According to popular belief, the bloody mary was invented by a bartender named Fernand Petiot at Harry's New York Bar in Paris during the 1920s. After Prohibition ended, Petiot moved to New York where he introduced his tomato based concoction at the bar in the St. Regis Hotel and the rest as they say is hangover curing history.
Charles and I went to Harry's New York Bar during our last trip to Paris as we thought it would be fun to visit Hemingway's favorite watering holes. I didn't order a bloody mary since I was more in the mood for gin and opted for a dirty martini instead. Charles drank Famous Grouse Scotch on the rocks. He picked up a taste for it in Amsterdam and I can't figure out if he orders it to be ironic or if he really likes it. The cocktails were great but the scenery at Harry's Bar was even better. The wood panelled walls are adorned with college pennants from all over the US, the white coated bartenders are beyond professional and even though nobody was smoking, there was still a distinct patina of haze in the room. You could feel the ghosts of time sitting beside you sharing your bowl of peanuts.
I'm a big gin fan and I remember reading somewhere that the original bloody mary may have been made using gin instead of vodka since gin is what they mostly drank back then. I went through a phase where if I ordered a cocktail, it was always a bloody mary but I also didn't want to give up my gin so I asked for a gin bloody mary. The juniper and other aromatic botanicals in the gin really marries (hee hee) well with the sweet tang of the tomato juice and the overall flavor is far more savory than with a vodka based mary. Trust me, it's a good a drink.
I have two favorite gins at the moment - Hendrick's ($37) and Cap Rock ($32). I discovered Cap Rock earlier this summer at a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. It is a made from a blend of fruits, buds, seeds, and spices infused and distilled in a base spirit made with organic Jonathon and Braeburn apples. Twelve different botanicals (some dried some fresh) and two fresh juices are used to produce layers of fresh aromas and tastes. I commented to the bartender how much the gin smelled like lavender and he said they infuse the base with lavender flowers grown about 10 miles from the distillery. It's a must try for any gin enthusiast. Because this gin is so floral, I don't recommend mixing it with anything and to enjoy it straight over ice or chilled and up. Good news - Drinks Over Dearborn carries it.
Most recently, I have also discovered Right Gin ($27) from Sweden. I attended a cocktail tasting with famed mixologist Peter Vestinos. He made a pomegranate cocktail using Right Gin and all I could taste in this drink was black pepper. Peter said the black pepper component was courtesy of the gin as they infuse the base with Sarawak black pepper from Borneo. A light bulb went off in my head and I thought, this could be gin's answer to black pepper flavored vodka. I made a batch of bloody mary mix this past Sunday and instead of my usual Hendrick's, I poured in some Right Gin and the difference was amazing. With Hendrick's, you can really pick up the celery seasoning and the flavor is more on the savory herbal side. As expected, Right heightened the black pepper notes and the overall flavor was spicier and not as "sweet". It just goes to show you how much fun you can have with the flavor variations in gin that you can't have with the neutral nature of vodka.