A Bloody Mary on a counter

Your Crash Course In Creating The Best Bloody Mary

There are so many reasons to love the Bloody Mary. It’s breakfast in a glass. It makes drinking before noon socially acceptable. It replenishes the nutrients you lost in last night’s debauchery and softens your hangover. It also tastes delicious and offers you a blank canvas to get creative.

This ever-versatile cocktail was first invented at Harry’s New York Bar in Venice in the 1920s. The classic Bloody Mary recipe has since become rooted in the bartending architecture — but like many popular drinks, it also continues to evolve across the world. With tomato juice and vodka, you can always keep things traditional, but there’s so much room to shake things up with different spirits (yes, gin Bloody Marys are a thing), ready-made mixes with different flavor and heat profiles, and of course, garnish towers that rival the Burj Khalifa.

Ready to rev up your Bloody Mary game? Dean Serneels, mixologist, cocktail creator, and bartender of American Beverage Marketers, demystifies the brunch cocktail, shares his best behind-the-bar tips, and breaks down the myriad of ways to make this savory hangover sip your own.

Classic Bloody Mary Recipe

There are many slight iterations to the Bloody Mary, but this bare-bones recipe tastes great as it is while also acting as a base that allows for flavor and fixin’ creativity:

  • 1 shot of vodka
  • ¾ cup of tomato juice (or mix of your choice)
  • 1 dash of Tabasco sauce
  • 2 dashes Worcheshire sauce
  • Pinches of salt and pepper  
  • Ice
  • 1 celery stalk   

Pour all liquid ingredients over ice; mix, then garnish with celery, salt, and pepper, then enjoy!

Get Your Garnish On

“Garnishes are the king of the Bloody Mary,” says Serneels. “A good texture and mouthfeel is important, but to be remembered for your Bloody Mary, it needs to look good, have some weight to it, and be something people can really get their hands on.”

Whether you’re hosting a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, or you’re just looking to go all out and treat yourself to loaded, boozy breakfast in a glass, feel free to play mix-and-match with this lengthy list of accoutrements — stack ’em high and proud, put a few of your faves on a skewer, and make it yours. The result? A loaded cocktail that will have an “I’ll have what she’s having” effect:

  • Slice of lemon or lime
  • Bacon
  • Shrimp
  • Horseradish
  • Celery
  • Pickles
  • Jalapenos
  • Olives
  • Banana peppers 
  • Pearl onions
  • Pickled veggies (asparagus, beets, artichoke hearts) 
  • Cheddar cubes
  • Baby corn
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Summer sausage
  • Cucumber slices
  • Cheese (mini mozzarella pearls, pecorino hunks, pepper jack cubes) 

And don’t forget about the rim seasonings! Add your favorite rim salt of choice by mixing it on a plate, rubbing a lemon or lime around the rim of your glass, then turning it upside down onto the seasoning. 

  • Celery salt
  • Old Bay seasoning with salt
  • Smoked paprika with salt
  • Smoked sea salt with lime zest
  • Paprika, mustard powder, ground ginger, and salt
  • Montreal steak spice with crushed-up bacon bits (Serneels’ pick!)

Tips for Making the Best Bloody Mary

Serneels shares his best pro tips for taking your Bloody Mary to the next level every time. 

  • Use premium spirits. Whether your Bloody Mary has a base of vodka, gin, tequila, or whiskey, your cocktail is only as good as the quality of the booze you use. Reach for premium over bottom-shelf liquor.
  • The taller the glass, the better. While the Bloody Mary doesn’t demand a specific glass shape for enhanced flavor and aromas, making your drink a tall goblet or pint glass does enhance your ability to stack as many garnishes as possible, which counts for something.
  • Don’t shake, roll. Typically, a Bloody Mary is a simple build: pour vodka over ice, add a few dashes of spice, then pour the mix on top. “I like to pour all that into a mixing glass and roll it — meaning, pour the mixture into another glass, and go back and forth a few times,” explains Serneels. “This aerates the cocktail and doesn’t over-dilute the ice cubes like shaking would.” 
  • Infuse your vodka. Up the flavor ante with a vodka infused with jalapeno, cucumber, pickle juice, cilantro, basil, you name it.
  • Add liquid smoke. Give your Bloody Mary an unexpected yet delicious BBQ smoky flavor with a few dashes of liquid smoke.

