Bloody Mary: Recipe, 3 Variations & 8 Alternatives
The Bloody Mary is a divisive cocktail – people either love it or hate it. With its bold flavor, unique appearance, and controversial history, nothing is boring about this classic brunch staple. Let’s dive into the origins of this singular drink and find out how to craft the perfect Bloody Mary.
With its zingy blend of tomato juice, vodka, and spices, Bloody Mary is a truly unique concoction. With a bright red hue and often accompanied by a showstopping garnish, it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.
The tangy tomato juice, the fiery spices, and the sharp vodka mean this drink blurs the line between food and drink.
But what are the origins of this divisive cocktail, and how did it secure its place as a staple of brunch menus worldwide? Let’s find out.
Introduction to Bloody Mary
The Bloody Mary is a truly unique cocktail, and not just because it is usually consumed in the morning. There are almost no rules when it comes to this tantalizing drink, with the tomato juice and vodka forming a blank slate for bartenders to flex their creativity.
There are no holds barred when it comes to spices and garnishes, with additions ranging from a simple celery stick to a skewer of King prawns.
Part of its popularity lies in its reputation as a hangover cure, making it an indispensable addition to the brunch menu of restaurants around the globe.
Whether or not it can cure a hangover, it has remained popular since its inception in the 1920s. An interesting facet of the Bloody Mary is its heavily disputed creation myth, with claims of its invention from several different establishments. This only adds to the mystique of this adaptable beverage.
What Bloody Mary Is
Famous for its complex, ever-changing flavors and ostentatious appearance, Bloody Mary is now synonymous with decadent brunches.
You’ve probably had it yourself after having a little too much fun the night before. We love how this drink has almost no rules; the limit is truly the creativity of the bartender.
Brief History / Origin
The origin of the Bloody Mary is hotly contended, with several institutions laying claim to its invention. Perhaps the most well-founded creation myth is that the drink was invented in the 1920s by bartender Fernand Petiot, who worked at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.
After inventing the drink, Petiot then introduced it to New York City, where it was quickly embraced – particularly by the bar at the St Regis Hotel. They sold the drink under the name ‘Red Snapper’, paying tribute to the vibrant color of the tomato juice.
Over time, bartenders began making their mark on the drink, which initially included just vodka, tomato juice, a dash of lemon, and spices.
#Common additions were Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and all manner of spices. This way, the drink could easily be adapted for all different palates and preferences.
The name of the Bloody Mary is also highly contested. Some say it was named after Queen Mary Tudor of England, who was known as Bloody Mary by her opponents.
Others insist it was named for a server named Mary who worked in a bar in Chicago which helped to popularize the cocktail. Regardless of its origin, the Bloody Mary has become associated with lazy, leisurely brunches and slow, decadent Sunday mornings.
We would be remiss if we didn’t touch on the Bloody Mary’s purported hangover-curing abilities. Although it perhaps wasn’t created as a hangover cure, it quickly gained that reputation thanks to the combination of replenishing, restorative tomato juice with the high alcohol content of the vodka.
The vodka allows the drinker to stave off those hangover symptoms just a little bit longer, while the tomato juice provides much-needed nourishment and hydration.
While the Bloody Mary is a highly customizable cocktail, certain ingredients form the basis of the classic cocktail.
There are seven ingredients believed to have been included in the initial Bloody Mary, ranging from lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce. However, even these are contested by some:
- Vodka: Vodka is the only alcoholic ingredient in a classic Bloody Mary, and it is chosen for its neutrality. It adds the necessary alcohol without outshining the many other ingredients, so the savory flavors can shine
- Tomato Juice: Tomato juice is the heart of the Bloody Mary, responsible for its signature hue, rich taste, and even its name. The tomato balances acidity with natural sweetness, providing a perfect canvas for a wide variety of other strong flavors
- Lemon Juice: Lemon juice adds a bright, zingy flavor to the cocktail, working in harmony with the tanginess of the tomato. It also works to balance out the heavier flavors from the other ingredients, such as the Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco
- Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire sauce is a fermented condiment, containing a mixture of vinegar, anchovies, molasses, garlic, tamarind, and seasonings. It adds a deep umami flavor to the cocktail, adding an almost meaty savor to the drink
- Tabasco: Tabasco, or other types of hot sauce, is what gives the Bloody Mary its spicy kick. This aspect of the drink can be adjusted according to taste, so it’s suitable for spice lovers and the spice-cautious alike
- Black Pepper: Black pepper adds a more subtle heat to the cocktail than Tabasco but is no less essential. The warm spice of the pepper rounds out the flavors, contributing to a balanced whole
- Celery Salt: Celery salt is either added directly to the cocktail or used to rim the glass. It rounds out and lifts the entire flavor profile with its salty, slightly bitter flavors.
