Bloody Mary’s Storied Past And Pickled Present

Love it or hate it, the Bloody Mary “cocktail” is seemingly everywhere these days.

Enjoyed by poolside loungers at swanky resorts, sipped at country club brunches, in golf carts at morning tee times, on back decks, boat decks and on morning flights going anywhere at any time, the Bloody Mary is definitely a unique libation.

Whether enjoyed for its spicy tomato flavor, vodka, disguised as liquid tomato salad or, chasing the ever-famous “hair of the dog” hang-over cure, Bloody Mary’s have something for just about everyone.

But just where did the name Blood Mary come from?

The story goes that an American jockey opened a bar in Paris in 1911, called Harry’s New York Bar.

About 9 years later, in 1920, just after the end of Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, the migration of Russians to Paris also brought with them the love of their favorite liquor to Harry’s.

And that was…Vodka.

Harry’s also became a favorite Paris destination for Americans who were escaping their own revolution back home.


Vodka was not common in France and, (likely), not that good.

A bartender at Harry’s experimented with different drinks to appeal to his patrons and finally came upon a concoction of a spicy tomato juice and vodka which seemed to be the magic “elixir”.

That outcome was, by most, considered its beginnings, but it wasn’t yet called the Bloody Mary.

The story gets a little less clear during the years of 1920 to 1933, the 13 years of American Prohibition.

While the story of Harry’s back in Paris carries on, it’s bartender leaves Paris to oversee the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, after prohibition ended.

It’s noted that while he’s there, he “improves” his spicy tomato and vodka drink by adding horseradish, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice, and celery salt to his recipe and calls it the Red Snapper.

Sometime after 1933, somewhere, somehow, someone came up with the name Bloody Mary. That date, that moment, and exactly who coined it, has never been nailed down.

So exactly who is, or was, Bloody Mary herself?

Here are the leading candidates:

1. Queen Mary Tudor I, and her bloody reign against Protestants in England in the 1500s. Theorists claim that tomato juice represents the blood shed during this time and the fiery vodka illustrates Queen Mary Tudor’s wicked means of executing her enemies.

Note: This just seems so off the wall. Who in New York would know, let alone care about the brutal goings on of an English Queen in the 1500’s. A person who lived 400 years previously? That just sounds absurd.

2. An ad in the 1930s claimed the drink was named after a friend of entertainer George Jessel named Mary Geraghty.

3. Others claim that the peppery, zesty drink was named after a woman named Mary who worked at the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago, according to Best Bloody Mary.

4. American socialite Mary Brown Warburton. As the story goes, during one particular imbibement, she accidentally spilled some of the red drink on her white dress. The humble celebrity just laughed at her blunder and said, “Now you can call me Bloody Mary!”

However, where ever and whomever created this potent tomato drink, it is still today one of the most prized and vaunted cocktails in a bartender’s arsenal. And many bar-keeps cherish and jealously guard their recipes.

A drink, a meal.

With its base of tomato juice and other vegetables and spices, it’s already one of the healthiest cocktails on the menu.

Add in all of the creative garnishes, some so totally outlandish that they are truly a meal in itself, it’s no wonder that the Bloody Mary has a reputation far beyond its simple beginnings.

The whole idea started with vodka. Tomato juice was created to be its partner. Many of the Bloody Mary’s usual garnishments pair with the flavor of tomato, because vodka itself is a rather neutral spirit.

Between sips, your drink might be garnished with: celery, beef jerky, stuffed olives, pickles, cheese cubes, bacon (think B.L.T.) or any number of other vegetables, crisp fried chicken or, well?, you name it.’

And vodka isn’t the only spirit in town. Bartenders are also using other liquors such as Bourbon to bring a new twist to this 100-year-old creation.

In the tradition of Bloody Mary, the Great Lakes Pickling Company’s Blood Mary Pickles are not only a delicious garnishment in your Bloody Mary cocktail, but an anytime sandwich garnishment that will give you the distinctive flavor of this cherished drink. 

We also like it as part of a relish tray selection, as a topping for a grilled burger or stirred into a French Onion Dip for a delicious kick!


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