The creation of The Bloody Mary is a matter of some dispute, but is generally credited to Fernand Petiot. Whether this was in 1920 (or 1921), when Petiot was a young bartender at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, or in America, during the 1940s, after the comedian George Jessel had first popularised the unspiced combination of vodka and tomato juice, is not clear.
If you believe that Petiot first created it around 1920, then you will believe that the name is borrowed not from the English Queen Mary I, whose persecution of Protestants gave her that name, or for the silent movie actress Mary Pickford, but from one of Petiot's customers, apparently the entertainer Roy Barton. He had worked at a nightclub (or knew a bar) called the Bucket of Blood in Chicago, where there was a waitress known as 'Bloody Mary', and he said the drink reminded him of her.
If you believe Petiot invented it in New York, where he worked at the St. Regis Hotel certainly from the end of Prohibition, then he may have had assistance in its creation from Serge Obolansky, the manager of the hotel, who asked him to spice up his 50-50 blend of vodka and tomato juice. According to this version, he attempted to rename the drink Red Snapper, after Vincent Astor, who owned the hotel, found the name too crude for his clientele. (Now days a Red Snapper is a Bloody Mary made with gin.)
The celery stick garnish apparently dates back to 1960 when a bartender at the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago noticed a lady stirring her drink with a celery stick.
Whatever the precise story behind this fantastic drink, Bloody Mary recipes are as personal as Martinis. Purists will only use Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt and lemon to spice up tomato and vodka but everything from oysters to V8 can be added. Variations include:
Asian Mary (with wasabi, ginger & soy sauce)
Bloody Bull (with beef consommé)
Bloody Caesar (with clam juice)
Bloody Joseph (with Scotch whisky)
Bloody Maria (with tequila)
Bloody Maru (with sake)
Bloody Shame (without alcohol)
Bullshot (with beef bouillon)
Cubanita (with rum)
Red Snapper (with gin)