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Aug 6, 2009 04:41 PM

gin versus vodka for bloody mary?

and why?

does your answer depend upon the recipe. (I am looking at a very interest recipe on p.32 of September Bon Appetit (take a look), wondering whether gin or vodka is best suited.

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  1. If I might muddy the water, I sometimes have it with tequila.

    1. The classic uses vodka. Probably the best liquor for when you're drinking at breakfast. Apparently when you use gin it's a "Ruddy Mary"; a "Bloody Maria" uses tequila. I'm still trying to develop a market for my patented Vietnamese-influenced cocktail:

      8 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        Love the pho drink. Sign me up for one (or three) of those please!

        1. re: c oliver

          One more thing to add to the checklist!

          1. re: alanbarnes

            I'm getting a hankering for some dim sum. Maybe WE can come THERE.

          2. re: c oliver

            Sign me up too!! I had forgotten all about that drink, Alan, but that's probably because I prefer gin in my Bloody Mary. (now I know it's really a Ruddy Mary) Don't know why I prefer gin, it must be the subtle flavor that vodka just does not have. Unless, of course, you've boosted it with peppercorns, celery seed, and horseradish. Hmmmm... horseradish!

            1. re: Gio

              Since I first read this I've probably had five Ruddy Mary's --- except the servers just called them Gin Mary's. I always think I'm going to like a Bloody Mary and it always disappoints. So I have about two a year and am sorry I had that many. But the gin really does add something. And I'm drinking my vegetables also.

          3. re: alanbarnes

            Your Bloody Bloody Bò sounds very intriguing? What brand of pho stock did you use?

            1. re: alanbarnes

              For breakfast try vodka and prune juice, a Pile Driver.

            2. I've seen a gin-based bloody mary called a Red Snapper. But you have to figure, the original bloody mary was probably made with gin, not vodka. It's an English drink, and the English drink gin. I'd have to imagine that it got dumbed down to vodka at some point to please American palate. Anyway, london dry gin is essentially diluted grain alcohol (i.e., vodka) distilled with juniper and other botanicals. If those flavors clash with the spices of a bloody mary, try a GOOD flavored vodka to add something to the mix other than a total neutral.

              15 Replies
              1. re: craigasaurus

                Um, no. First off, it's not an English drink, it's American. And it was made with vodka from day one. A Red Snapper is also made with vodka, and always has been (See Crosby Gaige's Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion, M Barrows and Company, New York, 1941, at p. 57.)

                Nothing wrong with using gin; you don't need to rewrite history (or classic recipes) to do it.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  No need to be so contrite. Apparently, we're both wrong - seems though the origin of the Bloody Mary is in dispute, with some claims that it was invented in France:

                  And a very quick Google search backs up my claim that there is a gin-based drink called the Red Snapper:

                  And I can't speak to the authenticity of your source material - I don't have that book and know nothing of it's origin - but it's fair to say that your contentions are by no means definitive.

                  1. re: craigasaurus

                    The wikipedia page you link to quotes Fernand Petiot (the guy who popularized the Bloody Mary in France) as saying "I initiated the Bloody Mary of today ... Jessel [a bartender in New York] said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over." In other words, Petiot acknowledges that the drink was invented in the US, but claims to have perfected it at Harry's Bar, a Paris hangout for expat Americans. Doesn't get much more definitive than that.

                    It looks as though some people are currently calling a tomato juice and gin cocktail a "Red Snapper." But just because a couple of people misuse a drink's name doesn't change the classic recipe. (Don't get me started on "martinis.")

                    Getting back to our old friend Fernand Petiot, when Prohibition ended he took a job at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel in New York. He brought his signature cocktail with him, but changed the name to "Red Snapper" because management was afraid that "Bloody Mary" might offend Americans' more conservative sensibilities. What he didn't do was change the base liquor. The King Cole has been serving Red Snappers since 1934 right up until today, and they have all been made with vodka.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      I concede your position re: M. Petiot. Perhaps I did not read the article closely enough. While I'm well versed in the sordid history of the beloved martini (I have often defended its integrity on these boards), I know rather little about the Bloody Mary, which is why I turned to the internet. I agree that people can put whatever they want in a drink recipe, give it a classic name, and pretend that it's authentic.

                      That said, I personally enjoy the taste of gin or aquavit in a Bloody Mary, and because they're both flavored grain-based neutral spirits, I don't feel like I'm going too far afield. And for whatever reason, perhaps due to its complex makeup and strong flavor component, I feel that a Bloody Mary is a broader canvas for exploration and variation then, say, the quintessential martini.

                      So, I guess the question is, if one replaces the vodka in a classical Bloody Mary with another spirit, is it still a Bloody Mary? I say "yes," but I'm open to counter-arguments.

                      1. re: craigasaurus

                        I lean toward no, but then again I oppose the "vodka martini." Sure, a Kangaroo's a stupid name for a cocktail. So think of a better one, Mr. Bond.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Alright, ab, what am I going to call my "vodka martini"? It has vermouth in it and it has vodka in it. Do I call it "a vodka with vermouth"? (No free passes, bucko :) )

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Seriously, it's a Kangaroo, Ian Fleming notwithstanding.

                            Are we going to win this battle for proper nomenclature? No. But might as well make the gesture.

