The Bloody Mary: PourTaste Style

This past Saturday, Lindsay and I served our rendition on a Bloody Mary at the Tomato Arts Festival in East Nashville. This annual fest celebrates local restaurants, music and businesses all through the lens of, well….a tomato. Neighborhood bars battle it out in the yearly bloody mary contest, bands strum through the 100 degree heat, families are walking about just doing their thing. It’s a vague concept but it struck a nerve years ago and this festival grows like a tomato on steroids every year. Though we did not participate in the official Bloody Mary competition, we offered VIP ticket holders ( and some very close friends) our recipe of green heirloom tomatoes, ginger, cilantro, jalapeño, green bell pepper and other secret ingredients. We wanted to offset the usual ingredients, bringing elements of heat and savory in different ways.

As for the origin of the Bloody Mary? As the story goes, the Bloody Mary was invented at the legendary (and still-standing) Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the early 1920s, when bartender Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot poured vodka (popular in Paris due to the large number of Russians taking refuge there from the Bolshevik Revolution) into a glass of tomato juice, newly imported in cans from the United States. In 1934, the story continues, Petiot brought the drink to America, when—Prohibition having just been repealed—he became head bartender at New York’s St. Regis hotel. It was at this point that he added the spices the drink contains today—the lemon juice, the Worcestershire, the Tabasco, the salt and pepper; in fact, the only thing to distinguish it from the modern Bloody Mary is the name, which had to be changed to “Red Snapper” (the other was thought vulgar) and the fact that it had to be made with gin, as vodka wasn’t yet available in the US.
Well, at least some of this is true. Pete Petiot did work at Harry’s in the early 1920s and at the St. Regis in the 1930s (and ’40s, 50’s and ’60s). You could get both vodka and tomato juice in Paris at some point in the 1920s, anyway. But tomato juice had been a popular hangover cure in America for a long time. What’s more, in the late 1920s the people responsible for marketing the stuff began widely publicizing an alcohol-free “Tomato Juice Cocktail” designed to give a bit of the bite of an alcoholic drink, without anything illegal in it. Its ingredients? Tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. It didn’t take much inventing to add a little alcohol to that. Add a number of other claimants to the invention and some later hedging and hemming and hawing from Petiot, and a clear story turns very murky. One thing we do know for sure is that the combination of vodka and tomato juice, however you named it and whatever else you added to it, was well-established as a hangover drink by the late 1930s.

We received great response on our little concoction and can’t wait to do it again. Thanks Nashville!