The true story of the Bloody Mary, the world’s most famous hangover cure
World Best Bar
Oct 13, 2020
10 January 2019
Spooky season is upon us, so now seemed as good a time as any to get into the history of the most ominous-sounding cocktail out there: the Bloody Mary.
When not talking about the drink, the term “Bloody Mary” is most commonly used to describe a kind of ghost of a dead woman in Western folklore. Another such famous woman spirit is the White Lady which, coincidentally, also ended up naming its cocktail. According to legend, the Bloody Mary is said to appear in the mirror if one calls its name three times in the dark. The tomato juice-based cocktail’s red color would be reminiscent of the blood-covered spectre (and its ability to bring its drinker back from the dead, figuratively speaking, is also a fitting nod), so there might be at least some truth to this first interpretation.
Enter Mary Tudor, Queen Mary I of England, famous for attempting to reinstate the Catholic Church in the country with much ferocity. During her five-year reign, from July 1553 until her death, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake. This led to her denunciation as “Bloody Mary” by her persecuted Protestant opponents. Could the name of the cocktail instead be a tribute to this bloodthirsty historic character? There have been more fun ways to name a cocktail, if you ask us.
Now, if you don’t mind, let’s add some much needed flourish and humor to this case. Our favorite story is the following: after famously taking back his beloved Ritz Hotel bar from the Germans (ahem, after they had already gone…), Ernest Hemingway reportedly spent so much time there that they even ended up naming the place after him. He would usually down quite a few drinks in the course of an evening before going back to his wife. Her name? You guessed it, Mary. When he got home, “Bloody Mary!” would give him an earful at the first whiff of alcohol on his breath. That’s how Hemingway came to ask a bartender to whip up something that would effectively cover the smell of booze, so he could stop spending his nights sleeping on the couch. The rest is cocktail history.
You can find our take on the classic over here.