Last December 15, a Wednesday, Harry’s Bar in Paris celebrated the 100th birthday of the vodka-tomato juice cocktail that is believed to have been invented there in 1921 by bartender Fernand Petiot and has saved many a weekend morning.
There are a few different stories about how the cocktail, which was featured in a book called Harry’s ABC of Cocktails in 1921, got its name with most interesting one being that Petiot christened it after a woman Ernest Hemingway was dating. As the story goes, Hemingway wanted a drink mixed with juice because he didn’t want her to smell the alcohol on his breath. After Petiot came up with the vodka-tomato combo and passed it across the bar, Hemingway began muttering ‘bloody Mary’ under his breath while taking down the brand new drink.
Alton Brown, who just released the fourth and final volume in his bestselling Good Eats series of cookbooks, Good Eats: The Final Year, has no memory of his first bloody mary other than that he probably had it when he was underage. And, whenever it was, that Bloody Mary did not help with his hangover.
“There’s been a lot of research about how getting more alcohol into you can alleviate some of the problems of a hangover,” Brown tells InsideHook. “I have never found that to be true. I think a lot of that is a placebo effect. Once you’re tied into a really good hangover, you’re just stuck. I don’t think there is a cure-all for hangovers. We all have something that works for us. If you’re a serious enough drinker, you’ll discover it. Mine happens to be really greasy french fries.”
Hangover cure or not, the questionable healing powers of the Bloody Mary have not diminished Brown’s passion for the state of the standard brunch cocktail.
“I have been kind of disappointed in the fact that they’ve become the receptacles for entire salad bars and seafood platters being dumped into them over the years. They don’t often taste like all the pieces go together properly,” Brown says. “The way the most Bloody Marys taste is like somebody dropped a salad into a blender with a can of tomatoes and some vodka.”
Brown, 59, believes the problem most Bloodys have, in addition to being overstuffed with items that belong on the breakfast buffet table, is fairly basic. “Many people will go with the lowest common denominator for their mixer. They figure, ‘Well, I’ll add enough to it to make it good,’” he says. “The truth is, if the mixer isn’t really top-notch to begin with, there’s really nothing you can do. It’s going to be a marginal drink that’s just going to have a lot more stuff in it. With any cocktail, the primary ingredients make a huge amount of difference. I would stress learning that and learning what it really ought to taste like. It’s like jazz. You’ve got a series of chords and you’ve got to understand those chords before you can improvise.”
If you aren’t into improvising, mimic a master with the recipe for Brown’s bloody from Good Eats: The Final Year.
Alton Brown’s Bloody Mary 2.0
Ingredients for bloody mary mix
- 1 (28-ounce/795 g) can of whole, peeled tomatoes (with juice)
- 12 ounces (340 g) beef stock (ideally homemade)
- 3 ounces (90 ml) fresh lemon juice, from about 3 lemons
- 2 ounces (60 ml) fresh lime juice, from about 2 limes
- 2 ounces (60 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) hot sauce (Tabasco recommended)
- 11⁄2 teaspoons (3 g) freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) celery seeds 1 teaspoon (3 g) garlic powder 1 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
Ingredients for bloody mary
- 3 ounces AB’s Bloody Mary Mix (above)
- 1 ounce Vodka (Preferably horseradish vodka, aka hrenovuha)
- 1 leafy celery stalk, for garnish
- A large sieve
- A blender
- A quart-size jar or bottle with lid
- Place the tomatoes and juice in a mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to extract as much juice as possible. (You should end up with 2 cups.) Discard the solids or save them for another use.
- Combine the juice and the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Pour the mixture into a clean jar or bottle, lid up, and chill for 4 hours before use.
- After the mix is complete, stir three ounces of bloody mary mix and one ounce of vodka together with ice in a Collins glass and serve with a leafy celery stalk.
- For a more elegant presentation (as for a proper evening cocktail), strain 5 ounces of the above cocktail through a fine sieve to remove pulpy stuff. This should render 4 ounces of thinner liquid.
- Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker for several seconds to chill, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail olive.
- Extra mix can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
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