Sometimes an event comes to our attention that seems absolutely perfect for us. Champagne and chocolates? Yes, please. Dining al fresco at an amazing farm in horse country? You betcha. Bourbon and barbecue? Sign us up!
Even so, there are times when the sheer scope of an event causes us to lose sight of it until it’s almost too late. This is another one of those times.
Throughout the month of October, St. Regis Hotels around the world have been celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Bloody Mary. The classic brunch cocktail was “perfected” by bartender Fernand Petiot at the King Cole Bar in New York’s St. Regis Hotel in October of 1934. It was soon renamed the “Red Snapper,” in an effort to class up the drink and to avoid offending any delicate sensibilities among their upscale guests.
And how do you celebrate the Bloody Mary? Get a few of your city’s top chefs and mixologists to contribute creative takes on the drink and serve them up alongside the classic on a special bar menu. Then shout the good news from the rooftops.
Here in Washington, the St. Regis has accomplished those first two steps admirably, gathering drinks from the likes of Art Smith, Spike Mendelsohn and Todd Gray, among others. Even so, we’ve been surprised by the relative lack of shouting we’ve been hearing about this…and as a result, we almost forgot about it altogether. Now we’ve only got this last weekend to take advantage of this bloody good time.
Details on the cocktails being offered – and a firsthand look at the original in its natural habitat – after the jump.
While in New York with family earlier this month, we found ourselves with time to kill before a dinner reservation. We also found ourselves two blocks from the St. Regis. At that point I remembered reading about the anniversary in the Washington Business Journal, so I suggested we pay a visit to the King Cole Bar for a drink.
The bar takes its name from a mural by Maxfield Parrish that runs the length of the back wall. It’s a New York landmark, and it’s valued at more than $12 million. Between the painting and the customers, a trio of bartenders were hard at work mixing up cocktails…and it quickly became clear that the majority of those drinks were Bloody Marys.
We placed our order and the bartender smiled and said, “Six Red Snappers, coming up.” He then proceeded to whip them up in record time, using the traditional St. Regis recipe:
The Red Snapper Original Recipe:
1 oz. vodka
2 oz. tomato juice
1 dash lemon juice
2 dashes salt
2 dashes black pepper
2 dashes cayenne pepper
3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
The drinks had a slight sweetness from the vodka that matched up well with the acidity of the tomato and the lemon. I shudder to think of the early days of the cocktail, when it was mixed up as equal parts vodka (or gin) and tomato juice. It was smooth drinking all the way up to the closing of the tab, when I saw the $18 per drink price tag. That made for a rough swallow.
Now $18 is steep even by New York standards, but I’m pleased to report we weren’t just paying for the ambience (or the mural insurance). As it turns out, St. Regis Hotels have partnered with local food charities in each city. In New York, 25% of every Red Snapper sold goes to CityMeals on Wheels. I got a nice warm feeling knowing that we had just made a $27 contribution to this worthwhile group (or was that just the vodka hitting me?).
Back in Washington, the bar at the St. Regis Washington DC has gathered a list of heavy hitters to offer up variations on the theme…and the charity of choice is Share Our Strength. If you can get over to the St. Regis Bar between now and the end of the month (tomorrow night), you’ll be able to take your pick from among the following offerings:
Adour (Alain Ducasse): Contemporary Red Snapper with coriander and red chili flakes
Acadiana: Cajun Mary with Tabasco and Creole seasoning
Art and Soul (Art Smith): Bloody Mary with B&B pickle juice and pickled okra garnish
Charlie Palmer: Bloody Mary with Dijon mustard, horseradish and Sriracha and garnished with pepperoncini
Good Stuff Eatery (Spike Mendelsohn): Spike n’ Mary featuring tomato pumpkin juice infused with apple and honey
Equinox (Todd Gray): Skipjack Mary with heirloom tomato water and cucumber ice cubes
Mixologist Dale Degroff: Bloody Bull with tomato and orange juices and beef broth
Vermilion (Anthony Chittum): Bloody Mary garnished with caper berries
(H/T to French Twist DC for being the only place where we could find the list of DC cocktails)
You’ll also be able to get the classic Red Snapper and the lesser-known Washington version, the Capitol Mary. This concoction substitutes gin for vodka and adds clam juice (or Clamato) to the mix. It’s garnished with a cocktail shrimp or prawn.
Sure, we all think that our version of the Bloody Mary is the best…and we’re probably right. Whether our secret ingredient is fresh-ground horseradish, Old Bay seasoning, chipotle-flavored hot sauce or just that magic ratio of juice to booze, it’s ultimately a matter of personal taste. Even so, an event like this is in universally good taste and it’s worth a special trip if you’ve got time today or tomorrow.
The Bar at the St. Regis will be open today and tomorrow from 11:30 AM to 1 AM…plenty of time to get in and try a couple of these specials. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find one that’s almost as good as your own.