Making the Best Bloody Mary
We have been talking a lot about Bloody Marys the past few weeks. Although we started Colorado’s Biggest Bloody Mary Bar in July 2021, it has just started to pick up some steam, thanks to a great article by Amanda Hancock in February.
The Bloody Mary is often associated with a solid way to nurse a hangover, although too much acid doesn’t always give the curing effect needed for an abused stomach. The notion of providing nutrient-rich vegetables and tomato juice with a bit of alcohol as a “hair of the dog” remedy sometimes helps sufferers. Because of the timing of need, the Bloody Mary has become synonymous with a late breakfast or brunch cocktail consumed before noon.
Having been a fan of the “meal in a glass” cocktail for many years, it seemed a bit shocking to me when customers shared that they had never experienced a Bloody Mary. We have noticed in our Taste Lounge a larger population of Midwest and Northern states guests who greatly admire the Bloody, sometimes with a little beer added to the mix. Regardless of where you come from, Bloody Marys are an international cocktail with the most diverse recipes.
We have had guests explain to us how they may have “overdid it with too many ingredients”, which can happen when you have over 75 to choose from. At our DIY bar every Sunday from 11am-3pm in our Taste Lounge, we share advice for newbies whenever asked, but the question still remains: “What is the best Bloody Mary recipe?”
As with all cocktails, the “best” way to make or drink any spirit is exactly the way you like it, whether it be neat, on the rocks, stirred or shaken; there are so many details and different ways that any spirit can be consumed. This carries over to the elaborate or simplistic creation of a Bloody Mary. I have collected a handful of bartenders’ preferences for a Bloody Mary that I am excited to share with you.
We have found that our 1350 Distilling spirits (Minuteman Vodka, pineapple and jalapeño infused vodka and Wingman Gin) are a great base for the drink accredited to Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot. Interested in Pete or how this drink got its name? Here is a fun and informative article by DiffordsGuide.com.
The original Bloody Mary recipe called for gin, which was more common in America at the turn of the 1900’s. Gin is my go-to for my Bloody Mary base which Becky Brunet, co-owner of Momma Pearls Cajun Kitchen, also shares my juniper affinity.
“Our Bloody Mary is made with your Wingman Gin,” Brunet shared recently, “We make our own Bloody Mary mix that includes horseradish and Louisiana’s Crystal Hot Sauce.”
Sidenote: Momma Pearls has an amazing menu of New Orleans inspired cocktails, especially this time of year (Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday are their busiest time of the year). They have a current special, The Mardi Gras Cocktail as well as their beloved Hurricane which both use our Blue Jacket Rum made from Louisiana molasses.
Garnishes and extra snacks are the key to any Bloody Mary. Brunet chooses to add a skewer with a pearl onion, zesty okra and green bean, hot dill pickle, and a blue cheese stuffed olive. A celery stalk, lime and lemon wedge adorn the rim of the glass with their homemade cajun seasoning.
Seasonings are a key ingredient in most Bloody Mary recipes and the beauty of this easy to make home cocktail is that seasonings can vary widely based on your own spice rack.
Celery salt is one of the key seasonings I find important for a good Bloody Mary. Taylor Hedding, General Manager of The Still Whiskey Steaks in Fort Collins agrees. Besides having amazing dinners, they make outstanding cocktails - some with our 1350 Distilling spirits. “My favorite ingredients in a Bloody Mary mix are Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, lemon juice and a few dashes of hot sauce to spice it up. A good rim salt is always important with a nice mix of celery salt, paprika and a little lemon pepper. A nice piece of bacon as a garnish is always nice too!”
Bacon!? Everything's better with bacon, isn’t it? We offer bacon, Lil’ Smokies, and meat sticks at our bloody bar as protein additions (not to mention cheese and crackers). I can still recall how enticing it was for me the first time I saw a nice hunk of bacon sticking out of a Bloody Mary, which now seems to be a common garnish of choice for most the people I have talked with including Craig Baars, owner and bartender of Bottles & Taps here in central Colorado Springs. Baars is a mad scientist of a bartender always looking for the perfect concoction. His preference for a Bloody Mary includes: “A top-shelf vodka”, Zing-Zang Bloody Mary Mix, salt, pepper, celery salt, prepared horseradish, A.1. steak sauce, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Bacon is a must, along with some more traditional garnishes like a pickle spear, celery stick, and pepperoncini pepper. He also likes using martini-style cocktail onions and pickled asparagus. Tajín Clásico is his rimmed glass seasoning of choice.