Best Vodka Brands for Bloody Mary
Although vodka is a relatively neutral spirit, the choice of brand can still influence the overall flavor profile of the Bloody Mary.
The most popular vodka brands for a Bloody Mary include Absolut, Grey Goose, and Ketel One, among others. This section will detail what each vodka brand brings to the table:
1. Grey Goose: A premium, high-end vodka, Grey Goose has a smooth flavor with the slightest hint of sweetness. This makes it the ideal complement to the rich, tangy flavors of a classic Bloody Mary. It has a crisp, clean aftertaste, resulting in a smooth, easy-to-drink cocktail
2. Ketel One: Ketel One is a Dutch vodka brand, with an extremely clean taste and the faintest notes of black pepper. With botanical notes of fennel and cinnamon, this vodka pairs beautifully with the rich, strong flavors of Bloody Mary
3. Belvedere: Belvedere has a crisp finish and a distinctive smooth, almost creamy mouthfeel. It makes for a luxurious Bloody Mary with a sweet, clean finish
4. Tito’s Handmade Vodka: Tito’s is distinctive for being a corn-based vodka, and is known for having a smooth flavor profile with just a hint of pepper. This is the ideal accompaniment to the many spicy flavors of a traditional Bloody Mary, creating a well-balanced, robust drink
5. Stolichnaya: A vodka with a very neutral flavor profile, this is a great, versatile choice for a Bloody Mary. The diverse, eclectic ingredients can really shine through – allowing each ingredient to be fully appreciated
6. Smirnoff: A great option for the budget-conscious mixologist, Smirnoff is famous for being very neutral and pure in flavor. This keeps the focus on the other ingredients in the cocktail, letting the rich palate take center stage
7. Russian Standard: This wheat-based vodka is slightly peppery and full-bodied, with a creamy texture that gives way to a dry, crisp finish. It’s a particularly great choice if you want to add complexity and depth to your cocktail
8. Chopin: Chopin is a classic potato-based vodka that is known for having a rich, creamy mouthfeel. This perfectly complements the tangy, zingy flavors of your Bloody Mary, creating a well-balanced drink
9. Cîroc: Ciroc stands out from other vodka brands due to being crafted from grapes. This brings a unique, mildly fruity flavor to the vodka, which adds an unusual depth to the classic recipe.
10. Absolut: An affordable, versatile choice for your Bloody Mary. Absolut is famous for its clean, crisp, neutral flavors, so it doesn’t overpower the spicy and rich flavors of the other ingredients.
Recipe – How to Make a Bloody Mary
Making the perfect Bloody Mary is an art form, which requires balancing bold flavors to make a harmonious drink.
While there are many possible variations, we’ve included a recipe for a classic Bloody Mary. Once you’ve mastered the original, feel free to get as creative as you like.
Gather your ingredients – for this classic Bloody Mary, you will need:
- 2 parts vodka of your choice
- 4 parts tomato juice
- ½ part lemon juice
- 4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 2-6 dashes of Tabasco (depending on your preference)
- Pinch of black pepper
- Pinch of celery salt
- Ice Cubes
- Celery to garnish (and any additional garnishes of your choice)
Collect your tools – you’ll need:
- Cocktail stirring glass and stirrer
- A tall glass to serve, such as a highball glass, pint glass, or hurricane glass
- A straw
And here’s how you do it:
- Add all of your ingredients, except for the garnish, into a stirring glass, and stir vigorously. It is preferable to stir instead of shake, as shaking a Bloody Mary can make it frothy
- Pour your drink into the tall serving glass. If it isn’t full, add more ice
- Top your drink with your garnishes. A celery stick is classic, but feel free to get creative and add a rasher of crispy bacon, fresh herbs, or a lemon wedge. If you want to get really creative, before you pour the drink you can rim your glass with a flavored spice mix, such as lemon pepper or celery salt
- Add a straw and serve.
Time & Occasions for Drinking a Bloody Mary
While the Bloody Mary is most commonly associated with brunch, it is suitable for a number of occasions. Thanks to its rich flavors and substantial nature, it’s a great choice for any leisurely weekend gathering ranging from brunch to an afternoon get-together.
Whether or not we believe the claims that it cures hangovers, it’s certainly popular as a drink the morning after a night of indulgence – whether that ‘morning’ begins before or after midday.
The strong flavors and substantial, robust nature of this unusual cocktail mean it’s the perfect accompaniment to a huge range of foods.
