So you’ve decided to test out this whole “brunch” concept. Chances are, you’ve caught wind of a curiously sanguineous-sounding concoction called a “Bloody Mary.” You’ve been assured that its name is misleading, that there’s no blood actually involved. You’re told it’s delicious. You’re ready to try it out.
But imagine this scenario: Arriving at the bar, eyes burning like last night’s whiskey, head foggier than London, and the server gestures over yonder to the the shelves of vegetables, spices and juices – the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Yes, newbie, you’re going to have to make your own drink. Worse yet, you’re going to have to look like you know what you’re doing.
Fear not; we’re here to help. The secret to the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar is to not over-complicate it. Follow the steps below one at a time. Concentrate. Breathe. Worse case scenario is that you end up with a mixture that tastes horrible. But a low bar isn’t such a bad thing; after all, you can always get back up and try your hand at it again. You’ll be all Tom Cruise in Cocktail in no time.
Step 1: The booze
Unless you specify otherwise, your Bloody Mary is almost always going to be made with vodka – about two ounces, but we’ve been known to add a little more. This isn’t a requirement, however. Gin is also a perfectly acceptable spirit as its piney character adds some interesting flavoring to the mix. Or, channel your college spring break-era spirit of adventure and fix yourself what’s know as the Bloody Maria with – you guessed it – tequila. We haven’t tried whiskey or rum yet, and we don’t suggest you should, either.
Step 2: The juice
In case you didn’t know, tomato juice is what puts the “blood” in the Bloody Mary. At very least, you can expect your bartender to have cans of tried-and-true V-8 on the ready. (Spicy V-8, if you’re lucky.) For the truly adventurous there is Clamato – tomato juice blended with clam broth and spices. But if the bar is offering a house-made Bloody Mary mix, you owe it to yourself to give that a whirl. For many bartenders, a signature mix is a thing of pride and can include a wide range of culinary twists – horseradish, cayenne pepper, celery salt, brown sugar, Old Bay, lime juice. If this is the case, we recommend skipping Step 3.
Step 3: The spices
If V-8 is your canvass, then you need to sass that baby up. Hot sauces like Tabasco will give your Bloody Mary that extra kick. Black pepper, a dash of salt and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce are all standard ingredients. Take a good look at the featured ingredients. Smell them. When possible (and not downright unsanitary), sneak a taste. Experimentation is key here; a dash of this and two dashes of that can be difference between a good Bloody Mary and a great one. And if you like what you made, write that recipe down! Remember, your hangover and the booze you are now consuming are actively working against your memory skills.
Step 4: The garnish(es)
A good-tasting cocktail is only half the battle. Your Bloody Mary needs to look good, too. And with the right garnish combination, you can achieve both. A big ol’ stalk of celery is the most common garnish for the Bloody Mary, but don’t let that stop you from trying something a bit more imaginative. A lemon or lime wedge will add both color and a nice citric flare (we recommend both); a blue cheese-stuffed olive brings a savory element to the table; and a pickle – or, better yet, a variety of pickled veggies – will help build your appetite. Or go hard with a pepperoni stick, bacon strips, cocktail shrimp or even a crab claw. If you’re trying to affix a burger to the edge of your glass then you’ve probably gone too far (but you’re not the first to try).
Have a Bloody Mary secret you don’t mind sharing? Post it below.