Met friends last night at the King Cole bar at the St. Regis, which is currently celebrating the 75th anniversary of the bloody mary, perhaps invented there in 1934 by bartender Fernand Petiot. As with everything from the Caesar salad to the margarita, it is doubtful that a sure-fire history of these American classics will ever be uncovered. No matter. We were there to celebrate by hoisting a red snapper, a bloody mary prototype that doesn't contain horseradish. I would think that whoever first stirred horseradish into tomato juice has at least some claim to the title of bloody mary creator!
While the King Cole might have been the birthplace of the bloody mary, there is no doubt at all that, during this celebration at least, they serve the widest variety: twenty-one, although not every variety is available every night. Many are based on recipes supplied by establishments around the city, including Blue Smoke, Prune, Back Forty, and WD50, as this celebration also benefits City Meals on Wheels. Five of them are only available on twenty-four hours' notice. This is, after all, the St. Regis, which certainly doesn't like being rushed; a state of affairs I found rather irksome while waiting the better part of a quarter hour for my second drink.
My first was the Blue Smoke, which was irresistably described as containing magic dust. It was smokey, spicy, and quite lovely, but it was my second drink that brought on the magic, and made me forget about my original intentions . It was a bloody martini, which shared even less kinship with the blood mary than the red snapper. I checked the menu for ingredients, which I hurriedly scribbled on a napkin. A good thing I did, as the online version of the menu is sketchy in parts.
Ingredients include basil and cherry tomato (garnish), fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, Tabasco, and Belvedere Cytrus. Sound simple enough, but it combines enough sweetness and heat to keep your palate interested after the first, or even second, round, which is as far as I was willing to go at $18 a pop. Once I nail the proportions, I figure that, even with Cytrus at $42 per bottle, I can make a pitcher of bloody marties for under twenty bucks.
It was a grand piano
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