When we think of autumn parties, kids' events often come to mind, especially in October when trick-or-treating rules the month. But a bloody good time can be had by kids of all ages during this most magical month. Adult Halloween parties encompass everything from barn dances to costume balls, with libations to match. Cauldrons of hot apple cider bubble away next to taps of pumpkin lager. At the bar proper, buckeye martinis strike a graphic, menacing note, as do drinks made with black vodka. You can create convincing, if tipsy, alien slime with Chartreuse, Blue Curacao and soda water. Lycanthropes pour chilled shots of Jagermeister to honor the spirits of the forest, while purists in Victorian mourning garb sip arcane louches of Absinthe.
But every vampire knows that the centerpiece libation of Halloween is blood. Some party stores offer favors, imaged after syringes or blood bags, for filling with the tomato juice that (hopefully) stands in for the choice item in Count Dracula's diet. Cheerleaders for Teams Stefan and Damon will enjoy Virgin Marys so served. But for adult sanguivores, Bloody Marys taste best sipped from chalices -- either fine crystal or the ones from the party store -- and served as shiveringly cold as the crypt itself.
The story of the Bloody Mary is as interesting and twisted as what happened in any castle in Transylvania. The tale begins in Paris right after World War One, where canned tomato juice from the United States first appeared and made its way to the bar at The Ritz. There they served a popular tomato juice cocktail of crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and celery (which is, of course, the base of the contemporary drink). Then en face des rues at Harry's American Bar, they began spiking the tomato juice cocktail with vodka. At this point the drink acquired the name Bloody Mary after a patron who consumed them (one extrapolates, increasingly) while waiting for a gentlemen caller who was notoriously late and often just plain absent. It is believed she actually was named Mary but around the bar she was known by that handle not just legitimately but because, in waiting for her beau, she drew comparisons to the solitary Mary, Queen of Scots.
During the Great Depression, the bartender from Harry's American moved from Paris to New York City to lead the counter at the King Cole, the bar at the St. Regis hotel. There, he introduced a version of the Bloody Mary made with gin, as vodka was not available in the United States. In this incarnation, the Bloody Mary was called a Red Snapper. It still is, if you can find a bartender who will make you one.
Our current version of the Bloody Mary arrived -- as, amusingly, do so many other now well-established cocktails -- at the hands of an advertising campaign during the 1960s. A landmark campaign for Smirnoff vodka returned the vodka to the Red Snapper while withdrawing the gin and therewith changed the Red Snapper back into the Bloody Mary. Another chapter in the mythology of the Bloody Mary opened concurrently -- namely, its power as a hangover cure. That role had long been fulfilled by the Prairie Oyster, which is not a cocktail but was, at the time, something you ordered from a bartender to cobble yourself, Frankenstein-like, back together after everything you'd been ordering from the bartender the night before.
Today, the Bloody Mary is most popular as a brunch drink, and there are many disciples who swear by its restorative power after a bender. But even with a story as colorful as the drink itself, the Bloody Mary is underused as a party drink. Here is a recipe for serving Bloody Marys at fall gatherings from weekend brunches to cocktail parties. Like biscuits and barbeque, everyone thinks theirs is the perfect recipe for a Bloody Mary, and each of us is right. Here is my original recipe, in which spice and citrus make mischief in a fluid condenser of tomato juice and good vodka. I have provided recipes for single Bloodies, pitchers and a number of cocktails related to this versatile, historic libation.
BLOODY MARY - Single
1-1/2 shots quality vodka
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 shot fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 stalk celery
1 wedge lime
1. Use a small paring knife to cut open the lime wedge in the middle of the flesh. Run the cut lime wedge around the rim of a highball glass.
2. Fill the glass 1/2 with cracked ice.
3. Sprinkle the ice with the celery seeds.
4. Pour the vodka over the celery seeds and ice. Stick the celery stalk down the side of the glass. Set the prepped glass aside to chill as you make the tomato base.
5. In a cocktail shaker, combine the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, horseradish, lime juice and tomato juice. Shake to mix.
6. Pour the tomato base over the ice in the prepped glass. Use the celery stick to stir the ingredients together. Perch the lime wedge on the rim of the glass. Serve immediately.
BLOODY MARY -- Pitcher
For the pitcher
8 shots quality vodka
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/3 cup lime juice
1 28 ounce container tomato juice
For the garnishes
1. Fill a pitcher with vodka, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, horseradish, lime juice and tomato juice. Stir to combine.
2. Place the pitcher alongside six highball glasses, the ice, and the garnishes.
BLOODY CAESAR -- Using the recipe for a single Bloody Mary, replace the tomato juice with Clamato juice. This cocktail is traditionally served with a raw oyster on the side.
BLOODY MARIA -- Using the recipe for a single Bloody Mary, omit the celery seed and rim the glass with rock salt. Replace the vodka with gold tequila.
BLOODY MARIE -- Using the recipe for a single Bloody Mary, replace the vodka with a full-bodied red wine such as Bordeaux. Omit the lime juice and garnish.
BLOODY MARI-CHAN -- Using the recipe for a single Bloody Mary, replace the vodka with shochu and replace the Worcestershire sauce with soy sauce. Omit the celery seed and substitute wasabi for the horseradish. Replace the lime juice and garnish with lemon juice and garnish, and replace the celery stalk with a wedge of cucumber.
DANISH MARY -- Using the recipe for a single Bloody Mary, replace the lime juice and garnish with lemon juice and garnish and replace the vodka with Aquavit.
SWEDISH MARY -- Using the recipe for a single Bloody Mary, replace the vodka with Kummel. Omit the lime juice and garnish and substitute caraway seeds for the celery seeds.
VIRGIN MARY -- Prepare a single Bloody Mary and omit the vodka.
RED SNAPPER -- Using the recipe for a single Bloody Mary, omit the lime juice and garnish and replace the vodka with gin. This cocktail is traditionally served with lemon and lime wedges on the side, from which the guest chooses with which to garnish their cocktail.
PRAIRIE OYSTER -- Place a dash of olive oil in the bottom of a shot glass. Separate an egg and drop the yolk into the glass. Top the yolk with two dashes each Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, a sprinkle of table salt, and several grindings of fresh black pepper. Serve with a lemon wedge and have the guest down the oyster in one gulp, biting the lemon after they swallow the egg.