While its original name and recipe is disputed its birthplace is not. Except by one man. Colin Field of the Hemingway Bar at The Ritz Hotel in Paris, who happens to be the world’s best bartender, refuses to believe that the Bloody Mary started its story in Harry’s New York Bar at 5 Rue Danou.
Harry’s opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1911 by Harry MacElhone after an american jockey had a New York bar dismantled and shipped to Paris – now that is some serious dedication! The novelty of a New York style bar became a tempting and welcoming for liquor-starved americans during prohibition.
Around 1920, émigrés escaping the Russian Revolution arrived in Paris, bringing vodka and caviar with them, so Harry’s bartender, Ferdinand Petiot began experimenting with his new ingredients. He was at the same time introduced to american canned tomato juice. After a year of experimenting with flavours a new cocktail was born: The Bucket of Blood.
The drink was popularised by americans and in 1933 was brought over to the King Cole Bar at the St Regis Hotel, New York. The drink caught on as a cure for hangovers but the name was changed to “Red Snapper” – certainly easier to swallow!
Ernest Hemingway, who likely knocked back a few Red Snappers on his visits to Harry’s New York Bar in the 1920s, wrote in a 1947 letter that he had introduced the Bloody Mary to Hong Kong in 1941, an act he said “did more than any other single factor except the Japanese Army to precipitate the Fall of that Crown Colony.”
One way or the other a Bloody Mary possesses plenty of authority so, to celebrate the octogenarian cocktail’s birthday, I went to the King Cole Bar last night, ordered a Red Snapper, and drank it with excellent grilled prawns with a smoked aioli and a chopped salad with arugula, chickpeas, cheese and avocado.
I drank a toast to Pete Petiot, to my wife’s Russian family, who emigrated to Paris in the 1920s and to the end of Prohibition, December 5, 1933, eight long decades ago.
Our new bloody Mary trolley available Saturday and Sunday morning… Come and give it a try!