                            "Into the jaws of Death / Into the mouth of Hell / Rode the six hundred."

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              Dang, I forgot about the Kangaroo. So, do you think if I order one, the bartender will not WTF I'm asking for?

                              1. re: c oliver

                                They probably will give you the starving puppy look.. But if you get one whose eyes light up when you mention it, frequent that bar forevermore, for you have found one hell of a bartender.

                        2. re: craigasaurus

                          Now that I have it, aquavit is a must-have for my "Bloody Mary". It makes a great cocktail perfection to me! Here I thought I was being "so unique" in adding it, too. *LOL*
                          Me, I love gin to begin with, so if I feel up for it, i'll make it with that, instead of my beloved aquavit.

                          Vodka's just too bland for me

                          1. re: Honeychan

                            I third the comments about the aquavit. A most peculiar beverage; a most peculiar country from which it springs. But it is a sublime base for a bloody mary (or whatever moniker one wants to use -- suggestions? -- to capture the combination).

                          2. re: craigasaurus

                            Look at my reply downthread. Your take was more accurate than alanbarnes, and wikipedia ... well let's just say that ... all Internet sources are suspect. Per Dale DeGroff's "The Craft of the Cocktail", the Bloody Mary was indeed invented in one ex-pat American Bar in Paris based on a rival Paris ex-pat American Bar's non-alcoholic tomato cocktail. It was indeed vodka-based. But when it first traveled to America (to the bar at the St. Regis Hotel in NYC) vodka was not available in the US so it was made with gin.

                            Oh and George Jessel was never a bartender in NY. (I'm still laughing at that one ...)

                            1. re: Glinda

                              It's ironic that you're here on the internet making claims about the dubious reliability of information on the intenet, and providing bad information in the process.

                              Thanks for correcting me about George Jessel. He was indeed an actor and a prominent member of New York society in the '30s; he wasn't a bartender. Enjoy your laugh.

                              But your basic premise - that gin was used in the US because vodka was unavailable - is absurd. Smirnoff vodka has been distilled here since 1933, other vodkas were being imported long before that, and AFAIK every 1930s recipe for a Bloody Mary specifies vodka. But instead of laughing at you, I'll just point out that your facts are incorrect. It's more polite.

                          3. re: alanbarnes

                            I'll take my cocktail history from an actual bartender rather than from wikipedia or any other Internet source. In Dale DeGroff's "The Craft of the Cocktail", he credits Frank Meier of the Ritz Bar in Paris with the early 1920s creation of a non-alcoholic cocktail (or "mocktail" to use the current terminology) that seasoned crushed tomatoes (DeGroff claims it was the tins of American tomato juice imported to France just after World War I ended, but this is suspect since tomato juice wasn't widely available in this form until the late 1920s) with celery salt and Worchester sauce.

                            Fernand 'Pete" Petiot at the rival Harry's American Bar took the recipe and added vodka naming it after a regular at the bar who was often "left waiting for her man" (I love that part) nursing Pete's version of Frank's concoction. Now that's the way real bartender's name their drinks: after memorable people in their lives! When it came to American for the first time in 1936 with Pete installed as the head of the St. Regis Bar (still one of the most impressive bars in NYC with that gorgeous mural) vodka was not yet available in the US, so it was made with gin.

                            So the cocktail has French origins, or, at best, ex-pat "American in Paris" origins ... which is the most satisfying derivation yet. And as an "American drink" it indeed was originally gin.

                            As for George Jessel ... the only place Georgie Jessel was a bartender was possibly in his palatial Hollywood home. George Jessel was an actor, singer and movie producer. The claim that he "invented" the Bloody Mary was likely a byproduct of the ad campaign in 1956 that he did for Smirnoff Vodka, at that time just being introduced to the US. Though, I understand how that one caught on: for Americans, everything was invented by us and nothing existed (vodka, for instance) before we heard of it. LOL!

                            1. re: Glinda

                              You'd be far better off taking your cocktail history (or any history) from primary sources. Those who do are far less likely to make silly claims.

                              Like the claim that Jessel's alleged invention of the Bloody Mary dates to that 1956 Smirnoff ad campaign. Or the claim that the original drink used gin because vodka was not widely available in the US in the '30s. Both are complete nonsense.

                              Lucius Beebe was a newspaperman who wrote a column called "This New York" for the New York Herald Tribune from the mid-30s to 1944. On December 2, 1939, that column noted that "George Jessel’s newest pick-me-up which is receiving attention from the town’s paragraphers is called a Bloody Mary: half tomato juice, half vodka."

                              On related matters, Jessel was a Vaudevillian long before he was a Hollywood actor. Smirnoff vodka has been distilled in the US since 1933. And at the St. Regis, the drink is not now and never has been called a "Bloody Mary"; it's a "Red Snapper."

                              Sounds to me like Dale DeGroff should stick to mixing drinks.

                    2. We've used Tanqueray 10 gin to make delightful "Bloody Marys." We make a pretty standard (Worcestershire, salt, pepper) version but always use wasabi instead of the horseradish. Garnish with a cucumber stick.

                      I'd hazard a guess that gin drinkers would be delighted to have their Bloodys made with gin. For me, it depends on my mood (and in the case of gin, the brand of gin is very important - vodka not quite so much).