Indiana Fun Fact: Tomato Juice Was Invented in French Lick
Imagine this — a world where Bloody Mary's, the popular cocktail made with tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, and a dash or two of hot sauce, don't exist. Had it not been for one quick-thinking chef in French Lick, Indiana, that could very well be our reality.
My wife and I recently took a trip to the French Lick Springs Hotel to celebrate having two teenagers old enough they could stay home overnight by themselves so we could get away from said teenagers for a night. We had never been before, so we took a stroll around the grounds to see what there was to see. If you're unfamiliar with the hotel, for starters, it's massive. Secondly, it's been around for a long time. Over 120 years to be exact. As you can imagine, a lot of notable milestones have taken place at the hotel over that time frame, and they commemorate many of those milestones with plaques all over the hotel grounds. One of which said, and I'm paraphrasing here, serving tomato juice as a drink originated at the hotel.
Seeing that sign reminded me that our friend, Mary Haynes Howell, had mentioned that exact same thing to me in a Facebook message a few weeks earlier. I meant to look into it then, but I'm sure some shiny object distracted me and I forgot all about it. I made a point not to forget this time.
According to Joy Neighbors with the French Lick Springs Resort blog, way back in 1917 Chef Louis Perrin was working on getting breakfast together for the resort's guests and ran out of oranges for orange juice. Since it was 1917, he couldn't just run to the store and buy a few gallons to get him by. He spotted some tomatoes, squeezed the juice out of them, added some sugar and a "secret sauce," and sent it out the door to the guests.
The made-out-of-desperation concoction was a hit and those who had it used the original social media, talking face-to-face with people, to tell their friends about it, who told their friends, and so on. It wasn't long before people from all over were coming to the hotel for the sole purpose of trying the drink for themselves. Roughly 10 years later, the drink was being canned and sold in stores.
So, next time you crack open a V8, or order a Bloody Mary at dinner, be sure to give a tip of the hat to Chef Perrin. If it weren't for his quick thinking, you might not have that drink in your hand.