Duke Ellington’s band playing ‘Cocktails for Two’ in some secluded rendezvous. Classic song, classic scene, classic drinks—pretty hard to imagine otherwise, eh? But that’s the intrinsic irony of real classics—they can be changed and often are, sometimes using nothing more than whatever happens to be lying at hand.
Consider that classic eye-opener, the Bloody Mary. Sometimes necessity really is the mother of reinvention.
Take the ubiquitous celery stick. Definitely not included in the original juice-and-vodka twosome. It appeared later when a restaurant-bar ran out of swizzle sticks and looked for something that would stir the drink and add flavor. Voila—celery! And a timeless vodka-cocktail combo, instantly recognizable by that crisp green stalk emerging from a pool of luscious red tomato juice, became an instant icon.
Of course a drink that good just had to inspire efforts to make it even better and since the post-Prohibition days when the Spike Jones band was playing ‘Cocktails for Two,’ professional bartenders and home enthusiasts have been trying to twist the original Bloody Mary in new and myriad ways.
Many failed efforts have been deservedly poured down the drain over time, but we’ve managed to search out a few from around the world that have brought something new to the cocktail while retaining the original Bloody Mary’s blend of simplicity, freshness and balance.
But back to the beginnings: Few cocktails are so intimately linked to a single hotel bar as the Bloody Mary is to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis New York.
Although there are different contenders for title of the Bloody Mary’s inventor, the drink—originally a straight, unspiced mix of tomato juice and vodka—is generally credited to barman Fernand ‘Pete’ Petiot of the King Cole Bar in 1934. Petiot’s vastly improved version included salt, pepper, lemon, Worcestershire sauce and shaved ice. The saucily named Bloody Mary would be politely renamed the Red Snapper years later, but that name never stuck and the Bloody Mary is still being shaken, not stirred—per Pete’s instructions—at the King Cole Bar.
Of course other versions of the drink were bound to occur. Ernest Hemingway took credit for bringing the Bloody Mary to Hong Kong, then a British colony, and teaching it to a hotel barman after World War II. But if anyone has license to play with the arrangement, it’s the people who wrote the original tune.
Today, in neighboring Macau, you can find a Portuguese-inspired version, the Maria do Leste, at the St. Regis Macao in Cotai. It’s a rich and spicy melange of flavors that displays the global cultural influences that are the legacy of the former Portuguese enclave.
MARIA DO LESTE, ST. REGIS MACAO
- Sea salt
- 3 pink peppercorns, crushed, plus more for serving
- 3 slices chourico (Portuguese sausage), sauteed in a splash of olive oil, for serving
- 1 miniature bottle Tabasco, for serving (optional)
- 2 tsp / 10 ml fresh key lime juice
- 2 oz / 60 ml tomato juice
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1 dash black vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 dashes piri piri sauce (hot sauce)
- 1 dash celery salt
- 1 dash ground cinnamon
- 1 dash paprika
- 1½ oz / 45 ml premium vodka
- 1 cherry tomato, for garnish
- 1 celery stalk, for garnish
- 1 lime wedge, for garnish
- Lay a bed of sea salt and pink peppercorns on a tray. Put the sauteed chourico in a decorative small dish. Lay a miniature bottle of Tabasco sauce on the tray, on its side, if using.
- Rim an old-fashioned glass with sea salt and fill with ice. Mix the remaining ingredients, except for the garnishes, in a cocktail shaker. Shake well to blend the cinnamon and paprika with the liquid. Pour over the ice. Skewer the tomato, celery, and lime and set atop the glass. Set the glass on the tray and serve with the chouriço on the side.
Another example of at-hand creativity can be found in French Polynesia, where the discovery of a local watermelon patch led to the aptly named Bora Mary. With a lime twist and a champagne flute you can let your Fletcher Christian fantasies unroll at the bar of the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort.
BORA MARY, ST. REGIS BORA BORA RESORT
- 1 ½ oz / 45 ml premium vodka
- 1 ½ oz / 45 ml Bloody Mary mix
- 1 oz / 30 ml lime juice
- 1 ½ oz / 45 ml watermelon juice (or strawberry juice)
- Watermelon cube (or whole strawberry) for garnish
- Blend all ingredients with ice until frothy. Pour into a 6 oz / 150 ml champagne flute. Strawberry may replace watermelon in this recipe. Garnish with a cube of watermelon to size or strawberry, if using.
These are just two possible versions. So iconic is this basic cocktail that you can explore dozens of variations on the classic recipe at different St. Regis hotels around the world.
Put your camel to bed and spend midnight at the oasis sipping a caravan-inspired Spice Route Mary, the desert antidote to a hard day crossing the dunes. It even includes the classic celery stalk. The St. Regis Doha will whip it up for you.
Few places have perfected the blend of cultures found in Singapore—Malay, Chinese, Indian and more—and the Lion City’s fantastic cuisine captures it all. Any version of the Bloody Mary found here has to be up the challenge, and there’s one that is: the Chilli Bloody Mary at the St. Regis Singapore. It’s a scrumptious muddle of lemongrass, ginger root, sweetness and a touch fiery of chilli padi, strained into icy tomato juice. A truly tropical delight.
Should you find yourself a bit bushed after a long day of Thai temple touring—and who isn’t ready to relax after that?—the perfect refreshment awaits at the St. Regis Bangkok. Just lean back and order the Siam Mary. It’s a respectful bow to Fernand Petiot’s original Bloody Mary—tomato juice blended with touches of chilli, coriander, lemongrass, lemon, lime and a bit of the warmth that the Thai people are famous for—and served in an ice-filled silver cup.
Thirsty for more? Browse all the delicious possibilities here.
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