A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 16, 2004
Bloody Mary (cocktail)
The Bloody Mary is often thought to have been invented at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, in the 1920s. The French bartender Fernand Petiot (1900-1975) later came to the King Cole Room of the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, where he, as legend has it, "improved" on his earlier recipe.

I have strong doubts that a Bloody Mary was served at Harry's New York Bar in the early 1920s. For one thing, canned tomato juice didn't come along until the late 1920s. For another, the drink does not appear in Harry's drink book that was published during this decade.

New York City's 21 Club might have popularized the cocktail. "Newest hangover cure to entrance the headholders at '21' is called a 'Bloody Mary' -- tomato juice and vodka" was cited in Dorothy Kilgallen's Broadway column on November 22, 1939.

George Jessel (1898-1981) was an entertainer born in New York City, and he claimed to have invented the drink and the name. "George Jessel's newest pick-me-up which is receiving attention from the town's paragraphers is called a Bloody Mary: half tomato juice, half vodka" was Lucius Beebe's column in the New York (NY) Herald Tribune on December 2, 1939. It's likely that Jessel created the drink and Petiot added extras, as the bartender told The New Yorker in 1964:

"Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over. I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour."

The drink also went by the name "Red Snapper" and was served at the King Cole Room of the St. Regis Hotel by at least 1941.


7 June 1933, The Bystander, "Standing By..." by "The Bystanders," pg. 438, col. 2:
A certain actress now livens up her tomato-juice cocktail with a tot of vodka. She may be seen rolling this concoction round her pretty mouth in a new bar near Portland Place (central London -- ed.).

23 August 1936, Sunday Times-Advertiser (Trenton, NJ), "Books and Authors," pt. 4, pg. 2, col. 1:
It is also pointed out that there is a connection between the Spanish Inquisition and interior decorators, and that a mixture of vodka and tomato juice will have a most extraordinary effect upon learned professors.
(A Place in the Country, by Dwight Farnham -- ed.)

31 March 1939, Binghamton (NY) Press, "On Broadway" by Walter Winchell, pg. 35, col. 3:
The cast of the Hasty Pudding show have a new form of Mickey which doesn't make them "ick"... It is vodka with tomato juice.

22 November 1939, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, "The Voice of Broadway" by Dorothy Kilgallen, pg. 6, col. 3:
Newest hangover cure to entrance the headholders at "21" is called a "Bloody Mary" -- tomato juice and vodka.

2 December 1939, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, "This New York" by Lucius Beebe, pg. 9, col. 2:
George Jessel's newest pick-me-up which is receiving attention from the town's paragraphers is called a Bloody Mary: half tomato juice, half vodka.

27 July 1940, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, ""Personal Preferences of Personages" by Lucius Beebe, pg. 7, col. 2:
George Jessel thrives on an arrangement of half vodka and half tomato juice, known as a Bloody Mary.

Google Books
Crosby Gaige's Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion
By Crosby Gaige
New York, NY: Published for hussies and homebodies by the Granger Co.
1941
Pg. ?:
Mr. Lauryssen, as host at the St. Regis, has made that hotel an exemplar of excellence and subdued but authentic excellence... Old King Cole presides with pleasantly vacuous hospitality over the bar from which Mr. Lauryssen sends me two recipes from Queen Cole's household book.
(...)
Red Snapper
2oz tomato juice
2oz vodka
½ teaspoon Worcestershire
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
1 dash of lemon juice
Salt, pepper and red pepper to taste
Method: Shake well and serve in a Delmonico glass

5 January 1941, Oakland (CA) Tribune, "Beebe rallies after attack of hospitality at Palm Springs" by Lucius Beebe, pg. B-11, col. 7:
Eddie Sutherland's bar invention "The Squat," an arrangement of vodka and tomato juice closely allied to George Jessel's "Bloody Mary."

23 March 1941, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, "New York Speaking" by Lucius Beebe, pg. 16-B, col. 5:
The modern-version boulevardiers waste little or no time sleeping, gobble and guzzle what they please, from pressed duck at the Café Arnold to George Jessel's arrangement of vodka and tomato juice, called "virgin's blood," at Jack and Charlie's, and don't know the meaning of the word collapse.

18 July 1941, Lowell (MA) Sun and Citizen-Leader, "Tales from Times Square" by Dorothy Kilgallen, pg. 2, col. 7
Grace Moore goes for a "red snapper," a drink that's popular in Europe. It's ingredients include vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.

Google Books
The Stork Club Bar Book
By Lucius Morris Beebe
New York, NY: Rinehart & Co.
1946
Pg. ?:
Bloody Mary
3oz. Vodka
6oz. Tomato Juice
2 Dashes of Angostura bitters
Juice of half a lemon
Method: Shake together with ice or mix in Waring mixer and serve cold in highball glass

30 March 1956, Collier's, pg. 65 ad:
"I, GEORGE JESSEL, INVENTED THE BLOODY MARY" "I think I invented The Bloody Mary, Red Snapper, Tomato Pickup or Morning Glory," reports George Jessel. "It happened on a Night before a Day and I felt I should take some good, nourishing tomato juice, but what I really wanted was some of your good Smirnoff Vodka. So I mixed them together, the juice for body and the vodka for spirit, and if I wasn't the first ever, I was the happiest ever."

18 July 1964, The New Yorker, "The Talk of the Town: Barman (M. Ferdinand Petiot)," pp. 19-20:
Petiot came to the St. Regis from the Savoy in London.
Pg. 20, col. 1:
"I initiated the Bloody Mary of today," he told us. "George Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over. I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour. We serve a hundred to a hundred and fifty Bloody Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms."

