Marketing gimmick of the day: Bars across the city were (supposedly) giving out free Bloody Marys today to commemorate the invention of the cocktail by (supposedly) a Frenchman named Fernand Petiot, 75 years ago today. In 1933, or so goes the story, Petiot was working as head bartender at the St. Regis Hotel, the turn-of-the-century beaux arts building on 55th street. And if you’re believing this up to this point, then you’ll also probably swallow the notion that Petiot’s first customers to drink his concoction were from Chicago, and they suggested naming it after Mary, a barmaid at a Chicago drinking establishment called The Bucket of Blood. (For some sort of confirmation of this tall tale – with some quibbles about dates – look here.)
Petiot’s step-granddaughter Carol Bradley came to town from Ohio this morning, courtesy of a local vodka company, to toast her old man in Times Square. Bradley wanted to set the bloody record straight, “He invented it over in France, actually” she tells us. “But it wasn’t a hit over there. Nobody liked it. It took off here in New York.” And took off it did. In 1964, Petiot and his concoction were profiled in The New Yorker.
Bradley remembers hearing her grandpa tell tales about his life as a bartender at the St. Regis, where he served the best and worst: presidents, Broadway stars, and the mobsters of the era. She said the mobsters, especially Frank Costello, used to love the Bloody Mary. Sure, why not? It’s our favorite way to start a long day.