Classic brunch foods, like eggs, bacon, or sausage pair beautifully with this drink. The zesty tang and the spicy kick cut through the heavier, fatty flavors of a classic fry-up, creating a well-rounded meal.
You don’t have to limit yourself to breakfast foods, however. Bloody Marys are also great paired with a number of appetizers.
Try serving your Bloody Mary with meatballs, mozzarella sticks, a charcuterie board, or grilled meat. These strong, hearty flavors stand up well to the rich, complex notes of the Bloody Mary, creating a feast for the palate.
Seafood is also a common Bloody Mary pairing, as the tangy tomato elements complement the natural briny flavors. You can pair your Bloody Mary with shrimp, oysters, or lobster for a truly decadent gastronomical experience.
Best Glass to Serve a Bloody Mary
The best Bloody Mary is a long drink – after all, as a hangover cure, it needs to be able to rehydrate the drinker. A tall glass such as a pint glass or highball is ideal, as it allows plenty of room for ice, ensuring the cocktail stays cold and refreshing.
A tall glass is also perfect to showcase the many garnishes a Bloody Mary is known for, as well as displaying the vibrant red color to its best advantage.
Variations of Bloody Mary
While the classic Bloody Mary contains vodka and tomato juice, there have been plenty of variations concocted over the years with different ingredients.
These variations range from the Bloody Roman to the Bloody Bulldog. They all retain the spirit of the drink while getting creative with the materials used.
The Bloody Roman adds a fun twist to the Bloody Mary, with the addition of beer instead of vodka and including oysters and olives.
This makes a super hearty, savory concoction that is rumored to be the perfect hangover cure. With tomato juice, vinegar, capers, chiles, and pepper commonly added, this variation is not for the unadventurous.
This variation adds Old Bay Seasoning, olives, and pickle brine to the classic Bloody Mary recipe. This creates a deeper, more savory flavor profile, which is ideal for salt lovers.
For a garnish, the cocktail boasts a crispy bacon strip and a long slice of dill pickle: it’s practically a full meal as well as a cocktail.
This simple variation swaps out vodka for gin and adds a dash of balsamic vinegar and garlic. The clean, botanical notes of the gin pair beautifully with the tangy tomato, while the garlic and balsamic add extra layers of flavor. Originally created to use with Bulldog brand gin, any high-quality gin will work here.
Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy
If you enjoy Bloody Mary cocktails, there’s a whole world of delicious cocktails with similar flavor profiles that you might enjoy. These cocktails all either share ingredients or similar flavors with a traditional Bloody Mary. However, they all have their own special qualities that make them unique.
The Michelada uses Mexican beer, such as Corona or Sol, in place of vodka. It also uses lime juice and extra chili peppers. This creates a refreshing, zesty drink that is a little lighter than a Bloody Mary — perfect for hot summer days.
The Bloody Caesar makes the most of the complementary pairing of seafood and tomato juice by swapping out the tomato juice with Clamato.
For those that don’t know, this is a blend of clam and tomato juice and it adds depth and brininess to the cocktail. Also known as the Canadian Bloody Mary, the Bloody Caesar retains the other classic Bloody Mary ingredients — making it the most traditional of the many variations.
The Red Snapper is another name for a gin-based Bloody Mary. It is similar to the Bloody Bulldog, but this version doesn’t add balsamic and garlic. It lets the aromatic botanical flavors of the gin add depth to the beverage — ideal for Bloody Mary lovers who also love gin.
Virgin Mary (non-alcoholic)
The Virgin Mary is a great option for those who want the spicy tang of a Bloody Mary without adding alcohol into the mix. It’s perfect for pregnant women and teetotallers. It’s also an excellent option for hungover people who don’t want to consume any more alcohol.
This version swaps out vodka for tequila, creating a smoky, strong-tasting version of the classic Bloody Mary. Tequila adds depth to the drink without being overpowering. This makes it perfect for tequila enthusiasts.
The Screwdriver has the same vodka base as a Bloody Mary. However, it uses orange juice instead of tomato juice. Another popular brunch drink, this is a great choice for those looking for an alcoholic brunch drink that is more sweet than savory.
Another citrusy option, the Salty Dog combines vodka with grapefruit juice. This is then served with a salty rim. The salty and bitter flavors are reminiscent of the complex flavors of a Bloody Mary, but fruitier and sweeter.
Really, the only thing a Mimosa has in common with a Bloody Mary is that it’s also considered to be a brunch cocktail.
A Mimosa is a great alternative if you feel like something lighter and more effervescent. This is because it combines equal parts champagne and orange juice for a refreshing midday drink.