In Good Spirits

In Good Spirits

Three Takes on the Bloody Mary

Words by Zack Grossenbacher
Illustrations by Ana Gutowski

For centuries the widely accepted story of the rise and fall of Mary Tudor was that of an overly ambitious woman who rose to power on a tidal current of the blood of her enemies. What is possibly the mythologizing of later-day Protestants with a bone to pick, her popular legacy is one of a murderous Catholic—but more importantly, a murderous woman. It may be a bit of apocrypha—the history of such things are rarely definitive—but in 1920s New York, a bartender named Fernand Petiot got the bright idea to mix tomato juice and vodka. It’s easy to imagine the booze-slumped barfly tasting the peppery concoction, noting the hematic coloring, and offering up the name, Bloody Mary. Add a celery stalk, and you’ve got mixology history.

The first version of the drink was simple and bold. Some will tell you it is never to be enjoyed as an evening drink, but such legalism seems against the spirit of the cocktail:

The Classic

1 oz. high-quality vodka
2 oz. tomato juice
Healthy squeeze of lemon juice
Black pepper, fresh-cracked
Cayenne (to taste)
3 dashes Worcestershire sauc

A note on this recipe: 
If you have the time—and it’s tomato season—treat yourself to some fresh, homemade tomato juice. The irrational amount of labor it takes to make will stress you out in the sort of way only a Bloody Mary can aleve.


This may sound familiar. When I was a child, there was a game my friends and I would play—rather, we would talk about playing it. I think this is one of those things no one has done outside of a movie. First, you go into the bathroom. Then, you turn off the lights. Then you spin clockwise three times (or was it counter clockwise?). Then you take a look in the mirror and say the name three times: Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary! If you complete this ritual correctly, the ghastly figure of a young woman appears over your shoulder, and—well, I’m not really sure. She kills you or something. I clearly never did it right.

This American myth closely resembles the Japanese urban legend, Toire no Hanako-san. Translated literally, it’s decidedly less scary: Hanako of the Toilet However, the outcome is viscerally more so.

Hanako of the Toilet pulls her victims through an open toilet, which she has turned into a gate to hell. I bring this up because I love not-so-scary horror stories, and because I prefer Tamari to Worcestershire. Here’s a Hanako inspired take on the Bloody Mary:

The Toire No Hanako-san

3 ounces sake
3 ounces tomato juice
Large squirt of sriracha
Splash of Tamari
Fresh lemon juice (lime also works well here)
Salt & pepper
Baby bok choy, quartered 

As a freshman, I enrolled at the University of Mississippi fully aware of what I could expect: drinking, sleeping, drinking, and very occasionally, studying. Weekends started on Wednesday. By the time game day rolled around, I would probably be on hour 50 of a hangover. There was no retreat. The only way was through. 

Bloody Marys were having something of a “moment” at the time. Guy Fieri was taking the world by storm, and every wannabe Triple-D hot spot was selling Bloody Marys with an absurd cavalcade of toppings. One dive on the Oxford square topped its twenty-dollar Bloody Mary with pickled okra, a slider burger, and a tiny slice of pizza. It was a maximalist movement about which I still haven’t made up my mind.

At a party one night, a woman named Mary stole a bike from one of my friends and rode off into the night. “I think that’s your bike,” I said to him. He didn’t seem to care. Thirty minutes later Mary reemerged, without the bike. She had evidently wrecked it, and both of her knees were badly skinned.  

“Why was Mary all bloody?” my friend asked, and then much later, “Where’s my bike?”

It seems the heyday of the Bloody Mary may be behind us, as it has been replaced on brunch menus across the country by the abominable bottomless mimosa. But it is still the only thing that can get you back up on Saturday after an unsuccessful bike theft on Friday.

This recipe isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t even any good. But if you’re trying to keep it going, this is the drink for you:

Lafayette County Massacre

1 original red solo cup, half full of ice
2 shots of awful, cheap vodka (Burnett's blue top for historical accuracy)
Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
3 paper packs of pepper dug out of a takeout bag
5-15 dashes of Tabasco

Note: If the cup isn’t precariously full, pour more vodka as a topper.
Author’s note: do not drink this.