How to Not Make a Bloody Mary
It’s easy to get carried away when mixing a bloody Mary. Hailed as the queen of cocktails, this brunch time favorite is among the most complex of cocktails. But, let’s keep a cool head here. As its popularity has grown, so has the list of items placed in, on top of, and next to the bloody Mary.
We’ve all enjoyed the burgeoning garnish race. Artists like Sarah Jayne Pickart of Wild and Crazy Gourmet Bloody Mary’s have brought the embellishment of the drink to a culinary art form. Comedians and bloggers have mocked the trend with terms like garnouflage and posted photos of bloody’s adorned with entire pepperoni pizzas.
The team at MBFBM has come to appreciate these extreme garnishes as a welcome development in the bloodymarysphere. It brings attention to the drink and truly adds to the experience. A line must be drawn though. What happens beneath all that celery, pickled potpourri, tater tots, and Powerball tickets truly matters.
So before you go reaching for that bottle of Korean marinade, lets take a look at what does not belong in a bloody Mary. Feel free to add your own least favorite ingredients in the comments.
Before listing our least preferred ingredients, lets get a large animal out of the room. (We like elephants.) Whenever possible, start from scratch with real tomato juice. If, for some reason, you must use a pre-mix, stop. Add ice and vodka. Heck, go ahead and give it a lemon twist, but then, stop! There’s nothing worse than getting an over-engineered bloody Mary. The practice of adding additional ingredients to a premix is one we call, shit-piling.
So you have your ice. You have tomato juice. After you take a look at what we recommend putting in your bloody Mary, consider these marvelous items that have no business in it:
- Pickle juice
- Olive juice
- Steak sauce
- Oregano (Save it for your spaghetti.)
- BBQ sauce
- Your finger
- Less than a full glass of ice
- More than a pinch of celery salt
- Roses lime juice (Use the real stuff. Come on man!)
- Your anger. (Never mix angry)
- Anything that you cannot find in mom’s kitchen (e.g.MSG)
- Parmesan cheese (On the rim? fine)
- Shards of glass. (This is no substitute for ice- Lesson learned!)
- Horseradish if you haven’t asked first
- An inverted bottle of Corona. WTF is that?
Have we forgotten anything…?
- Don’t Forget the Chaser
- Don’t Use a Pre-mix
- Don’t Spill
- Don’t Steal a Friend’s Chaser
- Don’t Steal a Friend’s Girl
- Don’t Drive!
Add your own tips in the comment section.
Fred Rodgers taught us so much as children. Now he brings an important life lesson to bartenders…
When is it Too Late to Order a Bloody Mary?
About twenty years ago, I stepped up to a bar in Wisconsin and ordered a bloody Mary. It was 1am.
“I ain’t makin’ that. It’s too late,” was the bartender’s response. This from a man who had just happily waited while three patrons slowly lined up to have upside-down shots poured in the area of their mouths.
“I’m sure the owner would be glad to hear that,” I said. What happened next was quite a sight. He climbed on top of the bar and was suddenly airborne descending rapidly upon me. One of us wound up in the hospital, the other with an even greater thirst for bloody Mary’s.
Bloody Mary’s are certainly associated with mornings. Whiskey tends to be an evening drink. If I order a whiskey at 9am, or a bloody at 9pm, shut your mouth and make it. Thanks. – Greg Tooke My short bio
Q: What’s the best bloody Mary mix?
A: I’m not a big fan of pre-made, bottle bloody Mary mixes. My general advice is to avoid them entirely. If you absolutely must, Zing Zang makes a popular mix that isn’t horrible. Demitri’s makes a very good mix that is added to tomato juice and vodka when serving. (MUCH better!)
Q: What vodka should I use?
A: This is a great question. The answer depends on a couple factors. 1. Are you rich? 2. Do you mix your drinks strong? If you answer yes to either question, spring for a better quality vodka like Kettle One, Belvedere, or Skyy. If you answered no to both, stick with a cheaper brand like Fleishman’s or Gordon’s. Unless you mix your bloody Mary strong, the flavor of the vodka gets trumped by all of the other ingredients. I find UV to be a nice middle of the road solution.
Q: Can I make up a large batch in advance?
A: Sometimes it’s nice to make up your bloody’s in advance of an event. This is fine. We have a good recipe for a pitcher of bloody Mary mix here. Be careful if you do. from the moment you blend tomato juice with all of those spices, the flavors begin to break down. If the mix sits in your refrigerator for more than twelve hours, you will notice a diminution in flavor. You also lose the ability to customize the drink for individual tastes.
Q: What’s a beer chaser?
A: In the midwest, Wisconsin in particular, it is customary to serve a small glass of cold beer along side of a bloody Mary. Its purpose is to clear the palate between drinks of the cocktail, and cut the bite of a spicy bloody Mary. Some bars and restaurants charge extra for this. The good ones do not.
Q: What is the best garnish for my bloody Mary?
A: There is no one or two best bloody Mary garnishes. I’ve seen some pretty outrageous creations. (a nod to the infamous Sarah Jayne Pickart) As long as you’ve crafted a good quality drink, (don’t garnauflage me!), feel free to get creative. My favorite garnishes are, in no particular order; cucumber spear, pickles, olives, mozzarella cheese, and beef jerky.
Q: Should I shake my bloody Mary?
A: I’ve been criticized by some for advising people to shake their bloody Mary in a Youtube video I published a few years back. See it here: How to make a bloody Mary. “The tomato is a soft fruit. You never shake it,” was one bartenders response. Well I understand that too much shaking can make the drink look a little white and foamy, and we don’t want that. Properly chilling the drink and thoroughly mixing it however, is of utmost importance. I use a cocktail shaker and shake gently. Pouring back and forth between two glasses works too, but be sure to repeat it a few times.
