The Real Purpose Of Adding Lemon To A Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary occupies a unique place in the cocktail landscape. No, we're not referring to the fact that it's one of the few cocktails commonly served in the morning, but rather to its complex composition. As Mixology Crew notes, most popular cocktails — including iconic drinks like the daiquiri, margarita, Manhattan, Negroni, and whiskey sour — contain three core ingredients, not including garnishes. The Bloody Mary, by contrast, traditionally features seven: vodka, tomato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, black pepper, celery salt, and lemon juice. (via

The Bloody Mary's lengthy ingredients list evolved during its peripatetic history. The drink first appeared as a non-alcoholic tomato juice cocktail with salt, pepper, and spices, as introduced by chef Louis Perrin at an Indiana resort in 1917, according to Thrillist. Then, in the early 1920s in Paris, Harry's Bar bartender Ferdinand "Pete" Petiot decided to add vodka. But the invention didn't end there. Instead, after Petiot decamped to become the head bartender of the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, he added Tabasco sauce and spices.

Each ingredient has a role in the traditional Bloody Mary

Over the years, the Bloody Mary has acquired a full meal's worth of different garnishes — from celery and dill pickles to pepperoncini and bacon — not to mention a wide array of variations. As Eater points out, there's the Bloody Maria, with tequila in place of vodka; the Bloody Caesar, with Clamato instead of tomato juice; and of course the Virgin Mary, more commonly known as the bloody shame. But the traditional Bloody Mary is still made from the same seven ingredients popularized by Pete Petiot, with all seven integral to the cocktail's composition.

Even the inclusion of an innocuous-seeming ingredient like lemon juice is essential. The reason for its importance is a simple one that applies without exception when it comes to mixing drinks. As Victoria Gin puts it: "The key to delicious cocktails is balance." The zesty tang of lemon juice adds brightness and an essential balancing agent for the richness of tomato juice, notes The Kitchn. So next time you're mixing a Bloody Mary for brunch, don't forget to add lemon juice. Real lemon juice. A Bloody Mary isn't really a Bloody Mary without it.