Crappy well vodka, a can of spicy V-8 and a celery stick. Stir and call it a day. That’s probably the most basic form of the Bloody Mary as we know it, and one that I’ve personally mixed on a number of occasions. The Bloody Mary is such a great cocktail, that you can half-ass it with sub-par ingredients and it still tastes pretty good. But I think it’s time we all aim a bit higher than “pretty good.” This is the world’s greatest brunch cocktail, after all. Pay attention to the ingredients you put into the glass, and you can elevate your Bloody Mary from “pretty good” to “sublime.” Here are five ways to build a better Bloody Mary.
It’s easy to disguise a crappy vodka in a Bloody Mary because there is so much going on inside this cocktail, the booze often gets lost. So it can be tempting to reach for that plastic bottle of well vodka and save the good stuff for martinis, but don’t half-ass it. Look to one of the growing number of well-crafted organic vodkas that are hitting the market. I like Snow Leopard, a vodka made from spelt grain that has a pleasant nutty flavor when taken neat. Because there’s no rule that says you can’t serve your Bloody Mary with an extra shot of vodka on the side.
You’ve probably been using Tobasco, or when you’re feeling fancy, Cholula. Both are just fine, but you have the opportunity to take advantage of America’s booming craft culture here. Seek out a hand-made, small batch hot sauce, many of which offer flavors that go far beyond just “spicy.” I like Firewalker, which is hand-crafted in Asheville, and has a citrus tang to it and just the right amount of heat.
Remember that talk we had about hand crafted, small batch hot sauce? The same principle applies to your mixer. You can find dozens of artisanal Bloody Mary mixers out there these days—a sign that we are truly living in the Golden Age. Check out Hail Mary, a super-small batch mix made in Raleigh, North Carolina. The founder of Hail Mary uses her grandmother’s homemade tomato juice recipe as the base for the mix, then partners with local farmers to fill out the ingredient list.
This is where you can get creative. Celery is classic, but damn it, so boring. At the same time, there’s no need to go over the top and put a Kobe beef slider on the rim of your cocktail. Instead of celery, go with a long, pickled carrot. Or pickled asparagus. Okay, anything pickled will work, even just a pickle. The Wisconsin-based Bushel and Pecks has a neat line of organic pickled veggies. And instead of an olive, how about an oyster? Or a boiled shrimp? And if you insist on putting an olive in there, make sure it’s stuffed with garlic, or sundried tomatoes. And don’t be afraid of bacon.
The rim of your glass should definitely be coated with salt of some sort. You can actually make your own using sea salt and some spices and citrus you have on hand (and bacon, of course), or make life easier and pick up some fancy pre-made rim salt. Jacobsen Salt Company, out of Portland, harvests their salt from the Oregon coast and has a line of infused sea salts that’s perfect for the rim of a Bloody Mary. Check out their Lemon Zest or savory Tomato Basil salt. Or be bold and go for the Smoked Ghost Chili Pepper Salt.