Happy 100th, bloody mary: Paris celebrates the anniversary of the cocktail

PARIS (AP) – Harry’s Bar in Paris is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bloody Mary, the vodka and tomato juice cocktail allegedly invented in the iconic drinking trough in 1921.

This week’s centennial events provide a welcome respite from the winter gloom and concerns about the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The bar carefully checks COVID-19 health passes as foreign visitors gather to sample the drink closely associated with Harry’s Bar, whose patrons over the past century have included writers Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

According to Harry’s story, bartender Fernand Petiot invented the cocktail, and the recipe was first published in a book called “Harry’s ABC of Cocktails” in 1921. The bar serves about a year of Bloody Marys per year .

“It’s a classic drink,” said bartender Dante Agnelli, demonstrating the mixology behind the drink, ingredient by ingredient: salt and pepper, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vodka and tomato juice.

“You do it right in the glass,” Agnelli said as he stood at the counter where Petiot first performed the now well-established ritual 100 years ago, on the dawn of what has become the roaring 1920s.

Harry’s Bar plans to hold a celebration on Thursday evening despite concerns over the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Europe and an increase in new viral infections across France.

Franz-Arthur MacElhone, great-grandson of bar founder Harry MacElhone, said the celebration will take place in accordance with government regulations: guest health cards around the world will be verified, hand sanitizers will be distributed and the bar staff wear masks.

In recent days, the French government has expanded the venues where passes are required, including all restaurants and a growing number of events and venues. To get one, people must show proof of full vaccination, a negative virus test less than 24 hours old, or a recent recovery from COVID-19.

The French government has closed nightclubs and tightened social distancing measures, but is trying to avoid a new lockdown.

The sanitary protocol is the only visible change inside the bar which was located on 7th Avenue in New York City before it was dismantled, shipped to Europe and rebuilt in central Paris in 1911.

For Harry’s clients, the timeless decor is a reassuring element, especially in a time of uncertainty due to the pandemic.

“Once you walk in, you leave all your worries behind,” said Ihab Hassan, 61, a retired Egyptian businessman and bar regular since the 1970s.

The coronavirus pandemic was not enough to hamper his favorite Parisian hobby, Hassan said with a Bloody Mary on the counter in front of him.

Sitting next to Hassan were an American, Jay Sing, and an Australian, Renée DiGeorgio. They shared their thoughts on the famous cocktail with an Associated Press reporter, acknowledging they’ve already consumed a few.

“Sometimes with breakfast, for my hangover, we drink Bloody Marys,” said DiGeorgio, 42, who works in the mining industry and is based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“She’s a very beautiful Bloody Mary,” he said. “It’s actually my first time drinking a Bloody Mary when the sun goes down!”

The three men said they took the necessary health precautions to be safe and in compliance with government anti-virus regulations.

“I have four vaccines in me,” said Sing, 28, a tech industry worker from New York City. “I’m like the Iron Man. Nothing touches me!

MacElhone, the great-grandson of the bar’s founder, has told different legends surrounding how the Bloody Mary got its name.

“Petiot said it was for a dancer he really liked called Mary,” MacElhone explained.

“She worked at a place in Chicago called the Bucket of Blood,” MacElhone said. But this is only an explanation of the name of the famous drink.

There are others, MacElhone said.

“There is a Hemingway story,” he said. “It was right before he got married, and he was dating someone named Mary.”

According to this story, Hemingway wouldn’t have wanted alcohol on his breath and asked for a drink mixed with juice.

Tomato juice was added, and “as he drank it he said ‘Bloody Mary’,” MacElhone said.

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