Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Bloody Mary Cocktail

Bloody Mary Cocktail in Rocks Glass with Celery Garnish

This Spicy Favorite Owns Sunday Morning

If you’ve ever gone out for brunch on a weekend, chances are you’ve seen a Bloody Mary (or several) being consumed.  This piquant mix of tomato juice and vodka is a forenoon favorite in the US — and throughout much of the world.

And why not?  The Bloody Mary delivers a bit of a kick, but all that tomato juice gives you maximum beverage volume with minimal alcohol.  Plus, the drink holds its own against the assertive flavors of common brunch fare like bacon, sausage, and eggs.  In fact, its taste is so robust that people rarely want more than one.  So you won’t get blotto at breakfast. 

The Bloody Mary is an easy drink to make at home when you host a big brunch.  It also practically cries out for customization:  You can spice it up or down to suit your own preference. 

Once you’ve developed the perfect recipe, you may find yourself inviting people over for brunch more often.  Just so you can bask in their satisfied smiles as they sip your expert concoction.


Bloody Mary Cocktail in Rocks Glass with Celery Garnish

Recipe:  The Bloody Mary Cocktail

A Bloody Mary always contains tomato tomato juice and vodka, and usually Worcestershire Sauce and lemon juice. After those basics, ingredients can vary. Common additions include Tabasco sauce, salt (often celery salt), black pepper, and (sometimes) horseradish sauce. This is a drink that you want to experiment with, because everyone likes a different level of spiciness. I’ll provide a recipe that you can use as a template, and discuss some variations in the Notes.

The Bloody Mary is famed as a “hair of the dog” remedy (meaning that if you consume too much alcohol the night before, it’s supposed to help assuage your pain the next morning). In truth, adding more alcohol to an already overloaded system isn’t a good idea. But at least the tomato juice will help hydrate you, and it will add some badly needed vitamins.

BTW, the Bloody Mary can easily be adapted for nondrinkers or children: Simply leave out the vodka and you’ll have a Virgin Mary. Vodka provides no flavor (see Notes), so this mocktail is every bit as delicious as the actual cocktail.

A Bloody Mary is usually served on-the-rocks in an old-fashioned glass or in a tall (Collins) glass. The recipe takes 5 minutes to prepare, and yields one drink.

Ingredients
  • 1½ ounces of vodka (a moderately priced vodka like Smirnoff is fine)
  • 3 or 4 ounces of tomato juice (I always buy those 6-ounce mini cans of tomato juice so I don’t waste a large container)
  • ~½ ounce fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • 2 to 4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce (to taste; some people like A-1 sauce)
  • 2 to 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce (to taste)
  • a pinch of salt (or celery salt; or to taste)
  • a pinch of freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • ~1 teaspoon horseradish sauce (optional, but tasty)
  • celery stalk or lemon wheel for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice (see Notes).  Shake vigorously for 30 seconds or so, until the drink is cold. 
  2. Strain into an ice-filled rocks (old-fashioned) or tall (Collins) glass.
  3. Add a garnish if desired, and serve.  You might also consider serving this drink with a short straw.
Bloody Mary Cocktail in Rocks Glass with Celery Garnish

