A Bloody Mary is delightful drink. The name alone conjures up lazy and carefree brunch mornings, with no formal agenda in sight. And while the cocktail has a special late-morning place in our hearts, a well-made Bloody is good anytime.
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We all know about the drink’s purported hangover-slaying abilities. “Taking a look at the key components, it’s easy to see why it’s such an obvious go-to,” says Tristan Stephenson in The Curious Bartender. The British bartender and author has come to adore the involved drink. “Vitamin C, salt, capsaicin and palate-coating viscosity. Most of my friends make funny noises when I offer them a Bloody Mary, but it’s hard to prize them away from one when they’re caught in the throws of a nasty morning after.”
Making a Bloody Mary, however, can be a tall task. By nature, the drink is a somewhat complex mess of various sauces, often tricked out with add-ons like celery or fried chicken. If you’re just starting in on the art of making one at home, we suggest starting with a good salt blend (it’s one less thing to prepare). Mike and Steve’s is a tasty option. If you’re feeling more innovative, try playing around with a specialty salt like Saltverk’s birch smoked or seaweed salts.
How should you prepare it? Stephenson suggests ignoring the theory that store-bought tomato juice can somehow be bruised or tarnished if shaken. He believes shaking is the best way to marry all the ingredients, one of which is often forgotten or not given its due credit. “One of the ingredients that is all too often omitted from the melange is lemon juice, yet it plays a crucial role in freshening up the (more than likely) bland cartoned tomato juice,” Stephenson says. (Check out his recipe below.) He says those stuck without a decent batch of tomato juice should try gazpacho in its place.
Another tip is to let the Bloody Mary out of its box. Vodka works swimmingly in the drink, but so too does rum (see below), whiskey, even sake. If you stick with tradition and go with vodka, try playing around with some infused versions. You can infuse your own bottle of vodka at home with any number of things, from cucumbers to onions and peppers. One of the best options out there, if you like a kick of spice, is Kachka’s horseradish vodka. The spirit gained such a following at the restaurant where it began that it’s now available by the bottle elsewhere.
Other bartenders might suggest going full Canadian. Our neighbors up north make a close relative in the Bloody Caesar, but it differs in one key aspect: The Canadian take uses clamato juice instead of plain tomato juice, offering the briny brothiness only clam juice can provide. It can add another layer in a drink that takes pride in a multitude of ingredients.
Additionally, if you like the palate-waking qualities of vinegar, try a few different kinds that complement the jest of a Bloody Mary. Look to options like sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar to impart some pucker and play off of the tomato and general saltiness of the drink. In short, there’s no wrong way to make a Bloody Mary, and experimentation will only help you dial in your craft. Here are three standout recipes to try:
Tristan Stephenson’s Bloody Mary
- 2 oz Belvedere Vodka
- 5 oz high-quality tomato juice
- 1/3 oz fresh lemon juice
- 3 dashes of Tabasco
- 1 large pinch of salt
- 1 large pinch of black pepper
Method: Shake all the ingredients together with cubed ice, then strain into a chilled highball glass. Garnish with a celery stick and a slice of lemon.
Read more: Best Top-Shelf Vodkas
Creole Bloody Mary
This Haitian take on a Bloody Mary is a great example of a lesser-known approach that really works. The grassiness of the rhum melds perfectly with the many savory elements as well as the kick offered by both citrus and spice. Sure, it’s fun to salt the hell out of a glass or stick a skewer of bacon and any number of pickled things in your Bloody Mary, but a solid and more straightforward recipe like this is equally good. Plus, you won’t be painfully full after drinking it.
- 2 oz Rhum Barbancourt White Rhum
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1 dash hot sauce
- 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
- ½ oz beef bouillon
- Dash of salt
- Dash of black pepper
- Lemon slice
Method: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the rhum, beef bouillon, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and shake well. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a slice of lemon.
Death & Co. Bloody Mary
Bartender Tyson Buhler suggests using this recipe as a template, adjusting here and there to your preferred taste. For example, for a hit of smoke, add some mezcal. Or swap Manzanilla sherry for the vodka to tone down the alcohol a bit. It’s a recipe that works beautifully both followed to a tee and treated as loose guidelines. It also produces a pretty salted rim.
- 2 oz Aylesbury Duck vodka
- 5 oz Basic Bloody Mary Mix*
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
* Basic Bloody Mary Mix
- 4.5 cups organic tomato juice
- 6 oz Worcestershire sauce
- 1 oz Magi seasoning
- 2.5 oz fresh lemon juice
- 2.5 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 oz Tapatío hot sauce
Method: Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 week.
Method: On a small plate, mix equal parts salt and pepper. Rub the lemon wedge along the upper 1/4 inch of a pint glass, halfway around the circumference, then roll the wet portion in the salt and pepper. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Add remaining ingredients and stir a few times. Garnish with a lemon wedge and celery stalk.
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