The Bloody Mary: An Unlikely Breakfast of Champions

Mmmm, breakfast. What appeals to the mouth and stomach at the early hour when the birds are singing and the sun’s rays are spraying over the horizon? Something starchy, like toast? Perhaps some protein — eggs and bacon sound right. And perhaps a cup of coffee or tea to help shake the spell of Morpheus. That what the body needs, right?

So how is it that the Bloody Mary — usually a concoction of tomato juice, vodka, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, a stalk of celery, and a bit of lemon juice — became a famed breakfast go-to? Like much in life, it is anything but clear.

We don’t even know who invented the drink. “Popular Bloody Mary legend points to Fernand ‘Pete’ Petiot, at bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in the 1920s,” writes Brian Bartels in The Bloody Mary: The Lore and Legend of a Cocktail Classic, with Recipes for Brunch and Beyond (Ten Speed Press, 2017). But seeing as the bar’s head, Harry McElhone, didn’t list the Bloody Mary — or any tomato juice drinks — in his 1927 cocktail recipe book, this hypothesis is suspect. New York comedian George Jessel asserted in his autobiography that he created the drink in 1927 after an all-night bender. Another theory is that Petiot created the drink shortly after Prohibition. Petiot had moved from Paris to new York City, and was slinging the Red Snapper — vodka, tomato juice, citrus juice, and spices — at the St. Regis’ King Cole bar. So maybe Jessel came up with idea and Petiot refined it? Who knows?

Nor do we know why it was named the “Bloody Mary” or how exactly it moved from one watering hole to becoming a staple of bar menus around the world. But it did, and at least two factors explain why.

First, the food industry got into the canned juice business in a big way in the first few decades of the 20th century. This created year round bar and restaurant access to juices with long shelf lives. Juice-makers fostered consumer interest by heavily advertising the healthful effects of gulping juice in the morning. (Is acidic orange juice really what the stomach wants bright and early?)

Second, despite its ingredients — the Bloody Mary is delicious. Especially if one is a little hungover. (When really wrecked, no food or drink appeal.) The viscous tomato juice fills the stomach, the black pepper soothes its disturbances, and the whole amalgam invigorates and helps the consumer convince himself he feels fine and can endure the day before him.

Like so many good things in life, the Bloody Mary has evolved. An early version has only three ingredients (vodka, tomato juice, and lemon juice.) Recent versions have become more baroque — one might find wasabi or a pickle in the glass. Bartels himself created the “PB&J & Mary,” which is made with peanut-infused vodka (or tequila!), strawberry jam, Cholula hot sauce, and more. And some of drinks being called Bloody Mary’s are miles from the original. The “Pirate Mary,” another Bartels invention, is a luminous yellow-green rum and pineapple drink.

My own preference is for a Bloody Mary with the standard ingredients: a belt of vodka, tomato juice, dash of lemon juice and Worcestershire, a little horseradish, and a stalk of celery. And a few pieces of crispy bacon. The awakening body does need protein.
Kevin R. Kosar is a senior fellow at R Street Institute and heads its alcohol policy reform program. He is the author of Moonshine: A Global History (2017) and Whiskey: A Global History (2010). This article was first published by the American Spectator.

Tonight’s Tipple: A Dark and Stormy


The last time we wrote of this cocktail (here), we encourage the use of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.

While this is a splendid choice, there are other options. Maui Dark Rum, made by Haleakala Distillers, is a terrific option. (Rating ****1/2) It is inky black and shows hearty flavors that comport nicely with the cocktail’s crisp ginger and lime components.

Another intriguing way to go is to use Sea Wynde Rum. It is a BIG rum from Guyana and Jamaica that oozes charred barrel flavors and usually is best taken neat and in small sips. (Rating ****1/2)  Using it in a Dark and Stormy requires a small modification of the usual proportions. Instead of pouring 2 ounces of rum and 3 ounces of ginger beers (and 1/2 ounce of lime juice), one needs to dial back the rum to 1 ounce or dial up the ginger beer to 6 ounces.

You can shop for these rums and others at our preferred online retailer.



Tonight’s Tipple: A Dark and Stormy

It has been a grand day—we worked hard, jogged 45 minutes in the blazing midday heat, and prepared a fine dinner of corn-black bean salad and ciabbatas topped with olive oil, mozzarella, tomato, and basil. (Heineken and Stella Artois paired nicely with this chow.)

Now the time for the day’s end cocktail draws nigh.  We are going with the Dark and Stormy recipe from Esquire. (See here.)  We are using Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Fever-Tree Ginger Beer—which comes in a seven-ounce bottle meaning that we can make two Dark and Stormies!



Barrel-Aged Cocktails: All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Barrel-Aged Manhattan. Credit: Drew Long

by Drew Long, Guest Writer

A common complaint about craft cocktails is that a drink that once took two minutes to make now takes ten.

Well, I’ve stretched that out to five months.

Barrel-aged cocktailing is one of the latest trends in drink making. Now, this isn’t simply mixing up a sazerac with your favorite barrel-aged rye. After all, you can’t have whiskey without the wood (regardless of all that white whiskey nonsense). No, barrel-aged cocktails are drinks that are mixed together, poured into a barrel and allowed to age for weeks or months.

The result is as obvious as it is surprising.

About a year ago, a friend bought me a small, 2 liter barrel that I aged a blend of white spirits in to produce a rather potent rye whiskey. Once I removed the whiskey, I needed to put something back in to prevent the wood from drying out, which would ruin the barrel. Lacking any ideas, I fell back on an old favorite: I filled the barrel with Early Times Kentucky whiskey.

