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By: | Posted: 05/01/2013
Having a classic and properly prepared cocktail in its original setting can be a completely transcendent experience. I recently found myself among the well-groomed old guard at the King Cole Bar in New York City’s St. Regis Hotel. Sitting in a thick leather bench, and the dark, woody room illuminated only by the smirk of the magnificent 30-foot mural of the aforementioned King, you remember that really great cocktails have a history as rich and storied as the bar walls themselves.
The opulent setting was part and parcel to experience one of my favorite drinks it in its birthplace (a cocktail pilgrimage, if you will.) The Bloody Mary is a cocktail seeped in incredible history. Lore has it that the cocktail originally came from Harry’s Bar in Paris, the institution that opened in 1911, and known to be the first cocktail bar in Europe. The small bar became one of the most famous in the world, hosting literary icons and international celebrities. Ernest Hemingway, mentions Harry's Bar in The Sun Also Rises, or the place prompting James Bond to his virginity on his first visit to Paris in A View to Kill. It’s extremely fitting, and perhaps necessary, that this bar also invented the drink which sole intention is to revive you after a long night.
The stories behind the name “Bloody Mary” are unconfirmed tales ranging from the obvious reference to the blood-thirsty Protestant killer, Queen Mary Tudor, to a tale of a patron of Harry’s commenting that the red drink reminded him of a bar in Chicago and the barmaid within, named Mary.
What we do know is that Fernand Petiot mixed a vodka and fresh tomato juice in Paris in the late 1920s before coming to The St. Regis New York around 1934. A customer asked Petiot to make the vodka cocktail he had in Paris. Seeing that "Bloody Mary" was deemed too vulgar for the hotel's elegant King Cole Bar, it was rechristened the "Red Snapper.” While the name might not have caught on, the spicy drink has been reviving New Yorkers (and thankfully, everyone else) ever since.
Ordering a Bloody Mary on Sunday at your favorite brunch spot could include a number of garnishes, from a skewer of shrimp to a veritable garden salad on top, and flavors ranging from jalapeño-infused vodka to pickle brine. So when a classic Bloody Mary preparation arrives in a champagne flute with its only garnish a swizzle stick, you can actually appreciate that under all of its more modern preparations you will find a well balanced cocktail. Was it the atmosphere of the King Cole Bar? Was it the idea that maybe Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio shared a Red Snapper in the same booth you are in? Perhaps that helped, but it certainly was a delicious drink.
The Red Snapper
(recipe from The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel, New York City)
1 oz. vodka
2 oz tomato juice
1 dash lemon juice
2 dashes salt
2 dashes black pepper
2 dashes cayenne pepper
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously. Strain over ice cubes.
Cheers to a great drink . . . and here’s to New York!
—Lindsey Coleman @surdyksliquor
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a senior editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.See bio
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