The Bloody Mary is only 50 years old in its modern incarnation, but it has become one of the few savory cocktails with widespread appeal, as well as gaining a reputation as the quintessential "recovery" drink or brunch cocktail. This cocktail is infinitely customizable to personal tastes and preferences, while also providing a canvas for a wide range of garnishes. This is a drink that breaks all of the rules by having almost no rules at all.
The two absolute requirements of a Bloody Mary are vodka and tomato juice. After that, you look at adding some tang with citrus, heat with cayenne pepper or horseradish, then richness with Worcestershire sauce. Garnish with (at the very least) a celery stalk, and you're good to go.
The vodka needn't be a premium brand. Aside from arguments about whether there is that much difference between premium and modestly priced vodkas, the Bloody Mary is so chock full of salt, heat, spice and other flavors that any of the smoothness or distinctness claimed by premium vodkas will be overpowered. Stick with a comfortable and recognizable brand like Smirnoff, or Arkansas' own Brandon's Vodka
The tomato juice, on the other hand, is where you want to pay a little attention. If your tomato juice is already full of sodium, skip the upcoming salt. A lot of people use an enhanced, tomato-based juice drink (like V-8) instead of plain tomato juice which can add some depth of flavor as the other vegetables are in play. Use what you have or what you prefer.
Bloody Marys want a little bit of heat. Or a lot of heat. Horseradish is commonly used, but cayenne pepper and hot sauce are frequent ingredients especially if made at home. Cayenne can be very assertive and overwhelming if you are not careful so make sure you know your tastes if you use it.
Unless you are infusing your vodka specifically for your Bloody Marys, like many restaurants, add depth to the drink with Worcestershire sauce. A few dashes go a long way to bring richness and deeper flavors to the drink, but if you want be all cocktail geeky about it, you could use twice as many dashes of bitters for the same effect.
Celery salt is easy to find and adds another layer of flavor to the complexity of the Bloody Mary. You can also use pickle juice to add saltiness and another layer of flavor, as in the recipe below. A few turns of freshly ground black pepper likewise contributes to the drink.
Finally, the Bloody Mary is a story of garnishes. The ubiquitous stalk of celery, crunchy and fresh, can be joined by pickles, pickled beans, horseradish, olives, ribs or more. When the Bloody Mary is intended to be a whole meal instead of just a drink, the only limitation you face is keeping the glass standing up.
*2 oz. Vodka
*4 oz. Tomato Juice
*.5 oz. Pickle Juice
* .5 oz. Lemon Juice
* 2-4 Dashes Hot Sauce
* 2-4 Dashes Worcestershire sauce
* Dash of cayenne pepper
* 2-3 grinds freshly cracked black pepper
* Celery stalk, pickled green beans, lemon wedges, or other garnishes
1. Combine all ingredients in an ice filled pint glass.
2. Stir briefly.
3. Cover the glass with your mixing tin or a well fitted lid and roll the drink back and forth two or three times to incorporate. Normally, you would want to shake a drink with that much juice, but the Bloody Mary likes to break all of the cocktail "rules".
4. Garnish with the dash of cayenne,the celery stalk, and whatever additional garnishes strike your fancy
Bloody Mary from Midtown Billiards
While the Bloody Mary is usually a morning beverage, Midtown offers one of their best cocktails at all hours of the night. Despite having a reputation of packing the crowd in, Midtown devotes substantial time and energy to crafting these beauties. Midtown goes heavy on the heat with horseradish & Tabasco and depth of flavor with the Worchestshire. The flavor of the drink itself is a wonderful balance of rich, savory, and spicy flavors. One of the most memorable parts of this Bloody Mary, though, is the garnish of olives and pepperoncini.
Revolution Tacos & Tequila
Build-your-own Bloody Mary from Revolution
The infinite variation on the Bloody Mary is why a build your own Bloody Mary bar is not only popular but a fantastic brunch experience. Revolution has a Bloody Mary bar so good that you may be surprised. You get a glass of their vegetable infused vodka before being sent to concoct your personal Bloody Mary. The vegetable vodka provides a greater depth of flavor than either a plain vodka or a pepper infused vodka with a richness from some of the vegetables that can't be beat. When you combine that with the huge array of available add-ins at the bar, you can create your own best practices Bloody Mary.
Ya Ya's Eurobistro
Bloody Mary with accouterments from Ya Ya's
In West Little Rock, YaYa's provides a BangBang Bloody Mary which matches well with their brunch buffet! The Bang Bang Bloody Mary follows the idea of an infused vodka with a housemade bloody mary mix that can easily be modified at a Bloody Mary bar. YaYas used onions, peppers, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf in their vodka creating a distinct savory flavor with their bloody Mary mix before you personalize it. The Bloody Mary itself has a unique flavor from the savory vodka that doesn't automatically require customization, but if you are visiting the brunch buffet, you should see what they have available to add.
What are your favorite Bloody mary additions? How do you prefer to take your brunch cocktail?