Jessel was still awake and beginning to nurse a hangover, so he grabbed what he could find from behind the bar—potato vodka, tomato juice and an assortment of spices—and mixed it up together. Just then, socialite Mary Brown Warburton walked in wearing a white gown from the night before and was handed a glass. She immediately spilled it down the front of her dress and exclaimed, “Now you can call me Bloody Mary, George!”

George Jessel

Why do you put celery in a Bloody Mary?

Like other garnishes, celery and the bloody mary go hand in hand. But why add the celery? To us at A Few Cocktails, we believe the celery adds the perfect color and tastes to accompany the generally strong tomato juice. The addition of other garnishes like celery began to explode during our current era. Don't be surprised to see bacon, jalapeños or other garnish adorn the glass. We have even seen full hamburgers attached to a bloody mary. The question then becomes, is this a cocktail or a lunch?


bloody mary, liquor, cocktail


How to Make the Classic Bloody Mary

Making your own Bloody Mary

While there are plenty of Bloody Mary Mix beverages available, we find its best to make your own just like the bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. The first key to buy a proper tomato juice with limited amounts of sugar. Our recipe is below:

Ingredients :

  • 5 ounces Tomato Juice

  • 2 ounces Vodka

  • Salt to taste

  • Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

  • 1/4 Ounce Lemon Juice

  • A few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

  • A few dashes of Hot Sauce

  • Celery - Garnish

  • Jalepeno - Garnish

Directions : Simply combine the ingredients in a high ball glass.

Is Bloody Mary a brunch drink?

Traditionally the Bloody Mary is seen as a brunch drink. Generally this due to its reputation as a hair of the dog following a big night. While we admit, there's nothing quite like a Bloody Mary when you have a hangover. However, there is no hard or fast rule that the Bloody Mary must be limited to a boozy brunch. In fact, what better way is there to have a taste of all five good groups than a Bloody Mary during any meal. After all who can resist a little tomato juice, salt and pepper, vodka, lemon juice, and a little hot sauce. We recommend Tabasco sauce.

bottle, hot, tabasco

While it doesn't have to be a brunch drink, don't be surprised to see many hotel and restaurant offer up a classic Bloody Mary.

Do Bloody Marys Cure a Hangover?

While scientifically nothing truly cures a hangover other than time and water. After all your body needs time to expel all of the alcohol out of your body. Bloody Marys in the morning after a big night of drinking can be just enough to take the edge off of a pounding headache.

The salt in the Bloody Mary replenish the salts you lost drinking the night before, the tomato juice provides precious vitamins that your body so needs, and the vodka is just enough to put you back in a delicious bliss.

Interested in other Lore and History?

Be sure to check out the History of the Coupe glass or perhaps the origin of the Martini glass.

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