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Fire and Ice: The Modern Bloody Mary (Hint: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore)

Bloody Mary

You never forget your first good Bloody Mary. Yep, they’re that special. I could make up another Texas Tall Tale regale you with the story of mine, but that’s not important right now. (Besides, it’s personal. It’d take too long to explain about the runaway fireworks, how the cop got blue Silly Putty in his pistol, and what that stripper adult entertainment specialist was doing attached to the ceiling with duct tape. Trust me, there’s an explanation. Just no video anymore, if I’m lucky.)

Bloody Mary TooLegend has it that a fellow mixologist by the name of Fernand “Pete” Petiot invented the Bloody Mary over 80 years ago. Who’s it named for? You pick. Nowadays it’s a lot more than simple tomato juice and vodka with a vegetable stick in it. Every bar, and many home fans of the drink, have their own recipe nowadays.

So what’s in a standard Bloody Mary? Bartending School teaches you to do the following: Pour a jigger of vodka in a tall highball glass filled with ice (small cubes work better than crushed). Fill with tomato juice. Add a dash each of celery salt, ground black pepper and Tabasco sauce. Squirt in 2-4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Put in about 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground horseradish. Top with a dash of lemon or lime juice. Mix well and garnish. The IBA sanctions a stronger version, lower in tomato and higher in vodka and lemon juice, and they recommend adding the minor ingredients to the glass before the ice. Six dozen of one, half a gross of the other, as my dad would say. It’s all good.

So what have we learned from all that? The basic Bloody Mary is a pretty easy cocktail to make, but with more ingredients than most of the others.

What nobody’s said so far is, the Bloody Mary is a good hangover remedy, which means breakfast. (I don’t have anything but theoretical knowledge about that hangover claim. Trust me.)

The basic recipe is an easy starting place for some really interesting variations. Wikipedia lists about 50 recipes in its main article. Whole books have been written about this delicious mix. It features strongly in other cocktail books too. And there are thousands of tweaks that have never made it into print.

You can change the alcoholic component if you wish: Tequila (Bloody Maria), gin (Bloody Margaret), Irish whisky (Bloody Molly), dark rum (Cubanito), akvavit (Bloody Dane), or even the esoteric absinthe (Bloody Fairy). Beers, ales and more have been used as well.

Yet Another MaryThe base juice is an option for some fun. All the V-8 tomato variations have been tried. Clamato works nicely. Other “garden blend” or vegetable blends can provide slight but noticeable variations in the flavor. With summer coming on, there will be a lot of fresh tomatoes available soon; you can even juice your own fresh tomatoes for a bright, clean taste. To really add some interest, you can put a bit of beef stock or pork jus to the base tomato juice, adding meaty complexity.

Vinegars, or olive juice, or liquid from other pickles (garlicky dills, pickled okra, giardiniera,, hot peppers and more) can be used as flavor modifiers for some truly original mixtures. Citrus, especially the tart ones, are a main ingredient of the Bloody Mary, of course; but orange, blood orange, grapefruit, or tangerine/tangelo juices all bring distinct aromas and taste sensations.

I think there’s even more room for creativity in the zest arena. Tabasco may be the standard, but why not a good chipotle hot sauce? Or a jalapeño one? Or even Sriracha? Sambal Oelek? And is horseradish sacrosanct here? I think not. Why not wasabi paste, or fresh ground ginger? They’re plenty zesty.

If all those elements for innovation aren’t enough for you, then you can always go nuts with the garnishes. Vegetable sticks of all sorts, from the usual celery to carrots, zucchini, or cucumbers, work fine. Olives on a stick. Any sort of fresh or pickled pepper, of course. Citrus wedges and wheels. Various colored cherry tomatoes on a skewer. Mint, cilantro and other herbs. I’m sure you can come up with others by simply cruising the greengrocer aisles, or looking in your crisper.

If those options don’t light your fire, then your wood’s all wet. So what are you sitting there for? Get going! Fame is just a Bloody variation away; time for you to show the world how creative you can be…

Enjoy the (Rejuvenating Red Refreshment) Heat!


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