Notes
  • You should shake rather than stir this drink because that’s the easiest way to get all the ingredients to mix together. 
  • However, this is a drink that some people prefer to “roll.”  That is, they put all the ingredients into a mixing glass, then pour the mixture into a second glass, then back into the first.  If you get a nice rhythm going, it looks like you’re continually “rolling” the ingredients back and forth between the glasses.
  • The basic algorithm for this drink is:  vodka, tomato juice, spicy stuff.  But everybody uses different “spicy” ingredients.  Most recipes call for 1½ or 2 ounces of vodka, and 3 to 4 ounces of tomato juice; after that, all bets are off.  IMO you definitely want to use some Worcestershire sauce.  Ditto Tabasco unless you really don’t like spicy.  Some people swear by celery salt, although I find that regular salt works fine.  I sometimes like to add horseradish (depending on my mood).  Some people omit the lemon juice, but I think that’s a mistake.
  • Whatever secondary ingredients you use, feel free to experiment with measurements until you find a formula that suits your taste.  
  • Robert Hess suggests substituting a tablespoon, give or take, of powdered ancho chile powder for the Tabasco. (I haven’t tried his version.) Even though a tablespoon seems like a lot, ancho chile powder isn’t that spicy. I like the idea, and might also experiment with dried chipotle chile powder, which has great flavor but is much hotter than ancho. If you go that route, definitely start with no more than a teaspoon, and adjust after you’ve tasted the drink. 
  • Vodka is made by distilling fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or sometimes fruits or sugar mixed with water. It has no flavor (unless a flavoring, like lemon, has been added). Yes, I know some people can distinguish different vodkas by taste. But what they’re probably picking up on is how well filtered the vodka is. Cheaper vodkas seem “harsh” because they haven’t been filtered as well as the more expensive ones.
  •  I rarely drink vodka because I rarely make drinks that require it (I prefer flavor in my spirits; gin is essentially vodka with natural flavored infused in it, so given a choice I’ll always select gin). Still, I have tasted my share of vodkas in the past. For drinking straight and chilled (as it’s traditionally consumed), I prefer the Russian brands (Stolichnaya is pretty good — at least what’s exported to the West). But I really can’t distinguish any flavor difference between that and Smirnoff (Stoli does seem a bit more smooth, but maybe I’m fooling myself). So when it comes to mixing drinks, I always buy Smirnoff. And I probably wouldn’t notice if I bought something even less expensive. I’m not suggesting that you fill your empty Grey Goose bottle with Smirnoff (or Popov). But it would be interesting to see how many people could actually tell the difference. 
  • Because vodka doesn’t have a flavor profile of its own, it’s the ideal spirit for cocktails in which non-alcoholic flavors dominate. In the case of the Bloody Mary, that flavor is tomato juice. In a Screwdriver, it’s orange juice. In a Cosmopolitan, it’s cranberry juice (among other things). Vodka just provides the kick — the other ingredients give these drinks their character.

Bloody Mary Cocktail in Rocks Glass with Celery Garnish, on Black Acrylic

Sunday, Bloody Sunday  

No one is quite sure where the Bloody Mary originated.  As is the case with many classic cocktails, its origins are murky. In The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan recounts the most widely accepted story, which says that the drink was invented by Fernand “Pete” Petiot at Harry’s Bar in Paris, sometime around 1924. Harry’s was one of the bars where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out (is there any bar where he didn’t?). So he probably sampled Petiot’s creation (is there any drink Hemingway didn’t sample?).

Back then, the Bloody Mary was probably quite different from today’s drink. It most likely contained equal parts of tomato juice and vodka shaken together with ice, then served straight up in a cocktail glass. It may have included some lemon juice, but no Worcestershire, Tabasco, or anything else.

Petiot was hired to run the King Cole Room at New York’s St. Regis Hotel in 1934. That’s probably when the Bloody Mary reached the US (although some people reject the whole Petiot story, and claim the drink was actually created at a New York speakeasy during Prohibition). The owner of the St. Regis, John Astor, objected to the drink’s name, so it was called the Red Snapper for a while. According to Regan, the original name returned sometime in the 1940s. And eventually, the Bloody Mary evolved to become the spicy concoction we enjoy today.

The drink did not gain wide popularity in the US until the 1950s. That was the era when Americans were becoming acquainted with vodka, helped in part by a Smirnoff ad campaign featuring the entertainer George Jessel. Jessel also claimed to have invented the Bloody Mary (supposedly at 5 AM “when the bartender was asleep”).

Once Americans discovered the Bloody Mary, they adopted it enthusiastically. And over time, variations of the drink proliferated: Substitute beef bouillon for tomato juice and you have a Bull Shot. Use Clamato and you have a Caesar (or a Bloody Caesar, Bloody Clam, or Clammy Mary). Pineapple Juice? That’s a Commander White. Replace the vodka with sherry? You get a Bloody Bishop. If you use bourbon, it’s a Bloody Derby. You can even use bacon vodka (this actually exists!) and have a Bloody Hogger. And, BTW, there is another drink today that’s called the Red Snapper — it uses gin instead of vodka.

There are more, many more. But I think the classic formula is the best. So that’s what you’ll find me drinking — especially at a big Sunday brunch.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Cocktail Basics
Corpse Reviver Cocktail
Champagne Cocktail
Bellini
Whikey Sour
Sidecar
Manhattan Cocktail
Martini
Pegu Club
Aviation Cocktail
Income Tax Cocktail
Negroni Cocktail
Sazerac Cocktail
Pimm's Cup
The Last Word Cocktail
Gimlet Cocktail

60 comments:

  1. Wow, that picture almost takes my breath away. Who can make tomato juice look so stunning other than you!

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    1. Hi Chris, (blush) thanks so much for those kind words, and for commenting.

