What are the Ingredients for the Best Bloody Mary?
When it comes to Bloody Mary’s, ingredients can make or break your cocktail. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are as you blend and shake your bloody Mary recipe. To make the very best bloody Mary mix, pay close attention to detail. If your ingredients are stale or of low quality, your drink will suffer. As a wise man once said, “garbage in – garbage out!” Let’s take a moment to study the importance of good ingredients.
To keep things simple, let’s just discuss the most common bloody Mary ingredients:
Lemon or Lime
Cayenne Pepper or Other Heat
Tomato Juice: I listed this as the first bloody Mary ingredient for a reason. All recipes begin here. The drink contains more tomato juice than any other ingredient. I recommend taste testing a few juices to see which taste the best on their own. In a perfect world, we’d all press our own fresh tomato juice. Short of that, you will find huge differences between juices. I’ve had good luck with Sacramento brand. Some like V-8 tomato cocktail. Be careful- the original has lots of salt. I use the low sodium variety. Bottom line: Don’t skimp on this important part of any bloody Mary!
Vodka: If you’re like me, this ingredient is a very close second to tomato juice in terms of volume in the drink. If you can afford it, go ahead and buy the best. I would. If you’re like me however, you will realize that, unless you really mix a strong bloody Mary, the vodka is NOT that important. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s true. The bloody Mary contains so many ingredients, that a lesser vodka can usually suffice.
Celery Salt: this is one of my favorite seasonings. It gives the drink that distinctive fresh lip-smacking quality. Be careful though. Most celery salts you’ll find on your store shelf are mostly salt and often quite old. I’ve decided to grind whole celery seed myself and add a little salt. It gives me greater control. Most co-ops or better grocery stores do sell pure ground celery salt. buy it and store it in a cool dark place.
Lemon or Lime: The key to achieving a good fresh finish to your bloody is citrus. I like to use a wedge of each. Limes are nice because they won’t clog your straw or the spigot of your decanter with seeds and pulp. Modern genetic engineering and chemical use has ruined these fruits for me. Lemons seem to have more peel that flesh. I buy organic and advise my friends to as well. Again- don’t skip this one !
Black Pepper : I will not bend on this one. Grind it fresh. Period! Mix it in your bloody Mary mix, but also grind a little on the top of your cocktail before serving. There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh black pepper as that bloody Mary approaches your lips.
Worcestershire Sauce: This mysterious sauce, pronounced, “wurst-a-shire,” is the ingredient that gives the bloody Mary her bold, savory, and satisfying flavor. Lea & Perrins owns the market. Theirs is a solid product. I use it 90% of the time. Again, watch the salt. I use their reduced sodium variety. I’m not a health nut, I just don’t like the cumulative effect of multiple ingredients that each bring a boat load of salt to my cocktail table. It is, in my estimation, THE most common mistake of bartenders- adding too much salt, without even knowing it.
Cayenne Pepper: This is where tastes really diverge. Level of heat varies wildly between individuals. One trick I’ve learned is to buy the lower heat, (as measured in skovel units), cayenne pepper powder. This allows you to add more without risking a law suit. Always buy fresh and in small amounts to avoid using stale flavor. Another option for bringing heat to your cocktail is to infuse your vodka with a fresh pepper or two for about a week. Jalapeño works beautifully!
Horseradish: This last ingredient is last for a reason. It’s completely optional. Some people will refuse a bloody Mary if they see this ingredient floating in it. Ask before adding it. With that said, fresh horseradish can add an interesting dimension to your bloody Mary. If you’ve ever felt that eye-watering sensation as it’s essence hits the nasal passages, you know what I mean. The main caution here: Use fresh ground, from the refrigerated section, NOT a sauce!
Good luck to you as you assemble your arsenal of bloody Mary weapons.
-Greg Tooke My short bio