The Bloody Mary’s iconic status as a brunch menu fixture is a testament to its bold flavors … in addition to its hangover-defeating properties. Fans of the Bloody will always praise this Blood Mary mix of tomato juice, citrus juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and spirits, and while naysayers might wrinkle their noses at the savory nature of this cocktail, its popularity shows no signs of fading.
Traditionally, Bloody Marys include vodka as their liquor component. For that reason, we got plenty of vodka recs from the bartenders we consulted to speak on their favorite Bloody spirits. However, if you’d prefer to veer away from the norm and try out a different liquor style, then you’ll have abundant options. Read on for 8 specific bottles that make formidable additions to a spicy, tangy, perfectly balanced Bloody Mary.
If you prefer a clean, harmonious vodka in your Bloody Mary, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better fit than Tito’s. General manager Amanda McBride of Bambara Kitchen & Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts tells us that “Tito’s Handmade Vodka is our go-to for the perfect Bloody Mary. We like a Bloody with some heat, and the black pepper undertones in Tito’s heighten the spicy kick we’re looking for. Tito’s also stands up to the acid and spice in the Bloody and does not get lost in the drink, but actually enhances it.”
We’ve found similar cheap vodka brands if you need more options.
Potato vodkas tend to have more texture and flavor presence than their grain equivalents, and bar manager Heather Perkins of DiAnoia’s Eatery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania explains that “at DiAnoia’s Eatery, we use the local vodka from Boyd & Blair Distillery, an incredibly smooth potato vodka with a robust body. [It makes] a great addition to the texture of the Bloody Mary, but [it’s]not too weighty to get in the way of the delicious juiced San Marzano tomatoes, Calabrian chilis, and oregano … just to name a few ingredients in our house Bloody Mary mix.”
Some spirits enthusiasts prefer to avoid vodka because of its signature neutrality, instead opting for liquors with more inherent flavor. If you fall into that category but still consider vodka a good match for a Bloody Mary, then a smoked version (like the one made by British distillery Chase) occupies a useful middle ground. “Chase Oak Smoked Vodka was made for Bloody Marys and gives your Bloody Mary an extra touch of smoke, but it also perfectly balances any of your Bloody Mary mixes while adding a subtle woody character to your drink,” insists bartender Piero Procida of The London West Hollywood in Los Angeles, California.
“When it comes to Bloody Marys, I always love to add a vodka with some spice,” says head bartender Kris Wheeler of NICO in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. In terms of specifics, Wheeler claims that “Dixie Black Pepper Vodka is a must for a perfect Bloody Mary. For us, Dixie Vodka is local, supports local businesses, is gluten-free, and is simply the best vodka in the South.”
When mixing up a Bloody Mary, Anthony Caporale, the Director of Spirits Education at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City likes to blend together two very different styles of liquor: aged Scotch and pepper vodka. “My go-to liquor base is equal parts Bowmore 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky and Absolut Peppar Vodka, usually one ounce each. I like the heat and heritage the vodka brings, and the smoke and malt from the Islay Scotch perfectly complements the meaty garnishes I prefer,” Caporale tells us.
The smokiness of mezcal makes it a natural fit for a Bloody Mary, and co-founder Jake Barnett of Old Fashioned Beverage & Hospitality in Kansas City, Missouri regularly adds Apaluz Mezcal to his Bloodys, explaining that “my favorite mezcal to use [in Bloody Marys] is Apaluz Mezcal. It’s lighter on smoke than most mezcals but [is still] full-bodied, with a crisp vegetal character. It’s a sublime combination with the savory ingredients of a Bloody.”
You can also check out our list of the best tequila for margaritas.
When he’s in the mood for a Bloody without mezcal, Barnett instead opts for gin. Specifically, “I use Moletto. It’s an Italian gin that actually uses tomatoes as one of its ingredients. It has an incredible savory-sweet flavor from the tomato with touches of rosemary and mint and nice, bright citrus – perfectly complementary in a Bloody Mary.”
Aquavit, a distilled spirit heavily associated with Scandinavia, draws much of its flavor from herbs like dill, cardamom, and caraway. Founder Josh Harris of BVHospitality in San Francisco, California considers aquavit’s herbaceous profile ideal for Bloody Marys, and he particularly enjoys Linie Aquavit from Norway: “A Bloody with Linie Aquavit has always been one of my favorites. The salty, herbal, savory notes of the Linie are a wonderful match for traditional Bloody ingredients. In the spirit of Scandinavian drinking, add some extra special pickled things on top for the perfect punch of flavor.”
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