Back to Basics: How to Make a Perfect Bloody Mary

These days, the Bloody Mary game is all about oneupsmanship. The goal in bars and brunch spots has become to adds so savory complements to the drink that they turn it into both a snack and a cocktail: spears and spears of pickled veg, whole shrimp, fried bacon, charcuterie, chicken wings, antipasti, mini cheeseburgers, firecrackers, tiny pizzas, everything.

created at: 10/31/2013

Which is fine, and fun, but takes away from the essence of the drink. Sure, it’s a canvas for complementary flavors, but that canvas isn’t blank in the first place…it’s actually a perfectly balanced cocktail.

So, here are the basics on the Bloody Mary. If you’re not one to drink vodka, well, then it also makes a darn fine amped-up tomato juice.

The trick to create the perfect balance follows the rule of another of our essential skills: the highball. In that Skillset post, we determined that the magic ratio was 4:1.5 – four ounces of mixer, one and a half of spirits. 

The Bloody Mary uses that formula, just with a bunch of other seasonings and modifiers thrown in. Also, like the highball, a Bloody Mary doesn’t need to be shaken or stirred, but built in the glass in which its served. (I guess if you’re really worried about presentation, you could stir it in a mixing glass and strain, but seems unnecessary if you’re making them at home).

created at: 10/31/2013

After that, it’s all about the “stuff,” the things that make it a Bloody Mary, not just a vodka and tomato juice. Here, there are three can’t-mess-withs: Worcestershire, something spicy, and a celery component, usually celery salt. Add a little black pepper and some fresh citrus for brightness, and you’re done.

A Classic Bloody Mary:

  • 1 1/2 ounces of vodka
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes of liquid-y hot sauce (like Tabasco) -or- a generous squirt of a thicker sauce (such as Cholula or sriracha)
  • 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice (a squeeze or two)
  • A pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of celery salt  -or- celery seed and kosher salt
  • 10 grinds black pepper
  • 4 ounces tomato juice
  • Garnish: pickled peppers, celery stalk, etc 

Add the vodka and rest of the ingredients to a tall or pint glass. Swirl to combine, using a straw to integrate ingredients. Fill with ice, and garnish as you please.

Okay, now: those are the basics. Vodka, tomato, hot sauce, lemon, celery, Worcestershire – that’s the recipe to remember, and anyone who’s willing to drink a Bloody Mary will drink that.

From there, you can start to play. Try adding a bit of prepared horseradish, some spicy mustard, play around with the hot sauce, sub the tomato for V8 or Clamato, try gin instead of vodka, lime instead of lemon, and the like.

How do you like your Bloody Marys? Share your thoughts in the comments below.