Bloody Mary Variations 

The classic Bloody Mary is delectable, but there’s always room to get creative and put a fun twist on the OG recipe—and these variations won’t disappoint. 

  • Bloody Caesar: Invented at a bartending competition in 1968, this Canadian twist on the Bloody Mary calls for clam juice in addition to tomato juice.
  • Bloody Maria: Trade your vodka for tequila, and you have a whole new cocktail. Vodka’s “flavorless” tendencies tend to literally get lost in the mix, but tequila with spice makes everything nice.
  • Red Snapper: This is your gin-based variation on the Bloody Mary, which also calls for a few pinches of celery salt on top.
  • Piping Hot Bloody Mary: Heat up your favorite Bloody Mary mix in a pot, add your spirit of choice, and garnish it with a mini grilled cheese sandwich. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!
  • Michelada: If a Bloody Mary and a beer margarita had a baby, it would be the Michelada. Loosely translating to “my cold beer,” a Michelada is made with Mexican beer, tomato juice, lime juice, hot sauce, and a zippy rim. If you don’t want to DIY, Master of Mixes did the work for you and crafted a Michelada mix (just bring the beer). 
  • Virgin Mary: Hop on board the newly popular mocktail train and skip the booze in your Bloody—honestly, there are so many spicy, savory, and wonderful flavors you won’t even miss it.

Best Bloody Mary Mixes

There are so many Bloody Mary mixes out there, selecting one that suits your taste can be overwhelming. That’s why we took the guesswork out of it for you—we’ve rounded up some of our favorite mixes based on spice and flavor preferences so you can just get to sipping and enjoying your brunch already.

If you like a solid basic, try Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix

This award-winning mix is a great bar cart staple. Its flavor profile is in line with the classic recipe and tastes great on its own, but also makes a great base if you like to doctor up your Bloody Mary. Plus it’s widely available in stores and well-priced.

If you like it really spicy, try Master of Mixes 5 Pepper Bloody Mary Mixer.

If breathing fire is your method of choice for placating a hangover, your taste buds are about to rejoice. This seriously zippy mix is made with jalapeño, aji pepper, roasted poblano, Anaheim, and red bell pepper purees, so you can skip the step of building in extra spice—all you need to add is ice and vodka to have yourself a Sunday.

If you like smoky, horseradish flavors, try Agalima Organic Bloody Mary Mix 

This distinctive organic mix is crafted with roma tomatoes, smoky chipotle peppers, hot horseradish, and a house-made Worcestershire sauce. The zippiness factor is middle of the road, but there are a lot of sweet, salty, and smoky flavor synergies going on that make it interesting and delicious as is, even for spice lovers.  

If you like it vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free, try Square One Organic Bloody Mary Mix 

This organic mix began with a 50-year-old family recipe, getting its sweetness from ripe tomatoes and skipping out on the Worcheshire and other additives to make it vegan and celiac-friendly (plus, it’s only 25 calories per serving). It has a thick mouthfeel and mild flavor, but in a good way, giving you the perfect base to customize your cocktail. Try mixing this one with their basil vodka (you’re welcome in advance).

If you like fresh flavors, try Stonewall Kitchen Bloody Mary Mix

This mixture features a fresh, lemony profile with zesty seasonings and a subtle cayenne spice that’s all-together refreshing. Just know it has a shorter shelf life than some others (about one week) so you better drink up.

If you like pickles, try McClures Bloody Mary Mixer

Originally known for their pickles, McClure’s has crafted a hearty, tangy, and subtly spicy Bloody mix with the pickley flavor of your hangover’s dreams. If you’re not a pickle fan, you might be a little overwhelmed by the briny-ness.

If you like a bargain, try V8 Bloody Mary Mix

No, it’s not artisanal and no, it’s going to win a blue ribbon for unique flavor, but that’s not what it’s here to do. It’s smooth, it’s mlid, it’s a crowd-pleaser, and a 46-oz bottle costs less than $4. This here is your perfect base for a build-your-own Bloody Mary brunch party that won’t break the bank.

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