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  2. I love tomato juice but have to say I've never acquired a taste for a Bloody Mary. Although I have to say your photo definitely looks appealing but that's nothing new. I still think you should write a book on beverages. With your photos and detailed descriptions even bartenders would be purchasing it.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Vicki, I hadn't had one for years before I make them for this post. I'll definitely be having them again soon, because they have so much flavor. But it's definitely a breakfast or brunch drink, IMO, and you really want only one. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  3. The good news is that I believe we can count this as one of our 5 servings of fruit and vegies each day! I'm down!

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    1. Hi Abbe, you're right about this being one of our servings of fruit & veggies every day! ;-) Great observation. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. This Bloody Mary looks very tempting and the presentation is so classy!
    Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Daniela, it's really tempting and delicious! Thanks for the kind words and comment, and Happy New Year!

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  5. Having to work till closing at a bar on Saturday night and then returning to open it Sunday morning, I've had more than my fair share of Bloody Marys. I agree with you and bring on the Tabasco, Worcestershire, horseradish, and lemon. Might as well sprinkle a little celery salt, too, while you're at it. I enjoy them but, oddly, have never made one at home -- and it's not like I don't have the ingredients. Hmm...
    I really do appreciate these posts, John, and the work you put into them. Each individual cocktail's history fascinates me and wish I knew some this back when I was behind the bar. Thanks, nonetheless, and Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi John, this is a great drink, isn't it? Sounds like you prefer yours on the spicy side. You definitely need to make these at home when you have a nice brunch? It's fun writing these posts, so I'm glad you enjoy them. Thanks for that, and for taking time to comment.

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  6. I LOVE a good Bloody Mary - great post!!!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, glad I wrote about something you really enjoy! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Wow, the pictures make me wish I could reach into the screen and taste one or two!! I never heard of horseradish in the Bloody Mary and I love the addition with the Tabasco and Worcestershire! Excellent drink :)

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    1. Hi Judy, this really is a nice drink. The horseradish definitely adds a bit of extra kick. If you're in the mood for it, it's really quite nice. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. I could go for one right now! Tabasco is a must, the spicier the better! I will hold off on the horseradish though :P

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    1. Hi Natalie, I'll remember to make yours with extra Tabasco and to hold the horseradish. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Bloody Marys are always such fun brunch libations, especially because you can go to town on all the different garnishes to put out for them. They almost become a meal in and of themselves. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, you make an excellent point about how you can dress up this drink. I've seen asparagus spears and all sorts of other cool garnishes. The assortment can be a lot of fun. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I've forgotten how delicious this drink is. I'm definitely serving this the next time I have a family breakfast. They'll love it. I'm looking forward to seeing what you serve up in 2013!

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    1. Hi Kristi, this is so great for a breakfast! And if you want, you can expand the recipe to fill a whole pitcher. Thanks for the comment.

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  11. I might be more interested in a Bloody Mary if they were all made like this. Any I have had served have been little more than tomato juice and vodka, an extremely insipid cocktail. I generally prefer the more robust Canadian version, the Bloody Ceasar, but your recipe for the Bloody Mary sounds good.

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    1. Hi Food Junkie, I haven't ordered this drink often when I'm out, but I've been lucky in the ones I've received - they've all been plenty spicy. But that's all the more reason to make them yourself! Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I love a good Bloody Mary. You can send one right over for me. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Dawn, I'd be happy to serve you one. Spicy or no? Horseradish? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. I was thinking how appropriate for after New Years. "Hair of the dog", lol. Hope you and the Mrs. had a Happy New Years!
    -Gina-

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    1. Hi Gina, the theory of "hair of the dog" is mighty attractive, but the reality — or so I've been told ;-) — is disappointing. So we'll have to drink this drink for its own great merits! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Lovely cocktail and photos and lovely blog! I just tripped on to it from David's blog and I will be back.
    Happy 2013, All!
    Carol

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    1. Hi Carol, welcome! And thanks for commenting.

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  15. I am not a cocktail fan, but that first photograph is really great with the black background.

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    1. Hi Haddock, glad you liked it! It was a fun photo to take. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I am not a big fan of Bloody Mary but you made this drink very attractive that is making me change my mind. You take really nice photos of drinks, thanks. Wishing you more success this year John. Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Ray, it's definitely a pretty drink with it's great red color and celery garnish. Thanks for the kind words and comment, and Happy New Year!

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  17. I like tomato juice a lot but I don't like Vodka, however your pictures almost convince me to give it a try. I wish you a happy and healthy New Year John.

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    1. Hi Frank, I'm not a vodka fan either, but it's fine in the Bloody Mary (you really don't taste it, although you're certainly aware you're drinking something alcoholic). Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

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  18. My fav Sunday morning drink! I go with the splash of A1, I love the "meatiness" it provides.