Although aged Early Times is spectacular, I wanted to try something else. That something else ended up being a barrel-aged Manhattan.

The key to this process is picking elements that have spent time in a barrel or would benefit from it. With a Manhattan, you’re looking at whiskey and wine, both of which have spent time in wood and were better for it. A Rob Roy–the Manhattan’s Scottish cousin–would also work, naturally. On the other hand, a barrel-aged Tom Collins would be appalling. Gin does just fine without the barrel-aging process.

With a cocktail recipe and barrel-appropriate libations in hand, the only other thing you need is time. Well, time and a barrel, which are easy to find online. For the Manhattan, I began by aging 2 liters of Early Times for three months. Through evaporation and absorption into the wood, in which the Early Times mingled with the rye blend that preceded it, the volume of whiskey reduced by about a third, or about .6 liters. That works out to be the better part of one 750 ml bottle of Dolin’s sweet vermouth (after topping off the barrel, you’ll have enough vermouth left for a celebratory, mid-aging cocktail).

Knowing if the whiskey has reduced enough is as much an art as a math test. Every few weeks, I checked the barrel’s weight by picking it up, and by the three-month mark I noticed that it felt considerably lighter. So I poured the whiskey back into the original 1.75 liter Early Times bottle and measured the volume of liquid. A full 1.75 liters works out to about 7.4 cups of liquid. After the initial three months of aging, I had about 1.15 liters, or just under 5 cups, which is two thirds the original volume. And as Mr. Boston will tell you, a Manhattan is two parts whiskey and one part sweet vermouth. I knew it was time to add the wine.

Once I topped off the barrel, I plugged the bung, swirled the whole thing for a minute or two and then let the concoction sit for another couple months (swirling the barrel every now and then). Although I planned to let the mixture sit for three months, I pulled a sample after two (periodic sampling is critical) and knew it was ready.

Five months and 2.5 liters of whiskey and vermouth later, I had the makings of the best Manhattan cocktail I’ve ever made or paid for.

After co-mingling in the barrel, the whiskey and vermouth blend into a single spirit. It’s a sweet whiskey with additional notes of caramel and vanilla from the wood. The color is lighter than a traditional Manhattan, more liquid amber than deep maroon.

Intuitively, the results make sense. Blending whiskey and other spirits is as old as distilling itself, and infusing spirits with everything from bacon to peaches is pretty common. Yet, the outcome of the barrel-aged Manhattan project is still a surprise. This whiskey, this spirit that now lives in a bottle in my basement tastes like a Manhattan.

Straight from the barrel, the blend is certainly fine enough to drink as is. But to be a Manhattan cocktail, you need only a few dashes of Angostura bitters, a quick stir in an ice filled shaker and a brandied cherry. Simple steps after a long wait.

Sure, a perfect Manhattan could take 10 minutes in a good bar, but a spectacular one is worth waiting a much, much longer time for.

Barrel-Aged Manhattan

3 oz. of barrel-aged whiskey and sweet vermouth

3 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 brandied cherry to garnish (I prefer Les Parisiennes)


Fill a cocktail shaker half full of ice. Add the aged whiskey and vermouth blend, and three dashes of bitters. Stir to chill and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the brandied cherry.


The Original Recipe for the Old Fashioned Cocktail?

The New York Times has a February 22, 2012 post that is a  real head-scratcher. And teeth-gritter.

It involves a fellow (Martin Doudoroff) who has put up this website,, which claims to provide the original and correct recipe for the Old Fashioned.

During the 20th Century, various bad ideas encrusted the Old Fashioned. Here we will strip off those barnacles to expose the amazingly simple and sublime drink beneath…. There is no slice of orange in an Old Fashioned. There is no cherry in an Old Fashioned. You do not mash up fruit of any kind in an Old Fashioned. There is no seltzer, soda water, ginger ale, or lemon soda in an Old Fashioned.

Where to begin with all this cocktail fire and brimstone?

(1) What is the basis for Doudoroff’s contention that he has the original recipe?  We searched his website looking for his evidence and found nothing beyond a citation of one of Dave Wondrich’s books.

(2) Supposing Doudoroff’s is the very first version of the Old Fashioned, so what?  The notion that a recipe as initially composed is TRUE and THE BEST and not to be changed is just a contention.  This conflates the notions of “original” and “correct.”  The proof is in the taste.  Which leads to point (3).

(3) Dale DeGroff, aka King Cocktail, provides the Old Fashioned recipe at  Dale says the ingredients include orange and cherry and possibly soda water.  Are we to believe Doudoroff knows more about making a tasty drink than Dale?  Doudoroff, by the way, is a cocktail enthusiast who works in IT.  He is not a bartender.

(4) Millions of Old Fashioneds have been served with cherry/orange/etc. and pleased many customers.  Who is Doudoroff to heap scorn on their preferences by trashing their recipe and declaring that his bare bones recipe will “elevate” one’s taste?  His recipe, mind you, is nothing more than whiskey mixed with sugar and a twist.  (Yawn.)

(5) Anyone who claims there are RIGHT recipes (and that all others are decadent) is engaging in a bit of historical culinary sophistry. All recipes, be they drink or food, evolve over time, especially because the ingredients themselves change.  For example, the whiskey made today isn’t the same as the whiskey made a century ago.  Similarly, few 19th century bars stocked cherries and oranges—they just were not available.  Rcipes can be improved and should take account of the changing raw materials.

In short, it strikes us that the New York Times uncritically has given a nice bit of publicity to a zealot with some highly debatable notions.