In 1934, New York’s St. Regis hotel changed the brunch game forever, when bartender Fernand Petiot of the King Cole Bar perfected his recipe for the vodka-spiked, tomato-based Bloody Mary. Though the bar would quickly rename it the Red Snapper to avoid offending their well-heeled guests, the Bloody Mary became the luxury brand’s signature cocktail. Over the years, each new property in the portfolio has put its own regional spin on the recipe: ají picante and a crushed-plantain-chip rim in Puerto Rico, hibiscus-infused vodka and cumin in Cairo, wasabi and soy sauce in Osaka, curry leaves and tamarind pulp in Mumbai. The brand’s first Bermuda resort is in one of the island’s most historic locations: St. George’s, the oldest continually inhabited English settlement in the New World, founded in 1612 after the wreck of the Sea Venture. The beachside property sits in the shadow of Fort St. Catherine, a coastal artillery fort that has guarded Gates Bay since the 17th century.
That body of water lent its name to the Bermuda iteration of the classic cocktail, the Gates Bay Mary. “This piquant libation sublimely blends Bermuda’s past and present,” says the resort’s head bartender, Abraham Afework, “as this is the place where in 1609 Admiral Sir George Somers and Sir Thomas Gates, as well as the first colonists, landed after the Sea Venture was wrecked on the reef.”
Unsurprisingly, the base spirit is Goslings Black Seal Rum, which is typically used in the Dark ’n Stormy or the dangerously drinkable Rum Swizzle. In place of horse-radish, it gets its spicy kick from Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers, a local hot sauce that traces its roots to the 19th century when sailors in the Royal Navy fortified their sherry with fiery Pequin (or bird) chilies to mask the taste of less-than-fresh rations. Afework says that the sauce adds “flavors of smoked peppers and sherry, with notes of thyme and chili peppers,” which pairs perfectly with a signature spice blend that includes Bermudian salt, paprika and fennel.
“For the garnish, the cocktail is topped with local fennel, which grows on our Five Forts Golf Course,” says Afework, who also adds a sherry-infused pepper and celery to the glass. Indeed, if you go for a stroll along the resort’s course, which encompasses five historic forts, you’ll often see frilly stalks of fennel waving on the side of cart paths.
The Gates Bay Mary is best enjoyed in The St. Regis Bar, under a mosaic mural inspired by The Tempest, which Shakespeare based on the wreck of the Sea Venture two years prior to its debut. But if you want to try it at home, the Gates Bay Mary recipe appears in the latest edition of The Bloody Mary, available online or in St. Regis boutiques.