Only a crackpot genius could concoct a beverage combining vodka and tomato juice with a bunch of odd flavorings then convince people that it was not only tasty, but a great way to start one’s day. So where did the cocktail we now know as the Bloody Mary originate? I like to tell our tourists that it was invented at the Green Parrot by John Vagnoni’s mother, (which is about as accurate as the historical information gleaned from a Conch Tour Train conductor.)
I conducted a little research on the famous hair of the dog drink using highly reliable sources like “The Internet” and the staff at Don’s Place. Conflicting reports place the Bloody’s inception either in the 1920’s or somewhere between 1978 to 1985, the David Lee Roth years of Van Halen. Most folks credit actor/comedian George Jessel for coming up with morning hangover beverage of vodka and tomato juice, which at the time (the roaring 20’s) was an easy sell considering the only other morning remedy was chugging a beer floated with a raw egg and pepper.
Then one of drink-slinging history’s most famous mixologists, Fernand Petiot began toying with the cocktail, adding pepper, salt, lemon and Worcestershire sauce. Rumor has it that Petiot served these vodka-laced tomato treats to Hemingway when he worked at Harry’s American Bar in Paris, then later to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio when he tended bar at the St Regis Hotel in New York.
Which reminds me, it seems to be fashionable for bars to claim “Hemingway Drank Here.” I’ve seen the claims all over the world, believe many to be true and am still not impressed. Hemingway was a well traveled, raging alcoholic. The World was his bar. But I digress.
Anyway, the drink used to be called a “Red Snapper,” as the name “Bloody Mary” was too risque for the times, but by the 1950’s, the uptights had let their hair down enough to allow the rightful name, Bloody Mary, into common bar vocabulary.
(I wonder what they used to call a “Sex on the Beach?” “Fornication in the Sand” sounds plausible.)
These days, people put everything but the kitchen sink into their Bloody’s. Here in Key West, I am partial to several versions. Bartender Bob down at Schooner Wharf makes a tasty classic with just enough horseradish to put hair on your chest. And who doesn’t love the handmade Bloody’s at the Parrot complete with a hot pickled green bean…..just the way John’s mama used to make.