As with most time-honored food and drink, the origin story of the Bloody Mary is a bit murky. One version goes that a Frenchman named Fernand Petiot invented the drink in the 1920s at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. But Petiot's cocktail was simply tomato juice and vodka, and it didn't become the multi-ingredient operation we enjoy today until he later adapted it while working at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City in the 1930s. Another source claims that actor-producer George Jessel actually created the drink, and Petiot just applied the finishing touches. In terms of the name, we have even more options to choose from: the grisly-sounding libation either pays tribute to 16th century English queen Mary Tudor, the actress Mary Pickford, or a waitress named Mary who worked at Chicago's Bucket of Blood club. As for the celery garnish, yet another charmingly-dubious anecdote posits that a customer at The Pump Room in the 1960s received her Bloody Mary sans swizzle stick, so proceeded to make do with a piece of celery from a nearby relish tray, and voila—tradition born of necessity and resourcefulness.
Speculation aside, my question is, how did the bloody Mary become so inextricably linked with brunch? Mimosas and screwdrivers make sense for the pre-noon hours—they're made with OJ, after all, they're practically part of a balanced breakfast—but the logic behind the tomato concoction as a morning drink seems to have more to do with its curative properties. Whether it's the lycopene in the tomatoes, the vitamin C, the sinus-clearing horseradish, or the diet-food garnish, we can almost pretend that the Bloody Mary is healthful...and what better to take the edge off that tequila-induced headache than with a boozy salad in a glass?
Come Sunday morning, Bloody Marys are sucked down all over the city, and you'd be hard pressed to find a brunch menu lacking one. But why pay up to ten bucks for something that can easily be slopped together at home? It seems that restaurants are realizing that, and the days of the simple Bloody Mary are no more.
Two popular approaches are swapping out the vodka for another spirit (my personal favorite is using gin to make a red snapper), and running amok in the garnish department with everything from bacon to shrimp to pineapple. Determined to find the tastiest and most creative Bloody Marys here in Boston, I penciled in a couple of weekends worth of boozy brunches, and set out to sacrifice myself for the cause. Here are the results: my guide to the best Bloody Marys in the Boston area »
Mason "Bloody" Jar at Matt Murphy's Pub
The Ghost of Mary at Sycamore
Bloody Maria at Lone Star Taco Bar
Maria Basilico at Russell House Tavern
Meat Lover's Bloody at Citizen Public House
The OOC Bloody at The Gallows
About the Author: Rebeccah Marsters develops recipes and works as an associate editor for Cook's Country magazine in Boston. She likes learning about food, wine, and spirits almost as much as she likes eating and drinking—all the better if she can do both at the same time.