Most like them hot

Henri and Hemingway share their best Bloody Marys

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

“For combating a really terrific hangover increase the amount of Worcester sauce—but don’t lose the lovely color."—Ernest Hemingway

Henri was astonished at the number of recipes he received from faithful readers hoping to win his first annual Bloody Mary competition and to receive, as first prize, an autographed copy of his book, Some Like it Hot.

Probably a typo in the e-mail address I gave you.

Or maybe I should have extended the deadline.

Oh, well. La vie continue.

Like with most cocktails, the Bloody Mary’s origin is undocumented, although the name certainly refers to England’s Queen Mary Tudor (1516-1558; reigned 1553-1558), who had a penchant for torching Protestants in the name of the Catholic Church. Her royal duty, mind you, under 1401’s “Act for the Burning of Heretics.”

However, the cocktail most likely originated in 1920s Paris at the famous Harry’s American Bar, where, the story goes, bartender Fernand Petiot mixed equal parts tomato juice and vodka and one of his customers said the concoction’s color reminded him of the Bucket of Blood saloon in Chicago and a girl named Mary whom he’d met there. Not coincidentally (see below), Ernest Hemingway was one of many American expatriots who drank at Harry’s.

In 1934, Petiot returned to the United States, where he worked in the bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City—and where he experimented with various versions of his drink, adding black pepper, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, lemon, lime and Tabasco sauce.

Today, one is likely to find nearly as many Bloody Mary recipes as there are devotees of the drink, each claiming his own is “perfect.” The only indisputable requirements? Tomato juice, vodka and heat. (Note to Dr. Epinards: Henri occasionally substitutes Knudsen’s Very Veggie Spicy for tomato juice, in which case he cuts back a bit on the Tabasco and horseradish.)

Henri’s Best Bloody Mary
11/2 oz. vodka
5 oz. tomato juice
3 dashes Tabasco
6 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch horseradish
1 dash salt
1 dash freshly ground black pepper
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 dash fresh celery salt

Mix all ingredients in a glass over ice and garnish with a lemon wedge and pickled Blue Lake string bean.

Ernest Hemingway’s Best Bloody Mary
“To make a pitcher of Bloody Marys (any smaller amount is worthless) take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold. Mix 1 pint good Russian vodka and an equal amount of chilled tomato juice. Add a table spoon full of Worcester Sauce. Stirr. (with two rs) Then add a jigger of fresh squeezed lime juice. Stirr. Then add small amounts of celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Keep on stirring and taste it to see how it is doing. If you get it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”

—from a letter to Bernard Peyton, April 5, 1947.

Henri’s Top 10 List of Bloody Mary rules:
10) If there’s any debate over whether a Bloody Mary is the appropriate drink to order, it is.

9) If there’s any debate over whether to order a second one, order a second one.

8) Find a bartender who makes a good Bloody Mary, return frequently and tip generously.

7) Always use (or request) top-shelf vodka (Grey Goose, Stoli, Ketel One, etc.), unless top-shelf vodka is unavailable and would mean going without.

6) Eleven o’clock a.m. is the perfect time for the first Bloody Mary of the day. Ten is also good. So is 9. And noon. As are all other times of the day.

5) Bloody Marys should be served in quality highball or tall, chilled ale glasses, though paper cups and empty mayonnaise jars will work in a pinch.

4) A good Bloody Mary should be hot enough to clear your nasal passages.

3) The single celery stalk is the conventional garnish; a pickled string bean or asparagus spear is far better.

2) Never use a mix. Exception: When flying, order a can of Mr. and Mrs. T Bloody Mary mix. It will be served in a plastic cup with ice. Remember: the water bottle in your carry-on need not contain water.

1) Disregard all rules, recipes, suggestions and advice rather than go without.