18 February

It's Fernand Petiot's birthday

So we are drinking a...

Bloody Mary (Difford's recipe)

On this day in 1900, Fernand "Pete" Petiot was born in Paris, to parents who owned a guesthouse - he would come to fame, correctly or otherwise, as the inventor of the Bloody Mary cocktail.

Passionate about all things hospitality, Petiot's career brought him from the kitchens of Harry's New York Bar, Paris, to the King Cole Bar at New York's St. Regis, and the more humble surroundings of the Canton City Club in Ohio. Wherever Pete worked, he was famed for his sense of humour and his way with customers and other bartenders - not to mention, at Harry's, displaying a capacity for speed-drinking beer that actually made the papers.

Did he invent the Bloody Mary cocktail? Quite possibly not - but he almost certainly did shape the combo of vodka and tomato juice into something close to its current, spicy form. We're toasting him with a Bloody Mary made using our preferred recipe, or you may prefer a Bloody Mary made using a more standard modern recipe.

This is also the day Helium was discovered

On this day in 1868, the moon blotted out the sun, causing a total eclipse of the type that has panicked civilisations since time immemorial. Very far from panicking, however, was a French astronomer, Pierre Jules César Janssen, who had travelled all the way to India to set up with a spectroscope so he could try to work out what the sun was made from. Noticing an unusual colour band in the sunlight, he concluded there must be an unknown element in the sun, and went on to design a new scientific instrument to prove it - which he did on the exact same day as a Brit named Joseph Norman Lockyer.

It would take another 40-odd years before helium was regularly found and balloons became a thing of joy. Today killjoys suggest we should ease off on the balloons as we are running out of helium, which we need for MRI scanners, radiation detectors and suchlike. And so we are marking today with an Up In The Air, a vodka-based sweet and sour treat we discovered in Berlin.

It's also Meriwether Lewis' birthday

On this day in 1774, the explorer, soldier and governor Meriwether Lewis was born. He would go on to map much of what is today the United States, on an epic, two-year-plus expedition that brought him and his co-explorer William Clark all the way to the Pacific.

Yet Lewis did not live to enjoy the fruits of his success. Aged only 35, burdened with debt, grappling with a drinking problem, and struggling with his friendship with Thomas Jefferson, he was found dead in an inn near Nashville, Tennessee. Was it suicide, or murder? Friends at the time believed suicide, but an exhumation of his body suggested murder. Whichever was the case, Meriwether Lewis deserves a toast: we're raising a glass of Midnight Over Tennessee, best described as a minty and chocolaty Tennessee whisky-based Espresso Martini.

Fîte du Citron

Back in 1929, a hotel owner in Menton, Côte d'azur had the idea of putting on a festival to celebrate the region's citrus harvest.

It started off small, but now the festival attracts over 230,000 tourists, and it's...well, completely nuts. One of the major events is a parade of floats, and when we say floats, we don't mean a couple of people dancing on the back of a truck. Think more along the lines of 10 metre high structures, studded with lemons, which spray confetti at the crowds lining the street.

We thought that we'd celebrate the citrus harvest in our own way, so we're making Lemongrads tonight...and lots of them. The festival dates vary slightly each year but it usually kicks off around now and goes on to early March, so maybe bulk buy some lemons, and pace yourself - it's going to be a good few weeks!