Happy 100th Birthday, Bloody Mary: Paris Celebrates the Cocktail’s Birthday

The bloody mary, a vodka-tomato juice cocktail thought to have been invented at Harry’s Bar in Paris in 1921, is celebrating its 100th birthday.

The centennial celebrations this week provide a welcome break from the winter doldrums and concerns about the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The bartender is meticulously inspecting COVID-19 health passes are being distributed as foreign visitors gather to sample the drink closely associated with Harry’s Bar, whose patrons have included writers Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald over the last century.

Bloody Mary (Cocktail)

According to Harry’s history, the cocktail was invented by bartender Fernand Petiot, and the recipe was first published in a book called “Harry’s ABC of Cocktails” in 1921. Every year, the bar serves approximately 12,000 bloody marys.

“It’s a classic drink,” bartender Dante Agnelli said as he went through the recipe, ingredient by ingredient: salt and pepper, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vodka, and tomato juice.

“You make it directly in the glass,” Agnelli explained as he stood at the counter where Petiot first performed the now-famous ritual 100 years ago, at the start of the roaring 1920s.

Despite concerns about the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Europe and an increase in new virus infections across France, Harry’s Bar plans to host a celebration on Thursday night.

The celebration, according to Franz-Arthur MacElhone, a great-grandson of bar founder Harry MacElhone, will take place in accordance with government regulations: health passes of patrons from around the world will be checked, hand sanitizers will be distributed, and bar staff will wear masks.

The French government recently expanded the places where passes are required, including all restaurants and an increasing number of events and venues. To obtain one, individuals must show proof of full vaccination, a negative virus test within the last 24 hours, or recent recovery from COVID-19.

The French government has closed nightclubs and tightened social distancing measures in an effort to avoid a new lockdown.

The only visible difference inside the bar that used to be located on New York’s 7th Avenue before being dismantled, shipped to Europe, and rebuilt in central Paris in 1911 is the health protocol.

The timeless décor is a reassuring fixture for Harry’s patrons, especially during this time of uncertainty due to the pandemic.

“Once you walk in, you leave all your worries behind,” said Ihab Hassan, 61, an Egyptian retiree who has been a regular at the bar since the 1970s.

Hassan said, with a bloody mary on the counter in front of him, that the coronavirus pandemic was not enough to deter him from his favorite Paris pastime.

Jay Sing, an American, and Renée DiGeorgio, an Australian, sat next to Hassan. They discussed the famous cocktail with an Associated Press reporter, admitting they had already had a few.

“Sometimes, for my hangover, we drink bloody marys with breakfast,” said DiGeorgio, 42, who works in the mining industry and is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“This is a really nice bloody mary,” he commented. “This is the first time I’ve ever had a bloody mary after the sun has gone down!”

All three men claimed to have taken all necessary health precautions to ensure their safety and compliance with government anti-virus regulations.

“I have four vaccines in me,” said Sing, a 28-year-old tech worker from New York. “I’m like Iron Man.” Nothing can touch me!”

The great-grandson of the bar’s founder, MacElhone, recounted various legends about how the bloody mary got its name.

“Petiot said it was for a dancer named Mary who he adored,” MacElhone explained.

“She used to work in a place called the Bucket of Blood in Chicago,” MacElhone explained. But that is only one explanation for the drink’s name.

Bloody Mary

There are others, according to MacElhone.

“There’s a Hemingway story here,” he explained. “It was just before he got married, and he was dating a girl named Mary.”

According to the story, Hemingway did not want alcohol on his breath and requested a drink mixed with juice.

Tomato juice was added, and “while he was drinking it, he was saying “bloody Mary,” according to MacElhone.

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