8 January 1975, San Francisco Chronicle, pg. 44, col. 1:
Inventor of
The Bloody
Mary Dies
Fernand Petiot, the former Paris bartender credited with inventing the tomato juice and vodka cocktail known as the Bloody Mary, has died at the age of 74.

Petiot was said to have been experimenting with vodka after having been introduced to it in Paris in 1920.

He settled on a mix of half vodka and half tomato juice and introduced the drink where he worked, Harry's New York Bar, which was frequented by American newspaper corrrespondents and bankers. An American entertainer, Roy Barton, provided the name, saying it reminded him of a Chicago Club, the Bucket of Blood.

In 1934, the drink which didn't do well in Paris, caught on in New York. Petiot, then bartending for Hotel St. Regis, revived it as the Red Snapper because the hotel felt the original name was too vulgar.

Other bars, however, preferred the original title, and its use continued as the drink's popularity spread. The revived drink's mix was changed toinclude Worcester sauce and black and cayenne pepper.

Petiot died Monday at a local hospital.

Google Books
The World I Live In
By Geroge Jessel with John Austin
Chicago, IL: Regnery
1975
Pg. 83:
I have always had a great penchant for the sauce and have concocted many varieties of highballs and mixed drinks over the years. But very few people know how the Bloody Mary came to be. Today, it is one of the most popular "morning after" or "hangover" cures there is, as well as a companion for Sunday brunch.

In 1927, I was living in Palm Beach, or on a short visit, I don't remember which, where nearly every year I captained a softball team for agame against the elite of Palm Beach such as the Woolworth Donohues, the Al Vanderbilts, the Reeves, and their ilk. My team was made up of rag-tag New York cafe society. Because I had been around Broadway and baseball characters, I managed to slip in a ringer now and again. We generally won.

On this particular trip I brough along Buddle Adler, a semi-pro on Long Island and a shoe salesman during the week. Buddy was later to become production head at 20th Century-Fox and marry Anita Louise. Both of them, unfortunately, are now dead. The proceeds of our, shall we say, friendly wagers on the games, went to a charity for underprivileged children. Adler hit a home run with the bases loaded, and we won the game and collected several thousand dollars in bets.

There was a famous hangout in Palm Beach at the time run by Paddy LaMaze, a former ball player himself. To the winners, he let them drink all the champagne they could take; the losers, beer.

Following the game, Adler (who was hung like a bull, generally came along to try to find a rich dowager to marry but never did), myself, and a guy named Elliott Sperver, a Philadelphia playboy, went to La Maze's and started swilling champagne. We were still going strong at 8:00 A.M. the next morning. I had a 9:30 volleyball date with Al Vanderbilt. I was feeling no pain at all.

We tried everything to kill our hangovers and sober up. Then Charlie, the bartender, enjoying our plight, reached behind the bar.

"Here, Georgie, try this," he said, holding up a dusty bottle I had never seen before. "They call it _vodkee_. We've had it for six years and nobody has ever asked for it...."

I looked at it, sniffed it. It was pretty pungent and smelled like rotten potatoes. "Hell, what have we got to lose? Get me some Worcestershire sauce, some tomato juice, and lemon; that ought to kill the smell," I commanded Charlie. I also remembered that Constance Talmadge, destined to be my future sister-in-law, always used to drink something with tomatoes in it to clear her head the next morning and it always worked--at least for her.

"We've tried everything else, boys, we might as well try this," I said as I started mixing the ingredients in a large glass. After we had taken a few quaffs, we all started to feel a little better. The mixture seemed to knock out the butterflies.

Just at that moment, Mary Brown Warburton walked in. A member of the Philadelphia branch of the Wanamaker department store family, she liked to be around show business people and later had a fling with Ted Healey, the comic. She had obviously been out all night because she was still dressed in a beautiful white evening dress.

"Here, Mary, take a taste of this and see what you think of it."

Just as she did, she spilled some down the front of her white evening gown, took one look at the mess, and laughed, "Now, you can call me Bloody Mary, George!"

From that day to this, the concoction I put together at La Maze's has remained a Bloody Mary with very few variations. Charlie pushed it every morning when "the gang" was under the weather

.******************

Now, about a year later, the benefit for Joe E. Lewis was to be held at the Oriental Theater and I was sitting in my hotel room with Ted Healey before leaving for the theater. Ted, as usual, was slightly inebriated. He happened to pick up a copy of a Chicago paper and read an item in Winchell's column. It said that I had named the Bloody Mary after Ted's then steady girl, Mary Brown Warburton.

Ted turned white. "What the hell are you doing making a pass at my girl, you son of a bitch," he yelled. And just as he did, he pulled out a pistol and tried to shoot me. I ducked and the shot missed, but as the pistol went off within a foot of my right ear, I was completely deaf for a week. I had a hell of a job doing the benefit that night.

But at least now you know the origin of the Bloody Mary, and I believe it was Esquire magazine who finally gave me credit for it many, many years ago.

Too bad I can't collect royalties on it. In fact, I have never even received a case of vodka from any of the distillers for helping to make vodka the most popular, er, beverage in the United States today.

Google Books
"21"
Every Day Was New Year's Eve:
Memoirs of a Saloon Keeper

By H. Peter Kriendler with H. paul Jeffers
Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing
1999
Pg. 112:
Arguably the most famous drink credited as having been invented at the club is the Bloody Mary. Almost as famous is the combination of brandy and Benedictine known as "B&B." Others with "21" birth certificates are the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Southside.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, July 16, 2004 • Permalink


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