Hail Mary

A Bloody Mary is perfect at almost any time of day and in every kind of weather

On Drink

This article is taken from the June 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

“Yes, yes please dear boy. You can prepare me a small rhesus negative Bloody Mary. And you must tell me all the news. I haven’t seen you since you finished your last film.” Uncle Monty, the lubricious booby in Bruce Robinson’s wonderful Withnail & I (see drinks columns passim), selects his pre-prandial from a drinks table pregnant with possibilities with all the care one would expect from a seasoned practitioner. And so he might. For a Bloody Mary is perfect at almost any time of day and in every kind of weather.

The Grenadier

All the best bars serve Bloody Marys. But the best Bloody Mary is served in The Grenadier, the one-time officers’ mess of the Foot Guards and the long-time public house in Wilton Row, Belgravia. Pass beneath the low lintel of this tiny tavern, pick your way through the crowded tap room and press up against the burr mahogany bar to order the world’s premier pick-me-up.

These days it seems there is never a quiet time of day at The Grenadier. Gone are those serene summer afternoons or Sunday lunchtimes when the bar was empty save for Chris Evans hiding his celebrity modestly beneath a cap in the corner. Now it has been “found”, and so have the skills of its staff.

The Grenadier is rightly proud of its reputation for restorative remedies and particularly this one. Into the glass go vodka, and a sizeable slug (preferably Stolichnaya), a stirrup of sherry (the secret weapon), tomato juice, then spices (Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce), citron (lemon or lime) and salt to personal taste. The addition of a celery stick is entirely superfluous but for those in search of their hair of the dog, a little light salad I suppose is a help — of sorts.

Yet this pub, though an historic watering hole, cannot claim to be the home of the Mary. That right is retained across the Channel in Paris by Harry’s New York Bar. There exactly a century ago in the City of Light, Fernand Petiot, perfected his “bucket of blood”. The name was soon changed to something a little less Madame la Guillotine and the Mary as we know it was born.

Fernand Petiot


Like a true son of Robespierre, Petiot exported his revolution around the world and it was not long before everyone was sipping his “red snapper”. Of course, if you are a busy sort and just do not have time, nor indeed the mixing receptacles, to make your own home-bled Bloody Mary, Bloody Bens will do it for you. This blend, perfected at Ben’s Canteen in Battersea, provides a “herby spice mix”. They also claim, apparently with some pride, that it is “vegan and gluten-free” though by adding that sensible soupcons of vodka and sherry to your Alain Milliat “jus tomate jaune”, you can at least ensure it is not virginal.

The only remaining question is ice or no ice? On this matter the coronary jury returns an open verdict. Personally, I prefer a Mary in which the juice has already been chilled. Why dilute your pleasure, as well as the mixture, with copious cubes of frozen water? Better dilute the profits of the provider by insisting your glass is wetted with elements other than H2O. Let them take the pain, you take what is strained from the shaker.

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