A truly great Bloody Mary is more than tomato juice and a couple of spices – it is a statement on the day to come. Will the day be filled with adventures or spent slowly sipping bloodies on the couch as the game passes by?
Very few cocktails have as much universal appeal as the Bloody Mary, from dive bars to country clubs its the go-to choice for the morning crowd. What makes them such an excellent choice for day drinking is their flexibility, letting people personalize each drink to fit their mood. Something that is easy to do if you have the right set up for your bar.
In this piece
The key to our recipe is a killer homemade mix, some top-shelf vodka, and an eclectic group of garnishes that will satisfy anyone.
The easiest way to serve them to a group is to make the mix by the pitcher
Why is it called a Bloody Mary?
More than likely the drink was invented in the 1920s or 30s and started as a simple mix of vodka and tomato juice. In a New Yorker piece from July 1964, Ferdinand Petiot claimed to have invented the modern version while he was working at King Cole Bar in New York, where it’s known as a Red Snapper.
“I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour.”
Supposedly Petiot wanted to call it a Bloody Mary but was overruled by the hotel’s owner Vincent Astor whose wife at the time happened to be named Mary.
The most commonly cited stories for the name of the cocktail is that it was named after Mary Tudor, who was also known as Mary I of England and Ireland, known for her bloody reign against Protestants or it might have been named after a patron at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris who said the cocktail “looks like my girlfriend who I met in a cabaret” and that the girlfriend’s name was Mary and the cabaret in question was named Bucket of Blood. (BBC)
There’s also a story that seems too good to be true involving white dresses and drinking all night in Palm Beach from entertainer George Jessel who claimed to have named the drink after Mary Brown Warburton who was a socialite and friend of Jessel’s. While we probably will never know the true story we can definitely be thankful that it was invented.
Tips for a Perfect Bloody
When you’re making them at home, make your own mix. A good homemade mix has a lot of advantages over the thin gruel like mixes stacked by the checkout lane in the liquor store.
To start with you know what’s going into your homemade mix and that it isn’t filled with a bunch of preservatives and corn syrup. If you’re going to pickle yourself with Bloodys let the vodka do the work.
Making your mix at home also lets you adjust the flavors and texture to suit your tastes. Our homemade mix recipe is full-bodied with just the right mix of spices and heat. It also takes five minutes to whip up.
For a better tasting drink let the vodka and mix hang out together for five minutes before you start drinking.
The most common ratio of mix to vodka is 2-½ to 1. A 2 to 1 ratio can also be found in lots of recipes. For our recipe, we use a 2-½ to 1 ratio which still has a nice kick to it without inducing too many afternoon naps.
For a better tasting Bloody Mary let the vodka and mix hang out together for five minutes before you start drinking. The time will let the flavors meld together producing a much smoother tasting drink.
We like to serve our drinks in wide mouth pint glasses, that way there’s more room for garnishes. The wide mouth also helps keep the garnishes out of your way because who really wants their nose tickled by a piece of celery.
Here in the North, we always serve our bloodies with a bump, which is usually a 4 to 6 oz shot of beer. Some folks like to pour the beer into their bloody when it’s half-way to empty, others sip on it as they go. The type of beer served is up to the drinker.
Some of the best advice we found about making this cocktail is from Ernest Hemingway who liked to claim that he introduced them to Hong Kong in 1941. His advice was to always make them in a pitcher because any smaller amount was worthless and that “If you get it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”
A few common variations are the Virgin Mary, which is a bloody without any alcohol. The Caesar, which includes clam broth in the mix and is very popular in Canada, and the Michelada, which is made with beer instead of vodka and often includes more lime juice and chilies in its mix and is popular in Mexico.
How to Stock Your Bloody Mary Bar
The most important element to a great Bloody, after the mix, is the bar. What you put in yours says a lot about who you are and the people you choose to hang out with. The reason the bar is so important is that it sets the stage for the choices people make while they think they’re demonstrating free will.
A Bloody Mary bar is simply all of the ingredients you need to mix up the drink laid out in one place. In addition to garnishes, it includes vodka, mix, ice, and glasses.
A good bar provides the appearance of free will
Generally speaking, garnishes fall into one of four categories, sauces, spices, veggies, and other. The easiest way to put together a bar people will love is to think about the main categories and pick one or two items from each category.
So, if you’re feeling fancy, go with the rooster sauce, Old Bay, pickled asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp cocktail.
Feel like slumming it with your relatives who think Michelob is a craft beer, break out the A-1, sausage sticks, cheese curds, a little chili powder and a few stalks of celery. The celery is really important here because it’s probably the only green thing they’ll eat all week.
Definitely don’t try to include everything in this list at once, pick and choose based on the vibe you’re trying to create.
The garnishes should look good and be delicious
- Olive brine
- Pickle juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- Old Bay
- Seasoned salt
- Pepper grinder for fresh ground pepper
- A mixture of chili powder or celery salt along with kosher salt for people who like rim jobs
- Pickles, lots of pickles
- Pickled beans, carrots, or asparagus
- Pickled jalapenos
- Baby corn
- Olives – stuffed with garlic, blue cheese, pimento, etc
- Cheese curds or small cheese squares
- String cheese
- Shrimp cocktail
- Sausage sticks
- Lemon and lime wedges
- Fancy skewers for people to set up their own garnishes or ones you can do ahead of time
It can be fun to include a couple of different types of vodka with your bar. There are some infused vodkas that add heat for those that like spicier drinks and it’s always fun to have a premium vodka or two that people have to earn with a little song or dance before they get to open the bottle.
The secret to the whole thing is having a great mix
If you’re looking for something other than vodka try putting out some mezcal or gin along with some club soda for people who are making Virgin Marys or would just like to lighten up the mix and add some bubbles.
How to Give Your Drink a Salty Rim
A lot of people like to add salt to the rim of their glass, adding an extra dash of salty goodness with each sip. To salt the top of your glass, mix 4 tbsp of salt with 2 tbsp of chili powder and set in a small plate.
Dip the rim of each glass in the water, then carefully roll the rim of the glass in the chile-salt until it is evenly coated all the way around.
- 2 1/2 oz vodka
- 6 1/2 oz bloody mary mix
- Fill a large pint glass with ice.
- Add 2.5 ounces of vodka.
- Top with 6.5 ozs of bloody mary mix, making sure to leave enough room at the top to adjust with seasonings and garnishes from the bar.
- Give the drink a good stir.
- Garnish with reckless abandon.
- Let the vodka and mix hang out together for five minutes before you start drinking to smooth out the rough edges.
- Serve with a bump on the side.