Bloody Marys at 1933 prices just the tonic for NYC

NEW YORK Tue Dec 2, 2008 1:30am IST

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A cocktail born of the Great Depression may be just the tonic for New Yorkers worried about the economy.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the Bloody Mary U.S. restaurant chain TGI Friday's is selling the drink at 1933 prices -- 99 cents each at its New York restaurants.

The drink -- tomato juice and vodka with other ingredients thrown in at the bartender's discretion -- was invented in Paris in the 1920s at Harry's New York Bar by Fernand Petiot, who served it to Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others.

"It's something to be a little bit upbeat about, and to be happy about, when we are having such a rough time with the economy and so forth," said Petiot's granddaughter, Carol Bradley, on her first visit to New York from Ohio.

After leaving France, Petiot nursed his drink in Canton, Ohio, and perfected it at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, where his bartending days coincided with the end of the U.S. prohibition of alcohol and the start of the Great Depression.

For a while, the cocktail was called a Red Snapper because the term "bloody" was considered rude. Joe DiMaggio and Ava Gardner enjoyed the drink, as did a number of U.S. presidents.

Bradley corrected an impression about the origins of the drink's name. It has nothing to do with the 16th Century Queen Mary I of England, Bradley said, but rather comes from a customer's fond memory of a waitress named Mary who worked at a Chicago bar called the Bucket of Blood.

More than a million Bloody Marys are served daily in the United States, said Martin Silver, President of Georgi Vodka Co. and the Tri-State Hospitality Association.

"If a bartender wants to make a really good Bloody Mary, he does it in stages," Silver said. "They put the Worcestershire sauce in, then the tomato juice, a little pepper, and some of them have their own spice ingredients that they use."

For anyone needing a nudge to go and have a Bloody Mary today, the inventor's granddaughter says to consider the benefits. "They're healthy because the tomato juice has vitamin C," she said.

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