For some reason, the Bloody Mary cocktail always makes me think of Connecticut gymkhanas, tailgate picnics, Mock Tudor woodies, and hearty Nantucket sailing types. Especially if it's served from the old family tartan thermos flask.
There's a theory that the Bloody Mary was invented in 1921 by Fernand "Pete" Petiot, the barman at Harry's Bar in Paris (Sank Roo Doe Noo), which was a hang-out for American ex-pats such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I'm glad to report that I've sunk a great many Bloody Marys in my time, but so far, not that many have lived up to scratch. After years of experimentation, I've finally cracked the secret, and you're in luck, because, against my better judgement, I'm about to reveal all.
Crush some ice and drop it into a cocktail shaker. Pour in some good tomato juice, vodka (I prefer Stolichnaya), a few drops of Lea & Perrins, a few drops of Tabasco, a modest sprinkling of celery salt, and some cayenne pepper.
And now for a tip that sorts the men from the boys: add a generous dash of dry sherry (Tio Pepe is ideal), and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. I picked up this idea from the excellent Grenadier Pub in Wilton Row, which is packed on a Sunday morning with high-budget American tourists, and braying Guards Officers. It's supposed to be a secret, but I sort of looked over the pewter bar counter, and saw what they were up to when the bar-girl wasn't looking.
Shake it all around. Strain it into a chilled highball glass. That's it. If you really must, you can add a stick of celery as a garnish. Some people add horseradish, but I'm not that keen, because it curdles, and your cocktail ends up looking a mess. I've also had one recently at a gastro pub down in Dorset, which had large chunks of black pepper floating around in it, and that wasn't that great either, unless of course you're addicted to raw pepper.