Whistling Andy Distillery, Bigfork

Story & photography by Lido Vizzutti

The Bloody Mary is nearly void of rules.

It is touted as a morning drink, a hair-of-the-dog beverage to ease the sting of night-before revelry. Its imbibing, however, easily glides from brunch to the afternoon and into the evening.

It is a clean slate for improvising with not only ingredients — spicy, not spicy, salty, more horseradish or less citrus — but also garnish. Garnishes range from the stylish celery and lemon wedge to the garish peppers, cheeses and cured meats.

Every backyard barbecue “best Bloody Mary” recipe in existence, however, must adhere to two truths: a spirit and tomato juice.

The origins of the Bloody Mary (however muddled) are acknowledged as coming from Paris with the introduction of Russian vodka to tins of tomato juice from the United States. Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot was heading up Harry’s American Bar in Paris in the 1920s when it’s theorized that he first mixed the ingredients together for American expats. Most importantly, he is credited with the addition of spices and seasoning that propelled its popularity.

After Prohibition, Petiot became barman at the King Cole Bar of the St. Regis Hotel in New York. There he introduced patrons to the Red Snapper, a cocktail of vodka, tomato juice, citrus and spices.

Some retellings say that the name Bloody Mary was objectionable to the hotel’s owner, Vincent Astor, who mandated the name change. Others suggest the name change also reflected the switch from vodka to gin, as vodka was not readily available in the U.S.

Whatever the catalyst, the Bloody Mary (or Red Snapper) crossed a delectable line from a vodka drink to a gin drink — and now a recipe can be found for a cocktail using just about every spirit imaginable.

“Bloody Marys are normally pretty robust and have a big body to them. I feel like vodka gets lost in that,” said Brian Anderson, owner and distiller at Whistling Andy Distilling in Bigfork. “The cucumber gin elevates it. It really helps bring out the citrus notes.”

Whistling Andy’s cucumber gin engages juniper, cardamom, coriander, lemon, orange and grapefruit botanicals along with a healthy amount of cucumber.

“It has bright and fresh citrus notes with a subtle cucumber back to it,” Anderson said. “We found that the citrus really kind of brightens and lifts the cucumber out.”

“I’m a firm believer that gins, unless you’re going for an Old Tom style, should be really light and bright and beautiful,” he added.

Gin certainly adds a layer of complexity to the traditional Bloody Mary mixer. The botanicals and (cucumber in this case) play well with the salt, the sour and umami that mystify in a Red Snapper.

“I think subtlety is really beautiful when it’s done well,” Anderson said. “When things are in balance, you can’t really pull out one specific thing. There’s a little bit of mystery to it when it’s done well.”

Whistling Andy’s Cucumber Gin Awards

Bronze Medal – 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Gold Medal – 2018 Denver International Spirits Competition

Theories: How Bloody Mary Got Her Name

• Queen Mary Tudor who executed hundreds of Protestants during her reign.
• A New York Bar patron who suggested the drink reminded him of the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago and a waitress there named Mary.
• Named for a woman who sat at the bar waiting for a suitor who never arrived.

Too Much Garnish

• Bucks Naked BBQ in Windham, Maine, serves its “Bloody Buck” with a slow-smoked baby back rib.
• The Nook in Atlanta, Georgia tops its “Bloody Best” with pepperoncini, jalapeños, tots, steak, a slice of toast, lemon, lime and a hard-boiled egg. You can even request a beef straw from which to drink.
• At about $46 in U.S. currency, “The Checkmate Caesar” at Score on Davie in Vancouver, British Columbia, appears to come with an entire roasted chicken, chicken wings, onion rings, a cheeseburger, a pulled pork slider, a hot dog, some sort of chocolate desert and a pickle. (Look it up!)

Fun Facts

• The celery stick as garnish originated in 1960 at Chicago’s Ambassador East Hotel when a customer didn’t get a stir stick.
• January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day (coming the day after New Year’s Eve is probably not a coincidence).

Recipes

Whistling Andy’s Cucumber Gin Bloody Mary

1 oz. Whistling Andy cucumber gin
1/2 oz. Worcestershire
1/2 bar spoon Tabasco
1/2 bar spoon horseradish
3 shakes celery salt
1 bar spoon olive juice
3-4 oz. tomato juice
Fill a Collins glass with ice, add all ingredients and transfer to a metal shaker. Half rim the Collins glass with salt. Transfer back to rimmed glass. Garnish with your favorites.

Classic Bloody Mary

1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2 oz. vodka
4 oz. tomato juice
2 dashes Tabasco
2 tsp horseradish
2 dashes Worcestershire
1 pinch celery salt
1 pinch petter
1 pinch paprika
Add ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake lightly and serve.

Whistling Andy Distilling is located at 8541 Mt Hwy 35, Bigfork. It can be reached at (406) 837-2620 or marketing@whistlingandy.com.