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    1. Hi Food Jaunts, this is great on Sunday morning! The A-1 is a nice variation. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. One of our traditions is to start every holiday with a Bloody Mary. Gotta love traditions! :) I usually don't add horseradish because the husband isn't a fan of it, but that shouldn't stop me from enjoying it. Need to add some next time. That sounds good! I've had bloody mary's with clam juice and am not a big fan of it. I like sticking to your standard recipe. Can't be something that good! So here's a big Happy New Year toast to you and Mrs. KR!

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    1. Hi MJ, yup, traditions are good! One of the nice things about cocktails is you can mix 'em up to please different people, so you can make two, and each of you enjoy it the way you prefer. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

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  20. I'm not that excited about bloody mary, I think I have a problem with a tomato juice :) but I like your picture.

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    1. Hi Marta, is you don't like tomato juice this definitely isn't the cocktail for you! Glad you like the picture, and thanks for the comment.

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  21. your drinks are always gorgeous and your presentation is flawless! my friend made me a virgin bloody mary once and i found the flavor a little too strong... or maybe it requires me to drink it a few times to get used to it...hehe.

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    1. Hi Abeer, next time you might want to try less of the spicy flavorings, if the drink seems too strong. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  22. I'm too much of a light weight to have a cocktail with brunch, BUT if I was going to, I'd pick a bloody Mary! Yours sound perfect...and I'd definitely go with the celery salt :)

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    1. Hi Lizzy, the Bloody Mary is always a good choice at brunch. If you don't want the booze that early in the day (I don't blame you), the virgin variety is delish. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. This brings back such memories. My folks would serve these at parties. Thanks for the memories John. This is fabulous.

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    1. Hi Kim, this drink is still reasonably popular, but it used to be all the rage not all that long ago. Glad to refresh those memories for you! Thanks for the comment.

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  24. I love, love, LOVE Bloody Mary's! If it's made right, nothing can compare. And yours looks like it's definitely made right!

    Hope you are having a fabulous New Year!

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    1. Hi Kristy, you're so right that the drink has to be made "right" — to your taste — for it to be good. And I do like to think mine will appeal to most people. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

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  25. Just the way I like mine. I just finished catching up with your posts and what do you know it will be cocktail time soon. Now which one of your many cocktails should I have this evening.

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    1. Hi Karen, deciding which cocktail can be a tough thing! Lot's of fun, though. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I actually also like tomato juice with all the extras in this recipe but without the vodka. It's refreshing and feels almost like a food.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, I agree with you that the virgin version of this drink is excellent -one doesn't miss the booze at all. And it is almost like food, isn't it? Very filling. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Hi John, Happy New Year to you and Mrs.KR! Oh, how do I need one of those drinks now to make me feel better and recover from that nasty cold I am having... Oh yes, I know some of those people who can distinguish different vodkas by taste. My dad is one of them, he can also tell the wine (like merlo,cabernet, or other). I am always amazed how he does it, even though I know that he worked for more than 40 years in wine industry plus his academic experience, still to taste just a few milliliters and tell what's in it that glass has always fascinated me and others. Last year when they visited us, I gave him to taste 5 different wines and he could tell each correctly, even when grape combination was used. Same goes to vodka, he can tell the brand just by sticking his tongue in it, and he doesn't even like to drink vodka! I wish I inherited some of those genes... :)

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    1. Hi Marina, sounds like your father has an excellent sense of taste! Distinguishing different wines by taste is something quite a few people can do (I can — blindfolded! — distinguish between red and white ;-) ), but it's remarkable that he can distinguish different vodkas and doesn't even drink vodka! Sorry to hear about your cold — hope you're well soon. Happy New Year!

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  28. It is Sunday morning here in Hong Kong and now you have me craving a bloody mary. I can tell by your picture yours in the perfect blend of spice and taste. Last week as a rare treat Mr. Anonymous and I went out for dinner and I ordered a bloody mary starter here in Asia. (What was I thinking?) Bad choice! You know it is a really a science to making bloody marys and it should leave it to the pros like you. Take Care, BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, it can sometimes be difficult to find a bar that makes this drink the way you like - it really needs to be spicy, IMO. But when well made, it's a tasty beverage! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Great bloody mary recipe, I love how versatile the drink really is:-) I think my favorite way to enjoy the drink is with a good amount of spice1 This recipe sounds fabulous, Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, this is such a good drink! And spicy is definitely better. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  30. I hear "Bloody Marys" often but actually I've never tried it before. What a beautiful drink!

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    1. Hi Nami, it's a nice drink, and tasty. And for those that don't usually drink much, the virgin version is just as good as the real one! Thanks for the comment.

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