Jan 1, 2021
IF YOU COULD TIME TRAVEL back to Paris in the 1920s, not only would you be able to witness the saucy dance stylings of Josephine Baker, get lit with Ernest Hemingway, be personally outfitted in couture by Coco Chanel, and snap up bargain-priced paintings by Picasso. You’d also be able to sample the first iteration of the drink we now know, and love, as the Bloody Mary.
So the legend goes, it was at one of Hemingway’s haunts, the historic Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, that a barkeep by the name of Fernand ‘Pete’ Petiot first married vodka and tomato juice. Taking his talents (and his recipe book) elsewhere, after a brief spell working at the Savoy in London, Petiot was employed by the King Cole Bar at The St. Regis Hotel in New York. Here, in 1934, Petiot jazzed up that initial vodka and tomato juice concoction with an array of spices, perfecting the piquant cocktail that has served as the salve of the hungover ever since.
Explaining his special sauce to The New Yorker in the 1960s, Petiot said, “I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour.”
This hero among tipplers laid the delicious groundwork for a drink with a million and one permutations. Indeed, each St. Regis hotel has its own take on the beverage Petiot first called the ‘Red Snapper.’ At the St. Regis Beijing, for instance, Tsing Tao beer is used in place of vodka. Grappa stars in the Florentine iteration. In Mexico City, mezcal provides the kick, while at the St. Regis resort in Bali, cucumber and jicama lend refreshing flavor.
Similarly, bars and restaurants around the world have developed varied, tasty and often locally influenced versions of this century-old classic. Here are a few of our favorites from across the region.
The Bloody Mary
Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House, Singapore
The Bostonian chef and proprietor of Luke’s Oyster Bar, Travis Maseiro says his version of the Bloody Mary is inspired by his mother’s formidable mix. “My mom doesn’t drink very often, but when she does, she gets a Bloody Mary and a beer chaser. That’s her style,” Travis says. “She’ll ask the waiter to bring over salt and pepper, and she’ll put a bunch of salt and about 20 grinds of pepper, then take a wedge of lemon and start squeezing that in. She’ll create this super strong drink — like the most flavorful gazpacho ever.”
In Travis’s view, a Bloody Mary should be substantial, almost a meal in a glass. “And it has to have spice, of course — it has to be full throttle. At Luke’s, we go heavy on fresh horseradish and fresh black pepper. We also use HP Sauce, which brings an umami quality. And about 18 months ago we switched to smoked vodka, that adds a subtle complexity.” The result is about the best Bloody Mary you can get your hands on in Singapore — and one that most certainly does Travis’s mom proud.
Ingredients (makes 4 serves):
- 400g whole peeled tomatoes with liquid
- 200ml vodka (ideally, smoked)
- 163ml V8 juice (small 5.5oz can)
- 50ml Heinz ketchup
- 35ml HP Sauce
- 20ml Worcestershire sauce
- 25ml fresh lemon juice
- 20ml red Tabasco
- 25g fresh horseradish (peeled and cut into small cubes)
- 9g black pepper
- 9g kosher salt
Add all items into a blender in batches, taking particular care to ensure the horseradish is finely blended into the mix. Serve in a tall salt-rimmed glass, with ice and a slice. Garnish with celery, olives, cherry tomatoes and a cocktail gherkin.
lukes.com.sg; 22 Gemmill Lane, Singapore; 65/6221-4468; mains from S$36; Bloody Mary S$26.
The Bloody Kim Jong-Il
Yardbird HK, Hong Kong
Since Yardbird HK’s opening just shy of a decade ago, Hong Kong foodies have raved about the simple yet exquisitely executed dishes at this Japanese-inspired restaurant/bar. Chef Matt Abergel may have cut his teeth — and a few fresh fish fillets — at upscale New York sushi mecca Masa. However, the restaurant he founded in partnership with fellow Canadian expat Lindsay Jang is a thoroughly casual affair, embracing the snout-to-tail dining philosophy, interpreted here via charcoal-grilled yakitori. Rich, savory rewards lie in wait for those with the gumption to look beyond skewers of breast and thigh, and instead explore more extraordinary chicken bits such as heart, thyroid, gizzard or knee.
But as befits an authentic izakaya, where food and drinks are given equal importance, the liquid refreshment on offer is just as attractive as the cuisine at Yardbird HK. In addition to a selection of choice sakes, Japanese whiskies and beers, a tightly curated menu of creative cocktails is also available — including the Bloody Kim Jong-Il. As the name suggests, this concoction gets its spice from Korean staple, kimchi. The best Bloody Mary in HK? Arguable. But it’s sure a supreme leader.
- Yuzu salt (dried yuzu peel, salt)
- 2 bar spoons of pureed kimchi
- Juice from half a lemon
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 60ml bloody mix (tomato juice, Bull-Dog tonkatsu sauce)
- 50ml vodka
Rim a 300ml Hario glass with yuzu salt. Muddle pureed kimchi and cherry tomatoes with lemon juice. Add vodka and bloody mix. Soft shake until the shaker freezes, then single strain into the rimmed glass, filled with ice.
yardbirdrestaurant.com. 154-158 Wing Lok St., Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; 852/2547-9273; yakitori from HK$45; Bloody Kim Jong-Il HK$110.
The Tom Yam Bloody Mary
Issaya Siamese Club, Bangkok
This Bangkok institution is the homebase of beloved celebrity chef Ian Kittichai, original importer of hi-brow Thai cuisine to NYC, judge of Iron Chef Thailand, inventor of a Lay’s potato-chip flavor. After closing for Covid longer than most in the city, Issaya Siamese recently reopened its oh-so-photogenic villa for, yes, Kittichai’s gorgeous modern Thai, but also making new exciting uses of the unique space. There’s Vineyard@Issaya, a wine bar with live music in the garden Friday and Saturday nights; Chef’s Table by Ian Kittichai at which you can expect a gourmet international fine-dining menu (Maine lobster, Kagoshima beef) in their coveted, cozy upstairs; and — at last! — Sunday brunch.
Seriously, the lush, vintage, old-wood property seems like it’s now finally fulfilling its destiny. Make yourself comfortable in their trellis-bounded patio mixing all you can eat a la carte (get four of the fried seabass and the grilled pork shoulder; don’t plow into the satiating Mussumam curry lamb shank until you’re ready for that food coma) with trips to the flaming grill and the oyster bar. Usually in such a classed-up free-flow situation, we just stick with the bubbles, but the Tom Yam Bloody Mary is as essential as the khao suay on this priced-at-a-steal menu.
- 45 ml vodka infused with tom yam herbs (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime peel and galangal)
- 100 ml tomato juice
- 15 ml fresh lime juice
- 5 ml Sriracha chili sauce
- 5 ml Worcestershire sauce
- 5 ml soy sauce
Mix the vodka infused with tom yam herbs with the Sriracha chili sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice and fresh lime juice. Garnish with tomatoes, kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass.
issaya.com. 4 Soi Sri Aksorn, Bangkok; 66-2/672-9040; Sunday brunch Bt1,490, plus Bt990 for free-flow cocktails, wines and pink prosecco.