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What exactly am I missing when it comes to a Bloody Mary?

I pride myself on if not appreciating most things, at least understanding what makes them interesting. I don't know what makes a Bloody Mary interesting. I sort of get the romance of a Bloody Mary with Sunday Brunch, but in terms of interesting flavor what am I to look for?


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  1. Horseradish! A good Bloody has lots of it. Some folks even use wasabi. When you get a bland Bloody, it's usually a lack of horsey. Great for hangovers, too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      Besides a nice amount of horseradish you also you need a decent amount of Worcestershire, celery seed or celery salt, fresh lemon juice, and Tabasco. All of these flavors need to be solidly present to bring it all together. There was a really good thread or two on Bloodies a few months ago.

      1. re: JMF

        You need to be hungover. Then it tastes really good.

        and salt - it needs salt - and tabasco, and horseradish. etc etc

        Try one w/ hot pepper vodka - that is a great start.

      1. My friends father, rest his soul, made the best. First you MUST start with good vodka. Perry always kept his Stoly's in the freezer. Then he poured his Stoly's over ice. Next came the Clamato, cracked pepper, a little celery salt, worcestershire sauce, tabasco, and the special ingredient Beau Monde seasoning. A quick stir and wella! yummy - the best!
        Sometimes, Perry would even squirt a little Stolys to top. Add a lemon slice too! The bomb! :)KQ

        5 Replies
        1. re: Kitchen Queen

          You, my dear, just described a Bloody Caesar, not a BM. It's a fav Canadian hangover drink. The Clamato makes the difference. Tomato juice is just too bland an ingredient no matter what you hit it with. I have a heck of a time ordering one in the US.

          1. re: Googs

            Bloddy Caesar? OK. Mary or Caesar is very yummy!!! So, Canadians use Beau Monde as well?? How about spicy Clamato? Used that too!!

            1. re: Kitchen Queen

              Bloody Mary = tomato juice
              Bloody Caesar = Clamato

            1. re: angelo04

              According to Cook's Thesaurus

              "This is a seasoning mix manufactured by Spices Islands that combines salt, onion, and celery flavors"

              A recipe to make your own

              Another source

          2. I think the key to a really good Bloody Mary is extra, extra lime. We go to this place in Rosarito every year and have tried duplicating the bartender's recipe and never quite got it until we realized it was the lime that we were missing. I agree with the others that the other ingredients are key but I think you need a few hearty squeezes of lime juice.

            1 Reply
            1. re: espinoza

              Got to have lime in mine as well. The Worcestershire is a must as well. I like mine spicy usually with Tobasco and black pepper. I've enjoyed them with horseradish. Kind of reminds me of cocktail sauce.

            2. I appreciate the comments thus far but I'm receiving mostly ingredient suggestions and I'm still not getting what I should be "getting". As an example I enjoy Martinis because of the juniper flavor and aroma (heightened by the vast surface area provided by the glass), its tactile denseness (when chilled properly) and its overall angularity and cleanness. So in these terms what am I to look for in a Bloody Mary?


              3 Replies
              1. re: Chinon00

                The beauty of a bloody. The tang of the spices as they hit your tongue. The richness of tomato that lingers after the first taste. That subtle kick as the vodka sneaks its way in.

                  1. re: Melanie

                    Should almost taste like a meal - which is why I have the worcetershire just right, but a twist I learned is to add Old Bay as well.

              2. You need a dash of bitters for sure...also a nice Caribbean hot sauce. I use Susie's from Antigua.

                1 Reply
                1. re: phelana

                  As you would salt or sugar the glass rim for certain drinks, do the same for your bloody mary rim using Old Bay Seasoning (available in spice section). All your friends will comment favorably........

