Grape & Grain

Where to find Hong Kong’s best Bloody Marys on the 94th birthday of the morning after classic

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 October, 2015, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 October, 2015, 5:14pm

The Bloody Mary is 94 this year. Bartender Fernand “Pete” Petiot came up with the happy mix of vodka, tomato juice and a touch of spice at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1921.

 The name came from a customer. “One of the boys suggested we call it Bloody Mary,” Petiot told Newsweek in 1967, “because the drink reminded him of the Bucket of Blood club in Chicago, and he had a girl named Mary”.

 Harry’s has basically stuck to Petiot’s original formula involving Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and black and cayenne pepper, although since the 1950s, Tabasco sauce has been used instead of cayenne.

 Petiot emigrated to the United States, and while working at New York’s  St Regis Hotel developed a more spicy version of the drink, which, complete with the celery stick garnish, has provided the basis for most subsequent variations on his theme.

 Some of those have worked better than others.

 The recipe in Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, clearly stipulates “above all no celery salt”, which reflects what the late Andy MacElhone – who inherited the bar from his father Harry – thought of what had become of the drink once it was widely available elsewhere.

 As it happens I don’t like celery, so I’m in MacElhone’s corner on that.

 It is also possible to argue that if you are going to use V8 rather than tomato juice the drink should be called something else – as it is in Canada where the substitution of  Clamato gives you a Bloody Caesar, a drink which somehow tastes much better in Toronto than it does here. Perhaps Clamato doesn’t travel.

 There is no doubt, though, that something recognisable as a Bloody Mary has an affinity with seafood.

 Many restaurants around the world serve Bloody Mary oyster shooters and, locally, the Dan Ryan’s Bloody Mary is served garnished with a good sized prawn.

 Signature Bloody Marys are a feature of many bars around town, with fastidious attention paid to fine points of detail in the mixing.

 At The Globe, according to proprietor Toby Cooper, “we cook a lot of great ingredients together to give us a very solid base for our Bloody Marys – a gentle simmer helps the flavours to blend. We try to achieve a depth to the spice by using three different kinds of chillies. The Bloody Marys do pack a punch, which is why we garnish them with a pickled chilli. We also muddle fresh tomatoes into the mix to give them a bit of freshness.”

 Cooper also has an interest in the newly opened Beach House, on Lantau’s Cheung Sha Beach, for which he has created a different Bloody Mary formula using “only fresh pressed tomato juice with a splash of carrot juice to balance out the deep spice”.

 At Quinary – up three places to number 39 in the latest World’s 50 Best Bars Awards  –  Antonio Lai redistils the vodka.

 “Since the Bloody Mary is one of the most complex drinks that is also spicy, I redistil vodka with wasabi to add an Asian influence to the classic cocktail,” Lai says.

 “Asian elements are also seen in the Bloody Mary served at The Envoy [where it’s called Murder On the Orient Express] where we cook ginger and Chinese sweet dark vinegar – as in the traditional pork knuckle and ginger stew – to mix with pink peppercorn gin and our house-made spiced tomato mix.”

 When gin substitutes for vodka in a Bloody Mary recipe it is sometimes called a Red Snapper, but at Armani/Aqua, which serves seven Bloody Mary variants, it is called a Bloody London.

 The bar also offers The Classic, made with vodka; the Bloody Tokyo, made with sake; the Bloody Edinburgh, made with Scotch whisky; the Bloody Rome, made with Peroni Italian beer; the Bloody Havana, made with Cuban rum; and the traditionally named Bloody Shame, which uses the same Bloody Mary mix as the other drinks, but contains no alcohol at all.

 There should be something there to suit just about anybody, but one of the great things about the Bloody Mary is that, without the need for special cocktail paraphernalia or expertise, if you know what you like, you can mix your own pretty effectively at home.

 Dan Ryan’s  shop 112, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2845 4600.  Branches in Harbour City,  tel: 2735 6111; Festival Walk,  tel: 2265 8811

 The Globe 45-53A Graham Street, SoHo, tel: 2543 1941  

 Beach House 32 Lower Cheung Sha Village, South Lantau, tel: 2504 4788  

 Quinary 56-58 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2851 3223  

 The Envoy 3/F The Pottinger Hotel, 74 Queen’s Road Central, Central, tel: 2169 3311  

 Armani/Aqua 2/F Landmark Chater, 8 Connaught Road Central, Central, tel: 3583 2828