Who invented the Bloody Mary?

The Bloody Mary cookbookThe origin stories of various foods and drinks always provide a fascinating glimpse into history. Today we inspect the beginnings of the classic brunch cocktail the Bloody Mary. Author Brian Bartels--beverage director for the NYC's West Village restaurants Jeffrey's Grocery, Joseph Leonard, Fedora, Perla, and Bar Sardine--delves into the history of this iconic drink in his book The Bloody Mary.

Bartels shared an edited excerpt from his book with The Daily Beast, where he recounts the various claims to the origins of the Bloody Mary. Unlike some drinks, this one is not rooted in colonial or Continental history. Tomato juice, which forms the backbone of the drink, was not commercially available or widespread in its use until the late 1920s, so any claims prior to that must be viewed with skepticism. One thing Bartels doesn't explore in this article is where the inventor came up with the name for the drink, which I think could be the most interesting part of the tale.

The most likely origin story, says Bartels, is that French bartender Fernand Petiot, who rose to fame in a Parisian bar that catered to Americans during Prohibition, invented the drink as we know it today (sans the extraordinary garnishes of late, which can include everything from cheeseburgers to pizza). However, it seems that Petiot borrowed heavily from an American comedian, George Jessel, who claims to have invented a "hangover cure" in 1927 that consisted of tomato juice, vodka, and Worcestershire sauce.

In a 1964 interview in The New Yorker, Petiot admits that Jessel gave him the idea for the basics of the drink, but that Petiot fleshed out what was a barebones concoction. Even if this story is not completely accurate, we tip our glasses to Messrs. Petiot and Jessels for thinking of this combination of ingredients that has lasted for 90 years. 

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