                2. Yes it is a wonderful hangover cure as well as a tasty breakfast drink. I prefer to use either Grey Goose or Ketel One Vodka. The better the booze the smoother and stronger the bloody. I also agree that it must have celery salt, and a good dose of horseradish. And, if you like them spicier which most people do use some red pepper flakes and garnish with a pepporicini. A well made bloody should be almost thick enough to hold your straw up inside the glass.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: uncle rico

                    The pepperocini is a must. Bite the end off and let the juice run into the drink. I also like to use Snap E Toms tomato chile cocktail. Several hot sauces including a dash of chipotle, and olives with the pepperocini. Don't like celery, I use garlic salt. Then all the standards.My friends call mine Angry Mary's.

                  2. Forget vodka, use chilled Saphire Bombay Gin instead and be sure to add fresh lime juice to your drink. Cheers!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: vptc

                      vptc, I'm with you. Gin all the way! Non-traditional, but the citrus notes in the Gin really balance the spices very nicely.

                      1. re: slobhan

                        Ditto for using gin. I haven't had a bloody mary with vodka in years.

                    2. Heres some ideas ive used over the years for bloodys marys. I cant give you my exact recipe because i cahnge it up all the time but heres lists of ingridients that i tend to use

                      citron vodka (eiither ketal one or goose normally stoli is good also though)
                      pepar vodka (absolute is by far the best)
                      If i use regular vodka i almost always use potato vodka (chopin) it seems heavier to me.
                      montreal steak seasoning (its awesome garlic, red pepper black pepper it has everyything)
                      fresh lemon and lime everytime
                      fresh cracked black pepper
                      sea salt
                      garlic salt
                      fresh garlic
                      fresh wasabi
                      A1 steak sauce
                      small amount of honey

                      Obviously i dont use all these ingridients at one time. I Think the hard time your having with a bloody mary is your looking for a very refined drink as martinis are. Bloody marys are kinda like the anything goes drink. You drink a martini and if theres to much vermouth the martini is no good. if its not chilled enough the martini is no good. Bloody marys are like the polar oppostie. As in anything goes. ITs kinda the fun in seeing how different everyones are.

                      Hope this helps

                      1. The key is it can't be bland. To me the bloody mary is far beyond tomato juice and vodka. Here's mine

                        Good vodka or pepper vodka
                        Craked fresh pepper
                        Pinch of Kosher Salt
                        Minced clove of garlic.
                        if you can take the heat, a slither of minced harbenerro pepper
                        Garnish with a celery stalk, a slice of cucumber and a few queen sized green olives.

                          1. re: tuxedo

                            Tuxedo - I love olives, awesome idea, I will try

                          2. And one other point is that I find them completely disgusting after some of the ice has melted in them. You can obviously go "ice-less" correct, straining like you would a martini?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Chinon00

                              That's part of the beauty. You can do anything you want with a Bloody. There's no perfect mix, unlike a good martini. It's all very subjective.

                            2. After you perfect your mix...add a stick of beef jerky for a 'shark attack' a tacky but beloved coctail from some bar in Carmel, Ca.

                              1. Try gin instead of vodka for a Red Snapper.

                                And, gin or no gin, try a slug of orange juice and a dash of dry sherry.


                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Erik M

                                  Jeez, why not add some milk and a little wesson oil?

                                  1. re: mardy

                                    An idea from Chow

                                    I responded in the wrong but similar thread. Maybe use heirloom tomato juice. Martha Stewart did an article a few years back.

                                    1. re: mardy

                                      And, yet, the fact that someone here advocates the use of artificially-enhanced crap like Beau Monde elicits no similar reaction from you...


                                      1. re: Erik M

                                        Re Beau Monde... it was called for in a recipe I wanted to try recently. I found it on the supermarket shelves, read the ingredients, and promply replaced it on the shelves and got the stuff to make my own! Ick. It was like salt, sodium gobbledygookiate, and "spices".

                                        However, I imagine the stuff I mixed myself would go quite nicely in a Bloody Mary.

                                      2. re: mardy

                                        Actually, Erik is quite right. A little o.j. greatly improves the bloody mary. I do it all the time - my sister says I make the best she's ever had. It's my little secret.