Q: What is xanthan gum?
A: I have no idea. Why did you buy that bottled bloody Mary mix? More…
Greg Tooke My short bio
I’m spoiled. As a Wisconsin native, I’ve come to expect a great deal from a bloody Mary. Oversized glasses rimmed with special seasonings and garnished with everything from sausage to celery are expected in our bloody Mary’s. Indeed I have actually felt something like pity for those who live elsewhere. Stories of bloody Mary’s served warm, without chasers, without garnish…? Surely these were the creations of barbarians from outside the walls of my home state.
Wherever you go, there you are…
I learned a valuable lesson on a trip to the Greek island of Santorini. An ancient island paradise perched upon the caldera of an active volcano, Santorini has limitations in terms of what products can reasonably be made available to its residents and visitors. Its unique climate and geography of extremely arid soil and intense sun only allow certain crops to thrive.
Sitting in an open air restaurant late one morning, I craved my favorite daytime cocktail. The waiter had not heard of a bloody Mary. I spent the next ten minutes coaching him on how to recreate the morning cocktail I enjoyed back home. I ended up with a Frankenstein’s monster of ingredients that I couldn’t drink. That evening, I struck up a conversation with the owner of a wonderful gourmet restaurant. I told him about my experience earlier that day. “I will make you a drink that you will love.” He said it with such pride that I simply said thank you. He returned with a tall slender glass filled with bright red juice and no garnish or ice. These were things not available on the island. What was available was the Santorini cherry tomato, an intensely sweet variety found only on this Greek island. The owner crushed them fresh for my drink, adding only vodka to create the drink. It was amazing.
On a recent trip to San Diego, California I ordered a bloody Mary at an open air bar on Pacific Beach. (research for this blog is grueling) What came back was a small glass garnished only with two olives and a lime. There was no beer chaser of course. My first thought was, “bummer.” Then the bartender told me about the drink. The secret ingredient was a “mud,” that the owner made at home and brought in each day. No one was allowed to know the ingredients. There’s that pride again. Bartenders added the mud, fresh lime juice, vodka, and tomato juice. It wasn’t like any bloody I’d had. I detected horseradish and possibly Key West spice, as well as a good bit of celery salt. The place became a daily stop as I made my way up and down the beach. As for the size, I simply ordered another.
Readers of this blog know that I hold bloody Mary’s to a high standard. Coining terms like, “garnauflage,” to mock poorly made cocktails hiding under elaborate garnish. I wrote another piece in which I termed the practice of using a pre-made mix, and then adding more ingredients, “shit-piling.” And as surprised as I am by the popularity of a local bar’s bloody Mary that contains too much of everything for my taste, (including oregano), I’ve come to a place of peace with these baroque manifestations.
If an amazing work of art adorns a bloody Mary, and the photograph is shared all over the country- If a guy has friends over every Sunday and blends a mix with his own touches, and his friends keep coming back- If a bar serves over-seasoned bloody’s with pride and joy any hour of business…Well, then I say go!
Do it with passion, do it with style, do it with pride, and you have my endorsement. But man, don’t put steak sauce in mine.
Cheers! -Greg Tooke My short bio
A Brief History of the Bloody Mary
Bloody Mary’s have enjoyed an explosion of popularity in the United States since the turn of the twenty-first century. Certain regions of the country boast elaborate bloody Mary brunch bars with all manner of mixes and garnish. Speaking of garnishes, the midwest seems to be in a contest with itself to create the most over-the-top bloody Mary, with garnishes towering over the drink.
What most folks in the United States think of as a bloody Mary is roughly, a mix of tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire, celery salt, and a little spice. While some have ventured into using other spirits and/or adding their own spin to the cocktail, it’s primarily known as a vodka and tomato juice beverage served with breakfast or brunch.
The Bloody Mary: A History
Many people believe that the first of these delicious daytime beverages was served at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. Indeed most credit the hotel as the birthplace of the bloody Mary. According to the hotel, In 1934, Fernand Petiot, who was the head bartender at The St. Regis’ Bar the King Cole, perfected the recipe for a vodka and tomato juice cocktail he called the Bloody Mary. Deemed too racy a name for the hotel, it was renamed the Red Snapper. The drink was small and potent like a martini, and served neat. Many believe the primary function of the drink was to disguise the consumption of alcohol at early hours.
Back to Its Roots: The Bloody Mary in Europe
But before Fernand Petiot lived and worked in New York City, he was a bartender in Paris, at a place called, The New York Bar. Many remember that Ernest Hemingway frequented the New York Bar in Paris and later published a bloody Mary recipe in the New Yorker. This was perhaps the beginning of the bloody boom in the U.S. In characteristic Hemingway bravado, the recipe was not for a small hand crafted cocktail, but for an entire pitcher. “Anything less is worthless.” Fast forward to a modern tailgating party outside of a sporting event and you would find many who agree.
It’s likely that the bloody Mary was served in France before coming to America. But even earlier than this, there is evidence of tomato juice and gin being served as an eye-opener, or brunch cocktail in England. It is perhaps ironic, or at least interesting that a modern-day version of the bloody Mary mixed with gin is called the Red Snapper.
The Bloody Mary: Still Making History
In today’s renaissance of the morning cocktail, the sky appears to be the limit. WHile purists may cringe at the deviation from the very basic, others rejoice at the possibilities of this, the most complex of cocktails. From switching out vodka for whiskey or tequila, to infusing vodka with herbs or peppers, Americans are finding new ways to enjoy an old drink.
Knowing the history of the bloody Mary gives us an appreciation of the drink, but more importantly, a license to experiment. Peruse the site and try some the recipes shared here or share your own. The only rule is, there are no rules.