The Perfect Bloody Mary

There are many occasions when a Bloody Mary is the perfect beverage: Sunday brunch, family gatherings, a long cross-country flight, and during lunch while skiing on a cold winter day.  Truthfully, I have always loved a good Bloody Mary, I think mainly because they are salty–and I do love salt.  In Wisconsin, where I went to college, when you order a Bloody Mary they serve a light beer on the side as a chaser, which I later learned is common in some places. In college, I loved that.  What student wouldn’t?  A tasty, two-for-one drink special that appeals to most students living on a tight budget.

Fernand Petiot claimed to have invented the Bloody Mary in 1921. Petiot was working at the New York Bar in Paris (which later became Harry’s New York Bar, a famous hangout for Ernest Hemingway). New York City’s well-known 21 Club has claimed the cocktail was invented there in the early 1930s by a bartender named Henry Zbikiewicz.  In 1942, Life Magazine listed a Bloody Mary-style beverage as a “new cocktail” but called it “Red Hammer“.

Bloody Mary

The basics of the drink aren’t complicated: the two main ingredients, vodka and tomato juice, are standard.  However, the drink rarely consists of just these two ingredients. Bartenders pride themselves on their secret ingredients.  There is a vast amount of variation in both the making and presentation of this well-known favorite.  Some Bloody Marys even have different base spirits like bourbon, rye, tequila, or gin. But liquor aside, a lot of mixologist creativity goes into the garnish and this has become a bit of a culinary obsession in recent years. Celery, a traditional garnish, is now the exception rather than the rule. Favored instead are eye-catching, ginormous, over-the-top garnishes such as beef sliders, giant shrimp, bacon slabs, pickles, a whole sausage, and onion rings.  You name it, bartenders are out there making this drink a meal in and of itself.

But regardless of the size of the garnish, a Bloody Mary is a filling cocktail.  And for that reason, it is not one that I drink too often.  But when the mood strikes, there is nothing else like them.  I particularly enjoy whipping up a low-alcohol version for family gatherings around the holidays.  This is a drink to be creative with both heat-wise and garnish-wise: anything can work, just make it interesting, fun, and maybe even dramatic.

With my husband’s love of pickled products, I often have various things around the house to work with, so I put them to good use.  But what I listed in this recipe is optional: even plain old celery works just fine on its own.  My four semi-secret ingredients in the drink itself are low-sodium V8, pickle juice, spicy white horseradish, and Louisiana hot sauce.  After making this drink for many years, I truly believe it’s perfect, or darn close.

Bloody Mary

About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

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