                                    2. The seasonings and the vodka are very important I agree, but a poor quality tomato juice will ruin Bloody Mary. I always use Sacramento. For garnish I like pickled brussel sprouts and rim the glass with celery salt.

                                      1. It is both antidote and punishment for the prior evening's behavior.

                                        1. I just joined the church of the Bloody Mary....that is to say, I didn't "get" it either until we taste tested Bloody Mary mixes for Imbibe Magazine's May/June 2007 issue (it hits newsstands very soon with our picks for the best).

                                          I had always found them disgusting, despite my intense love for tomatoes. I don't know whether it's age or technique that has me craving the spicy drink Sunday mornings of late.

                                          Lessons I learned that made me like them more:
                                          - Add plenty of edible garnishes ranging from Spanish olives to pickled veggies
                                          - I make them in smaller servings (with ice) so that I can drink them before they become diluted and warmer. Cold is key to my enjoyment.
                                          - I recently tried making them with Gin (as someone suggests below) and found that it's a more complex and complementary blend than vodka. Just my preference, and non-traditional.
                                          - I like to think of it as spicy tomato gazpacho. That seems to help. :)

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: slobhan

                                            I worked in a bar where the bartender topped off her Bloody Mary's with a splash of Dos Equis Lager (which was the beer on tap). Have to say they were one of the best I have ever had!! Gives it an extra layer of texture and flavor.

                                            Also what makes a great ingredient to a good BM is if you spice up the horseradish by mixing in such spices like curry, red pepper flakes, and ground black pepper with a dash of hot sauce to make an extraordinary horseradish!! Let the mixture sit for over 24 hours-the flavors really blend well.

                                            1. re: cocktailqueen77

                                              Beer is a great balance for the flavor of a bloody Mary.

                                              In Milwaukee, where I grew up, Bloodies often come with a mini-beer side car. Either Heineken or one of the local micros. There were always a wide variety of pickled vegetables. One of my favorite places garnished with bleu cheese-filled olives.

                                              1. re: Paul N

                                                Yes, in Iowa they also are often accompanied by a sidecar, but they're also frequently made with Guinness in them. I don't like it, as I find it waters them down, but the Iowa natives seem to. My favorite bartender here uses tomato, tabasco, worcestershire, horseradish, celery salt, black pepper and pickle juice, and I actually prefer it with cheap vodka so you can taste it through all the other stuff... god now I'm craving one....

                                                1. re: ctscorp

                                                  I've lived here for close (real close) to 50 years. I've seen people drink tomato juice and beer, but they wouldn't call it a Bloody Mary. I've never seen anyone make a Bloody Mary with beer.

                                                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                    You in IC, Bobfrmia? At least three restaurants here in town use Guinness in their Marys -- and since bar/restaurant employees tend to overlap in college towns, it's possible that one person started the nasty trend and has simply managed to perpetuate it at new establishments.

                                                    1. re: ctscorp

                                                      Nope, I'm in Des Moines.
                                                      I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but I think " the native Iowans" is a rather broad generalization. Leave it to a college town to find new ways to mix alcohol.

                                          2. I know that this is the spirits board but perhaps I may suggest a Virgin Bloody Mary, or one with just a hint of vodka? I love the flavor elements in the drink but usually find the vodka very overpowering (I am sure however this is my own personal preference as I'm not generally a strong alcohol fan) Try it sans alcohol or with less- you may like it a lot more! Or, try a bloody bull (has the addition of beef broth for an extra depth of flavor)

                                            1. I've heard that a splash of sherry makes the 'Mary. Haven't tried it yet.

                                              1. To the OP-
                                                I look for a savory, spicy, briny punch- not drink punch, like fist punch. A little brightness from some citrus but depth from worcestershire.
                                                We took a trip to New Orleans earlier this year and had great ones at the Italian restaurant owned by the Brennan's at the W hotel French Quarter- pickled green beans, mmm.