Where some folks like the entire spice rack and pickle cabinet in their Bloody Mary, others tend to lean on the more simplistic recipe, like Winn Kirkpatrick, bartender at Streetcar 520. “I’m a traditionalist when it comes to bloodies, not to downplay the awesomeness of your bloody ensemble though! The more simplistic, the better. Some good (bloody mary) mix, celery stalk, olives, lemon, lime and cayenne salt rim.”
If you like to make your own mix, Kirkpatrick suggests blending tomato juice, Worcestershire, horseradish, brown sugar, celery salt and Cholula Hot Sauce. This gives a spice from the horseradish and hot sauce and a bit of sweet from the brown sugar.
We agree, sweet and spicy is the best balance for a Bloody Mary. That is why we encourage guests to try our “Spicy Vodka” which is made with fresh pineapples and jalapeños infused with our gluten-free, Colorado Proud Minuteman Vodka (derived from all Colorado sugar beets, straight from the refinery in Ft. Morgan). You will experience a pineapple sweetness at the front and a lingering jalapeño after-burn, perfect for adding flavor to your Bloody.
Mixes can vary from something simple like a V-8 or tomato juice to sweeter versions or super spicy variations. Prior to Covid, we used Major Peters The Works as our mix. It has been a solid mix for my home bar that already carries so many flavors. Having a hearty mix doesn’t require you to have to pull out all of your sauces and seasonings. The Works is made with 94% tomato juice and blended with 40 spices, jalapeño peppers and horseradish. Since we opened up our Sunday Bloody Mary Bar, we have switched to a local, Denver product that we believe is the biggest seller in our neighborhood liquor stores. That mix is The Real Dill’s Bloody Mary Mix. Their mix includes cucumber infused water, horseradish, dill, garlic, and habaneros. Unlike most mixes, The Real Dill only contains ten simple, high-quality, vegan ingredients. We love this more sour and spicy mix so much, we sell bottles of it at our Taste Lounge, as well as their Caraway Garlic Pickles and Bloody Mary Rimming Salt. Additionally, it is the main ingredient in our behind-the-bar bloody we call “The Medic”. Both Major Peters and The Real Dill are great for a tailgating bar where all you need to complete the drink is some Wingman Gin or Minuteman Vodka.
You may have noticed that lemons, limes, and pickled vegetables seem to be a standard no matter who the bartender is. Their sourness pairs nicely with the tomato-based mixes and anything pickled keeps well and adds to the juiciness needed for a cocktail filled with natural flavors and acids.
The last key ingredient everyone agrees on is Worcestershire sauce. Don’t have Worcestershire readily available? That is where A.1. or other steak sauces can come in as a good substitute, but most prefer to still add Worcestershire with a steak sauce. Want to find out what the heck Worcestershire sauce is? Warning, it doesn’t sound that pleasing, but the flavor is so distinct, it is really difficult to replace it in your Bloody Mary. Worcestershire sauce is a fermented condiment made from a base of vinegar and flavored with anchovies, molasses, tamarind, onion, garlic, and other seasonings. Unless you like to make everything from scratch, I encourage you to buy a bottle of it instead.
Of course, there will always be some off-the-wall ingredient that just sounds good to you, like a couple of ounces of a stout beer or a huge prawn. So is the case with most delicacies and libations from the flavorful mind of Mark Henry, owner of Roosters House of Ramen in Downtown Colorado Springs. “I love all things pickled and fermented, so I love pickled onions, kimchi, and pickled scallions. I make a Bloody Mary at Roosters that has dumplings, octopus, and meatballs in it that I think is fun.”
Henry takes the most-extreme award in my quest for the “Best Bloody Mary Recipe” and he reminds me how experimentation is the key to finding the “best” of anything.
So that’s it. Well, that’s just an introduction. How can you perfect your favorite Bloody Mary? Just visit us this Sunday and try your own concoction at 1350 Distilling’s Colorado’s Biggest Bloody Mary Bar. We would love to hear from you. Was there an ingredient like shrimp that we happened to brush over? Let us know.