The Bloody Mary is a good illustration of the proverbial wisdom that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.
Although it is generally recognised that the original combination - vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and black and cayenne pepper - was first put together in the early 1920s by bartender Fernand 'Pete' Petiot at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, various others over the years have sought to claim the credit.
There are people in the US who still believe comedian George Jessel's claim - made in a '50s ad campaign for Smirnoff vodka - to have invented the drink. Although the St Regis Hotel in New York has always acknowledged Petiot as the originator, it has been asserted that he created it during the '30s while managing its King Cole Bar.
What is certain is that the Bloody Mary has evolved beyond the elegant simplicity of Petiot's original recipe. The major improvement - which probably was introduced in the US and has since been adopted even by Harry's - is the substitution of Tabasco sauce for cayenne pepper.
Variations are frowned upon in the birthplace of the drink, and the Harry's recipe states, emphatically, 'above all, no celery salt'. Neither is it served there with a celery stick taking up space which can be used by other ingredients - particularly vodka - although in most other places the drink automatically comes with one. Using vile V8 juice for tomato juice should also be discouraged, but tastes vary and the Bloody Mary, like the dry martini, is a drink people like to micromanage.
This is a pain in the neck for any bartender capable of shaking a Tabasco bottle to produce varying degrees of spiciness, but at the Peak Cafe Bar in Shelley Street, which sells a lot of Bloody Marys at weekends, you can select your preferred brand and grade of vodka - Eristoff is the house pouring default - and adjust to your taste. You can also request traditional lemon juice rather than lime.
If you are too hung over to issue coherent instructions, the sympathetic bar staff will mix you the following formula. It does come with a celery stick. Try not to crunch it too loudly.
10ml Worcestershire sauce
10ml fresh lime juice
Mix ingredients, top up with fresh tomato juice.
Stir, add ice, garnish with celery (if you must) and a slice of lemon.