The Making of a Bloody Mary
with Suzanne Klein
January 9, 2014
Whether you’re sipping it over brunch, at a tailgate party before the big game, or as a hair-of-the-dog-drink after a night of revelry, the Bloody Mary is one of the most classic cocktails that surprisingly has no classic recipe. It’s the ultimate customizable, “secret recipe” drink.
There are no definitive origins of the name or recipe for Bloody Mary, but everyone seems to have a story as to where it came from. One theory claims that the drink was named after the ruthless Queen Mary I of England in the 1550s. The tomato juice is said to represent the blood spilt during her reign, and the vodka represents firewater for the methods she used to burn Protestant martyrs alive. Another story suggests the drink may commemorate Mary Kelly, the final victim of the infamous Jack the Ripper in London in 1888. A bit gruesome, no?
Another, more uplifting, tale traces the original Bloody Mary to a Parisian bartender working at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s, and his creation of a simple tomato juice cocktail (that may or may not have contained alcohol) became popular with his patrons. He brought the drink to New York after Prohibition ended, spiked it with vodka or gin, spiced it up with various seasonings (including horseradish and hot sauce) and it became a hit with the Americans.
You’d expect a classic cocktail like the Bloody Mary would have a standard recipe, like the Manhattan or Old Fashioned does, but an exact recipe has never truly been agreed upon. While tomato juice and vodka usually play starring roles, the rest of the recipe is up to the maker. The most traditional seasoning ingredients include horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and Tabasco. But other popular seasonings include pepper, lime juice, pickle or olive brine, wasabi, teriyaki, and even Sriracha sauce. Some recipes replace some or all of the tomato juice with carrot juice, pineapple juice, clam juice, beef bouillon, or even barbeque sauce. The drink can easily be made without alcohol, but creative boozy versions of the cocktail replace the vodka with various kinds of spirits, including tequila, beer, sherry, whiskey, or even sake.
And then there are garnishes. This is the fun part that’s really up to your imagination. Olives, celery stalks and lime or lemon slices are typical. But what about pickle spears, cherry tomatoes, pickled peppers, green beans, pieces of fresh fruit, or stalks of fresh herbs? Some people make a snack out of the cocktail, garnishing it with crispy bacon, sausage slices, beef jerky, chunks of cheese, poached shrimp, and even small slider burgers that set on top of the glass.
To demonstrate the variety of recipes the Bloody Mary inspires, here are two of our Savory favorites:
Mike’s Super Thick Bloody Mary Mix: This base mix leans toward the traditional and includes some of the more classic seasonings like horseradish, Tabasco, and lime. But Cambridgeshire Celery Seasoning, dill weed, Angostura bitters and A-1 Steak Sauce add additional layers of flavor. This hearty drink can be sipped solo or topped off with vodka or gin. It’s also delicious with snack-like garnishes such as sausage, cheese, and olives.
Elizabeth’s Red Thai Bloody Mary Mix: This is a tangy, spicy, Asian-inspired mix, featuring several brining juices, Red Thai Curry, and a wasabi-sea salt mixture to garnish the rim of the glass. This is a fun one to garnish with your favorite pickled delicacies, like pickle spears or pickled peppers, to play up the brine component. Or try finishing it with bok choy or edamame to play up the unique Asian theme.
These are great starter recipes for different takes on a Bloody Mary. But remember, it’s a highly customizable cocktail. So here are some suggestions for creative ways to make your own namesake Bloody Mary mix:
- Use leftover tomato soup, tomato sauce or even gazpacho as your tomato base. Simply thin it out with a little water, broth, beer or spirits. Some Savory recipes that would make great Bloody Mary mixture bases are Tomato Coconut Curry Soup, Subtle Rustic Red Sauce, or Smoky Gazpacho.
- As demonstrated in Mike’s Super Thick Bloody Mary Mix, tomato powder can be used to make simple tomato juice base that can then be seasoned with anything you’d like. You can also add some heat and depth of flavor to your mix with horseradish powder and wasabi powder.
- Want to wow with your garnish? Try finishing your Bloody Mary one of these tasty snacks: Roasted Red Pepper Wrapped Cheese Rolls, Quinoa “Sausage” Bites, or Santa Maria Steak & Potato Skewers.
- Salting the rim of a Bloody Mary adds that final sophisticated touch of flavor. And it looks pretty cool, too. Try using any of our seasoning salt blends to rim your glasses, like Italian black truffle sea salt, Ghost Pepper Salt, or County Clare Seasoning Salt.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback about our spices and our recipes. You can review our recipes online or send your own recipe creations to firstname.lastname@example.org.