Long before I began to get more than casually interested in mixology, I wondered into a dive bar on Sunset Boulevard and requested a bloody Mary from a crotchety bartender.
“Bloody Mary’s are what alcoholics drink in the morning!” he informed me brusquely, clearly speaking of a subject he knew first hand. After it became clear he wasn’t joking and really was irritated by my order, I settled for a screwdriver, but I wasn’t happy. Sorry, but in my opinion you should be allowed to enjoy this delicious cocktail at any time of day and you shouldn’t have had to have blacked out the night before in order to merit one. In fact, if you have, you’re probably a lot better off drinking it virgin (i.e., alcohol free), which really isn’t a bad thing to drink regardless.
The origins of this fairly easy to make but still rather complex drink, with loads of potential ingredients, are vague but apparently some credit is due the late comedian and “Toastmaster General” George Jessel — today best known as the inspiration for the voice of Dr. Zoidberg on Matt Groening’s “Futurama.” It’s apparent that the name “bloody Mary” either comes from bloodthirsty Queen Mary I of England or the legendary ghost all 9 year-olds know, but that’s a bit vague too. We do know that if you repeat the name “bloody Mary” 100 times, you’ll get a bartender even more annoyed than the one who refused to make me this drink.
Below is a good, but rather mild, starter recipe.
The Bloody Mary
1-1.5 ounces of vodka
4-6 ounces tomato juice
1-3 dashes of hot sauce
2-4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 dash of ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. pure horseradish (or more)
1-3 dashes celery salt
1/2 ounce of lemon juice (optional)’
Possible garnishes: celery stalk, lemon slice, olives, pickled green beans, carrot sticks, dill pickles, cucumber, cooked cold shrimp, whole Maine lobster (just kidding on that one)
Pour tomato juice and vodka over ice into a glass (Collins or larger), add Tabasco or the hot sauce of your choice, Worcestershire, pepper and other spices. Stir vigorously with swizzle stick or bar spoon, add as many garnishes as you dare.
As you can see, there’s a lot of room for variation and personal taste here. To be honest, I’m still perfecting what proportions and technique work best for me and I’m not sure why sometimes my bloody Mary tastes heavenly and other times, just pretty good.
A couple of quick notes. First of all, don’t be afraid to try other types of liquor other than vodka. I’ve been using gin a lot lately, but also have had reasonable success, believe it or not, with whiskeys. Also, don’t let the fact that you may not have every single one of these ingredients stop you from building your own bloody Mary.
In fact, the best bloody Mary by far that I’ve made myself came from a recipe developed by Hendrick’s gin for use with their brand. It’s just Hendricks, tomato juice, a slice of cucumber, some hot sauce, and ice. My second favorite version of the bloody Mary comes from Canada. It seems our neighbors to the north make theirs with Clamato and they call it a bloody Caesar. I’d say it was “bloody good,” but that would be annoying.