Around 1920, émigrés escaping the Russian Revolution began arriving in Paris, bringing with them vodka and caviar, so Harry’s bartender, Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot, began experimenting with the new spirit, which he found tasteless. At the same time Petiot was introduced to American canned tomato juice, which back in the dry days of Prohibition was called a “tomato juice cocktail” on menus.
Over a year’s time, Petiot made vodka drink after vodka drink until he mixed it with the tomato juice and some seasonings, and, voilà!, a new cocktail was born, called the Bucket of Blood, christened by visiting American entertainer Roy Barton after a West Side Chicago nightclub of the same name.
The drink was popularized by Americans, so in 1933, Vincent Astor brought over Petiot to man the King Cole Bar at the St. Régis Hotel in New York, famous for its 30-foot nursery rhyme mural by Maxfield Parrish. The drink caught on—particularly as a supposed cure for hangovers—but under the less sanguine name “Red Snapper,” which is what it’s still called at the just-restored King Cole Bar. (Originally, a pint of black peppercorns was steeped in vodka for six weeks to create a mixture called “liquid black pepper,” a dash of which gave the vodka itself a real blast of flavor.)