The Bloody Mary is one of our favorite drinks, dating back to when Demitri developed his recipe in 1988 in Seattle. But the history of the cocktail goes back much farther than that, spanning across oceans and has become a source of much debate.
Who Was Bloody Mary?
For many curious about the Bloody Mary, the first question asked is, “Who actually was Bloody Mary?”
The original Bloody Mary dates to 16th century England, when Mary Tudor became the first Queen of England in her own right. A Catholic herself, she took over rule of the mostly-Protestant country in 1553. In a move to try and convert the country back to her religion, she began burning Protestants at the stake, a common punishment in those days for heresy to avoid remains being used as religious remnants. Over her five-year-rule, she burned over 300 Protestants at the stake, earning her distrust from her country and the nickname “Bloody Mary.”
To get to the drink we now know and love as the Bloody Mary; however, our story jumps nearly 400 years and into France.
The Origins of the Drink
During the 1920’s, the Prohibition era was in full swing in the United States, but alcohol culture was alive and well in Europe. Frenchman Ferdnand “Pete” Petiot was working in a New York-style bar in Paris, which became a popular hangout spot for Americans in Europe who longed for home without the ban on alcohol. With them, they were bringing canned tomato juice from the States, a recent invention.
Coming into France from the other direction were the Russians, who were fleeing their homeland during the Russian Revolution., The Russians brought with them vodka and caviar, including into Petiot’s bar. Although the bartender found the taste of vodka bland, he tried for a year to find a recipe he liked. Eventually, he combined the American canned tomato juice, the Russian vodka, and some various spices and the Bloody Mary was born.
Except it wasn’t. Instead, the cocktail was deemed the “Bucket of Blood” by an American that was reminded of a Chicago nightclub of the same name. Even after the drink crossed the pond back to the United States, it was known as a Red Snapper for a short while.
So Why is it Called a Bloody Mary?
The simple answer for when or how the drink became a Bloody Mary is that we don’t know. Although there are many debates, one string of logic runs through all of them: the name likely has no relation back to Queen Mary of England, and the tie between the two is nothing more than a coincidence.
As far as history is concerned, we know now the name originated sometime before 1946, which is the oldest known menu containing a Bloody Mary. Prior to that, the name origin is said to have multiple stories.
Two such stories come from George Jessel, a comedian and actor at the time, which are both believed to be the closest to the truth. One story centered around the entertainer is an ad he did for the Vodka company Smirnoff in 1939, when he claimed to have named the drink after his friend Mary Geraghty. Meanwhile, there’s another story which focuses on Jessel, claiming the name came from when he shared his drink with socialite Mary Brown Warburton. While taking a drink, she spilled the cocktail down her white dress, giving her the appearance of being bloody.
Although the history can be examined and scrutinized, there’s no question about the Bloody Mary’s stance today as one of the most popular cocktails in the business. Try one of our Bloody Mary seasonings, available in four delicious flavors.