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27 April 2014

Ah, the Bloody Mary. Some claim it cures hangovers, others grumble that it merely creates them. No matter what your opinion on the matter is, everybody can agree that the intoxicating mix of vodka, tomato juice, salt, lemon, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and ice swirled together with a stick of celery is definitely one of the more unusual offerings at a bar. Where did the bloody Mary come from, and why is it so good?

The second part of the question really has no answer (it just is), but the first part opens up another disputed area of cocktail history. Some say it was invented in 1921 at the New York Bar in Paris, shaken together by an entrepreneurial French bartender looking to please his American expatriate crowd – who included Ernest Hemmingway. Another says that the drink didn’t pop up until 1934 at New York’s St. Regis, where the drink was originally called the “Red Snapper.”

The name of the drink also has several disputed origins. The first refers to Mary I, who was the daughter of King Henry the VIII and his first wife, Katherine of Aragorn. Mary I is known historically as “Bloody Mary” for her vicious purges of Protestants during her rule, and the blood red color of the drink may have inspired the connection. Other theories include the drink being named for the Hollywood Star Mary Pickford, and even being named after a waitress called Mary who happened to work at a bar called the Bucket of Blood. Of course, there’s also the theory that the “bloody” part was simply inspired by the drink’s color, and the name “Mary” got tagged onto the end just to add to consumer appeal.

Whatever the reality, it all makes for fascinating bar talk the next time you reach for a bloody beverage. Of course, if your leanings are slightly tamer, you can always take your Mary virgin – that is, without the vodka.

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