In honor of the upcoming year end celebrations and one of my High Holy Days (or actually maybe low & unholy is more appropriate) I’m going to tell you today about one of my favorite things, the Bloody Mary. On the first morning of the new year as we nurse our hangovers, it is my firm belief that we should all have access to a delicious, delectable, spicy and salty Bloody Mary. Some call it the Hair of the Dog, as a child I once referred to the vodka-free version my dad would make for me as a “Bloody Virgin.” My mother simply calls them “Bloodies” as in “Allisonny, will you make me a Bloody?” Whatever it’s called, I want one.
I take my Bloody Marys pretty seriously. I’ve made this vegetable cocktail in travel versions to take on trains, picnics, camping…This year I discovered the trick is to freeze some of the mix into ice cubes to keep them chilled but not watered down.
I have a Bloody Mary bar at my Thanksgiving every year and if I invite you over for brunch, it’s pretty much guaranteed to include the tomato concoction. You can make it ahead of time and set everything out so guests can help themselves, while you’re busy fixing a magnificent meal.
You can make them anyway you want, really. Always taste as you go, adding more spices and sauces as needed. After watching me make a few Bloody Marys, Nadja determined that my trick is to use all the condiments I can find in my fridge. Perhaps no two batches turn out the same, but they are always delicious.
Bloody Marys are an art and not a science, so you don’t need to be exact and you can add and substitute to your heart’s desire. These are some of the classic ingredients I generally start with.
That ball jar in the photo has my parent’s homemade, canned vegetable juice in it, which we mix with the store bought V8. V8 is great just by itself too if you don’t have canners in the family. Slice the lemon & lime in half, squeeze half of each into your mixing bowl or pitcher. Add just a little pickle juice, no more than a 1/4 cup to start, a few dashes of Worcestershire and Tabasco…probably 2 teaspoons each to start. And a sprinkle of celery salt, plus a quart of V8 or tomato juice.
Crack some black pepper into the batch and taste.
Add spices and adjust until it’s nice and spicy and get your glasses and garnishes ready. I like to mix a little celery salt, chili powder and kosher salt together to make a salty rim.
Salt the rims of some pint glasses by running a lemon wedge around the glass and turning them over in a plate of the salt mixture.
Add a few shots of vodka and ice to each glass.
Add your Bloody Mary mix and stir, add any garnishes and cheers!
I have altered my parent’s recipe over the years, but the staple ingredients always remain the same.
Basic Bloody Mary Ingredients:
Vegetable Juice (V8)
Tabasco (or Frank’s Hot Sauce)
Some additions & substitutions I’ve come to love:
Mustard or Horseradish
Olive Juice, Pepperoncini Juice, Pickled Jalapeno juice can each substitute for the pickle juice.
Sriracha, Cholula and any hot sauce your favor, I like to mix and match
Cracked Black Pepper
Soy Sauce, beef bullion or Guinness can take the place of the Worcestershire
Chili Garlic Paste
Old Bay’s Seasoning Salt
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Garnishes are half the fun:
Green olives and a lemon or lime wedge, a stalk of celery and anything pickled, such as pickles, dilly beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus or pepperoncini…set them out for people to choose.
Garnishes very by region certainly, sometimes you’ll see a carrot stick and in Wisconsin it’s not at all unusual to find a meat stick and a chunk of cheese as a garnish. I once had a slice of deep fried bacon served with my Bloody in Philadelphia, and a lobster claw or piece of shrimp in seafood restaurants is fairly common. It’s a bit of a shock to see a piece of cold fish in your cocktail, but the drink isn’t all that different from the sauce you’d get with a shrimp cocktail. The point is, here is a cocktail that most people are familiar with but you can do so much to make it your own. And it’s like three servings of vegetables….
I’ll leave you with this last little anecdote. When I first moved to New York, I found I didn’t like the Bloody Marys that much, anywhere I went. There was always something a little off about them, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then while my mother was visiting, we ordered Bloody Marys and my mother asked for a beer “chaser” which is almost always served with Bloody Marys in Wisconsin: it’s a small glass of beer on the side. We don’t even have to ask for them in good ol’ Wisco. I’d noticed they didn’t serve them in New York but hadn’t really thought about it. The bartender said “no problem” and made the best Bloody Mary I had tasted to date in NYC. I asked him what was different. He said when my mom asked for a chaser, he guessed we were from Wisconsin and made them without the horseradish, as that’s an East Coast thing. I’ve come to like horseradish in them now, but I love that story of how asking for the chaser gave us away.
So tell me how you like your Bloody Mary.
Happy New Year!