Category Archives: Spicy Blog

Thoughts, tips, rants, and raves about daytime drinking and cocktail mixing

If You Never Put These in a Bloody Mary, Thank You

How to Not Make a Bloody Mary

How Not to 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
  • Salt
  • 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…?



When is it too late to order a bloody Mary?

Is it Too Late to Order a Bloody?

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.

When is it too late to order a bloody Mary?
Too late for a bloody?

“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

How to Make Bloody Mary's FAQ

Bloody Mary Q & A

Q: What’s the best bloody Mary mix?

How to Make Bloody Mary's FAQ
How to Make Bloody Mary’s FAQ

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 


best bloody Mary recipe photo

Finding Beauty in Your Bloody Mary

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.santorini-bloody

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 

The Bloody Trail Book Review

The Bloody Trail – A Book Review

The Bloody Trail, In quest of the best Wisconsin bloody Mary’s

Author: Susan Fiebig

Publisher: Orange Hat

The Bloody Trail Book Review
The Bloody Trail, Susan Fiebig

When I heard that a fellow Wisconsinite had written an entire book about her travels in search of good bloody Mary’s, well I had to read it. What Susan Fiebig has created is a travel guide. Her passion and appreciation for a quality bloody Mary experience shines through in this 44 page guide to her favorite spots around the state to enjoy the queen of cocktails.

One might be tempted to call this a coffee table book because of its light nature and abundance of pictures, but make no mistake: this book is built to travel.  Filled with photographs of the drinks, sketches of the establishments themselves, and detailed descriptions of the experience at each of the eleven bars and restaurants, the book will inspire you to follow her footsteps. I’d advise mixing a bloody Mary before you start reading. Your mouth will water as you take it all in.

Bloody Mary Score Card
Bloody Mary Score Card


Susan, “gets it,” when it comes to bloody Mary’s. After a little historical background of the cocktail, the author dives right into laying out the criteria for rating a bloody Mary. You may or may not agree with how each item is weighted, but one must appreciate that she captures the important points and gives them their due.  The glass, rim salt, how the drink is mixed, how it is garnished, presentation, taste, and the all important Wisconsin standard, the beer chaser, all are taken into account.

Susan and her partner rate these cocktails at least twice.  More than just an excuse to drink more, she wants to allow for minor variations from forces like a new bartender or one having a bad day.  While she doesn’t divulge exactly how many different bloody’s were considered before selecting these top eleven, it’s clear that she draws from a large sample.  (My kind of lady!)


The meat of this guide, comprising over half of its pages, is eleven critiques.  Each of the bloody Mary’s gets a two page write-up.  It includes a detailed description of the drink itself, how it was rated, a photograph of the bloody, a nice description of the bar or restaurant in which it was served, and sketch of the building by illustrator Jesse Roelke. (This was one of my favorite parts of the book. Points for unique artwork!)

We won’t spoil anything by sharing the top eleven, but a map in the book shows a geographic spread ranging from Madison to Sturgeon Bay, to Milwaukee.  Susan’s quest is only beginning with this first guide.  The last section of the book invites readers to join in the creation of the next edition.  Six scorecards are included in the appendix. Readers are encouraged to take the guide-book out into the field and join in the research.  She even includes a postage paid post card for your top choice to be included in the next edition.  My head has been throbbing all week as I tirelessly pursue this challenge.

I highly recommend picking this book up and getting involved in Susan’s quest -a quest that holds purveyors of bloody Mary’s to a higher standard.  When the bloody Mary bar is raised, we all win.

Learn more about the author, her quest, the book, and how to buy it on her website,  The Bloody


5 Best Mixed Drinks

An overview of the 5 best mixed drinks on the planet

best mixed drinks
Best Mixed Drinks?

No one can accuse the staff of My Big Fat Bloody Mary of not doing their homework when it comes to cocktail research.  As any scientist worth their salt knows, the larger the pool of data, that is – the larger the sample size. the more reliable conclusions about that data can be.  And so it is in the search for the best mixed drinks on the planet.

Drawing from decades of heavy research into the murky depths of alcoholic drinks, our staff has compiled a list of the 5 best mixed drinks.  As much as we love an ice-cold beer or a full pour of fine bourbon, we’ve limited the list to only those drinks that are composed of two or more ingredients, one of which is alcoholic spirits.

The criteria:  To make our list, a drink must have longevity and a universal appeal. Trendy concoctions with ingredients like energy drinks will have to survive a few more decades before making the cut.  We also looked for drinks that filled a specific need, beyond steadying a trembling hand. A perfect after dinner cocktail may not be one of the best mixed drinks for breakfast and vice versa.

So let’s roll them out – Our picks, based on decades of tireless research.  From the basement bars of our uncles’ bungalow, to the sun-drenched tiki bars of the Caribbean, to the smokey supper club, we bring you the 5 best mixed drinks:

#5 The Gin and Tonic

#5 Best cocktail
Gin and Tonic

Crisp, clean, and refreshing, the gin and tonic is the perfect hot weather drink. On the boat or in the back yard enjoying a game of croquet, break out a pitcher of icy cold G & T and summer is on. Use good gin and mix it 1/3 gin and 2/3 tonic. Don’t forget to squeeze a wedge of fresh lime over the top. It makes the drink. Also, be sure to use plenty of ice. This drink should be as cold as possible. If you plan to make an afternoon of it, ease back on the gin in favor of tonic.

#4 The Rum Runner

Rum Runner Cocktail
Rum Runner

Another warm weather favorite, the rum runner is the best beach drink. Hailing from the sunny Caribbean, Its blend of rums and fruit juices give it a sunny color and a deliciously refreshing taste. There are several variations on this cocktail, but all feature plenty of rum. Be careful, rum can hide from you and haunt you later. Here’s a nice primer for the rum runner recipe

#3 The Margarita

Best Margarita Drinks

A Mexican classic, the Margarita is the most festive of drinks. It’s hard to feel depressed with one of these in front of you. It’s our pick for getting a party off on the right foot. It’s a nice blend of sweet, salt, and sour. It’s like a hat dance on the tongue. Don’t confuse one of those blended fru-fru drinks with a real Margarita.  The drink should be simple and long on good tequila.


#2 The Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned Cocktail
Old Fashioned

King of the supper club. This classic cocktail, traditionally made with whiskey, is full of flavor and booze. Drink like a character from the AMC series Madmen. Drop a sugar cube into a stout glass, splash aromatic bitters on it and mash or, “muddle,” it to coat the glass. Drop a large ice-cube in, splash club soda, then top with bourbon. That’s it. Don’t get talked into muddling cherries and oranges – those can go on top.


#1 The Bloody Mary

bloddy Mary
Bloody Mary

Our readers may have seen this coming but yes, we chose the bloody Mary to top the list of best mixed drinks. Here’s why: It’s the most complex of cocktails in terms of flavor. Its variety of ingredients affords multiple variations to suit individual tastes. The traditional garnishes can double as a meal, and most importantly, it can be enjoyed any time of the day.

Take a little time to learn how to make a bloody Mary. (We know a few good resources)
Have you done your own research? Do you find fault in our methods? Enter your comments below.

-Greg Tooke My short bio