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National Bloody Mary Day

The Bloody Mary, sometimes simply called a "Bloody," is a popular cocktail known for being drank during weekend brunch and for curing hangovers—such as those that may arise from a little too much New Year's Eve revelry—is imbibed and celebrated today on National Bloody Mary Day. Served tall and over ice, Bloody Marys consist of tomato juice, vodka, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. Horseradish or hot sauce, such as Tabasco sauce, are also common ingredients. Celery salt often lines the rim of the glass. Garnishes—first and foremost celery—but also lemon and lime wedges, pickles, other pickled vegetables—like pickled beans okra, green tomatoes, and asparagus—green olives, mushrooms, shrimp, hot peppers, bacon, cheese, and even burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and fried foods—are an integral part of Bloody Marys and allow for much creativity. In some locations in the upper Midwest, especially in Wisconsin, Bloody Marys are served with beer chasers.

Stories abound as to the creation of the cocktail. An early version of the drink is said to have originated at Harry's New York Bar in Paris under another name. There, in 1921, bartender Ferdinand "Pete" Petiot was experimenting with vodka and came up with a drink with tomato juice and Russian vodka, which he served to American expatriates. Roy Barton, an American entertainer, dubbed it "Bucket of Blood," after a Chicago nightclub. (Another account says a certain Mary who worked at the Bucket of Blood nightclub was the inspiration for the name "Bloody Mary.") The cocktail didn't become popular in Paris, but after Petiot came to New York City to work at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel in 1933 or 1934, the time was right for its ascendancy. One account says that a Russian man with an affinity for vodka, Serge Obolonsky, asked Petiot to make him the drink he had served him in Paris. It was at the King Cole Bar that Petiot added salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, and lemon to the tomato juice and vodka, and the Bloody Mary started to come into its own.

The cocktail caught on at the bar, where it was especially known for being a hangover cure. At the King Cole Bar it was—and still is—known as a Red Snapper. At some point, other bars in New York City started calling it the Bloody Mary, possibly in reference to Mary Tudor, Mary I of England and Ireland, who was known for her bloody reign against protestants. Although the new name stuck, at the King Cole Bar and some other locations it remained as the Red Snapper. A recipe for the Red Snapper appeared in Crosby Gaige's Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion in 1941, and recipes using the name Bloody Mary were in print by at least 1944. Garnishes were added to the drink a bit later, with legend saying celery sticks were first added in the 1960s at a Chicago bar.

Entertainer George Jessel also laid claim to creating the Bloody Mary. He claimed he named it after his friend Mary Brown Wartburton. He mentioned the drink in a column in the New York Herald Tribune in 1939, said he created it in a Smirnoff Vodka ad in Colliers in 1956 and made the same assertion in his autobiography, The World I Live In, in 1975. Even Petiot said, in a 1964 New Yorker article, that a tomato juice and vodka drink—perhaps created by George Jessel—existed before he came up with the Red Snapper.

There are numerous drinks that are derived from the Bloody Mary. Interestingly enough, there is a drink called the Red Snapper that replaces vodka with gin. The Bloody Maria replaces the vodka with tequila and the lemon juice with lime juice. The Bloody Pirate or Creole Bloody Mary calls for rum instead of vodka, while the Bloody Mary Quite Contrary calls for Japanese sake instead of vodka. The Maria Verde uses tomatillo juice and gin instead of tomato juice and vodka. The Michelada is similar to a Bloody Mary but uses Mexican lager instead of vodka. The Clam Digger is a Bloody Mary that uses Clamato. Finally, a Bloody Mary without alcohol is known as a Virgin Mary or a Bloody Shame.

The tradition of having a Bloody Mary on New Year's Day goes back at least to the 1970s. A sports writer in the Alabama Journal made reference to Bloody Marys being drank on New Year's Day in November of 1973. A specific reference to Bloody Mary Day on January 1 appears in the December 31, 1974, edition of the Galveston Daily News, meaning Bloody Mary Day has been in existence at least since 1975. No matter when it got its start, Bloody Mary Day provides an excellent opportunity to start off a new year!

How to Observe National Bloody Mary Day

Maybe you rang in the new year a little too hard last night, perhaps taking down too much Champagne. In this case (or even if this isn't the case), a little hair of the dog is in order. That's perfect because it's National Bloody Mary Day! The best way to celebrate, of course, is to make yourself a Bloody Mary. Make it hot and spicy or make it mild, and load it up with garnishes until your heart's content. You could set up a Bloody Mary bar and invite friends to come over. Or you could venture out to have a Bloody, perhaps at one of the best spots to have one, or at Harry's New York Bar or King Cole Bar, where the first Bloody Marys were sipped. You could pick up a book about Bloody Marys to read while sipping your cocktail, such as The Bloody Mary by Brian Bartels. If you want to change it up from a standard Bloody Mary, have yourself a Bloody Maria, Red Snapper, Bloody Pirate, Michelada, Maria Verde, Bloody Mary Quite Contrary, or Clam Digger. Even if you don't drink alcohol, you're in luck…have a Virgin Mary!

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