There aren’t many cocktails as beloved as the bloody mary (which even has its own holiday, with Jan. 1 being designated National Bloody Mary Day). Whether it’s your Aunt Sheryl’s proclivity to drink three at brunch, or your own desire for the perfect hangover cure, nearly anyone who drinks liquor has had one of these traditional beverages. In this article, however, we’re going to be breaking some traditions—sorry, Aunt Sheryl. Here, a rundown of the classic bloody mary and its many variations.
The History of the Bloody Mary
According to BestBloodyMary.com, a site dedicated to finding the best bloody mary in your area, the history of the drink dates back to the 1920s when an American bartender in Paris named Fernand Petiot mixed up equal parts of tomato juice and vodka. A patron at the bar suggested the title of bloody mary, saying it “reminded him of the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago, and a girl he knew there named Mary.”
When Petiot returned to the United States, he brought the cocktail. It was met with a lukewarm response, with complaints of its lack of flavor. Petiot responded to the concerns by adding black pepper, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, and even a splash of Tabasco hot sauce. While this traditional recipe is still used to this day (with the occasional additions of horseradish, other hot sauces, and even outlandish garnishes), there have been quite a few derivatives created since then.
Bloody Revolution Gourmet Mix, $12.44 on Amazon
You can even find some great pre-made mixes these days.
With more than two decades of bartending experience, Claude DaCorsi, owner of Double Aught Roadhouse (formerly Double Aught Ranch), knows a thing or two about bloody marys. Every Sunday, his Oregon bar offers a hard-to-beat special with made-to-order $5 bloodys. He believes that the bloody mary is a drink that can transcend stereotypes.
“There isn’t a demographic for the bloody mary,” DaCorsi said. “Every type of person orders one. I would say there’s a segment of my customers that ‘usually’ orders one…which is the group that has a hangover from the previous night.”
Related Reading: The Best Tips to Prevent a Hangover
At this point, there are enough cocktails in the bloody mary family that it seems to have inspired its own category. Using tomato juice and hot sauce to complement liquor has taken on a life of its own, with bars and restaurants all over the world offering their own unique takes on the time-honored drink.
Perhaps the most popular twist on the bloody mary is the bloody maria. The difference lies in the liquor—while a bloody mary uses vodka, its wild cousin turns to tequila. The difference is noticeable; vodka takes on the flavor of the tomato and spices and tequila finds a way to comfortably coexist with it. For a purist approach, bartenders suggest using 100 percent agave blanco tequila for its simple yet full flavors and aptness for mixing. Consider adding a squirt of lime juice to give this bloody another south-of-the-border twist.
This variation of the bloody mary swaps tomato juice with Clamato juice, a Mott’s brand consisting of both tomato juice and clam broth. Sometimes mixologists will use both ingredients separately in order to have more control over the clam to tomato ratio. The bloody caesar was was created by Walter Chell in Calgary, Alberta in the late 1960s—since then, it’s become the national drink of Canada. DaCorsi joked that he wished the drink was served with a knife in it to more accurately honor its moniker.
This derivative of the bloody mary caters to beer drinkers, leaving liquor behind as it swaps out the hard stuff for a light, Mexican cerveza—like Modelo or Corona. Complemented with hot sauce, lime juice, and some Worcestershire sauce, a Michelada is best-served with a salted rim. For the most authentic flavors, replace the salt with a chili-salt like Tajin and use a Mexican-style hot sauce, like Tapatío. Micheladas are a perfect beverage for beer drinkers looking for an excuse to get started early.
Extra Spicy Bloody Mary
For those who like their bloodys to really pack a punch, extra spice is imperative. Most bars have different methods of kicking the flavor up a notch, but most rely on an extra splash of hot sauce. Other options are pepper garnishes or liquid from the jalapeño jar. If you really want to tempt the Scoville Scale, flavored vodkas can bring the heat too. DaCorsi’s bar offers their signature “super spicy bloody” made with their own house-infused habanero vodka.
Devil Dave's Spicy Dill Pickle Rimming Salt, $11.29 on Amazon
Gourmet salts are another way to put a twist on your bloody.
While I’m not sure I want to see a child sipping something that even resembles a bloody mary, this “kid-friendly” option leaves behind the booze altogether. It’s also called a “bloody shame”—for good reason, as it’s essentially spicy tomato juice. Get a virgin bloody mary recipe (and tips for staying sober if you’re wanting to lay off the booze, whether for Dry January or just in general).
Verde Mary (also known as a Verde Maria or a Green Mary)
For this variant of the bloody mary, vodka is replaced with gin and tomato sauce is swapped for a tomatillo sauce or puree. Adding the traditional flavors from horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire, and black pepper make for a similar but different cocktail—eerily reminiscent of a pint-size wheatgrass shot. Adding a bit of cucumber juice, lime juice, and celery salt make this beverage extra refreshing and perfect for the summer heat. Try this Tomatillo Bloody Mary recipe.
In the words of Jack Sparrow, “Why is the rum always gone?” It might be because the crew had too many bloody pirates. When replacing vodka with rum in a bloody, the flavor profile of the drink changes immensely. While bloody marys typically get commended for their hangover-curing abilities, this one does not fall into that category. In this case, dark rum is your best bet for cohesive flavor. “Light rums are sweeter. Sweet and tomato juice doesn’t really work well in my opinion,” DeCorsi said, suggesting Kraken. “Rum is generally made from cane sugar and the darker the rum, the longer it has been aged. Darker rum has a more molasses flavor which makes it a better pairing.”
Asian Bloody Mary
“I think too much spice on a bloody really defeats the purpose,” DaCorsi said on overdoing the heat. “You end up presenting this concoction that nobody can drink because they go into a coughing fit every time they take a sip.” For those seeking that experience, this is your bloody. This unique take is comprised of the traditional ingredients of vodka, tomato juice, black pepper, and celery salt, but adds some intense flavors with the additions of fish sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce (or Sriracha), and wasabi paste. Not for the faint of heart, the Asian bloody mary builds heat on heat for an intense, spicy flavor. Get the Asian Bloody Mary recipe.
Lunch! (with a Side of Bloody Mary)
Many restaurants famous for their bloody marys have earned their notoriety through their garnishes. (See Soblemans in Milwaukee, for example. Their bloodys can be accompanied by sliders, shrimp, sausage and even an entire fried chicken—all perched on top of the beverage). While many of us get a kick out of a cocktail stacked high with snack food, DaCorsi believes it can distract from the drink.
“I think we take away from a bloody mary when we add all the other garnishes,” said DaCorsi. “When bartenders over-complicate a simple drink, the drink gets lost in all of the glam and flare.”
Other Bloody Variations
When it comes to bloody mary variations, the list is endless. A bloody eight replaces the tomato juice with V8, while a bloody geisha leaves vodka for sake. A bloody Scotsman follows in the footsteps of a bloody pirate with darker liquor, using scotch as its base—whereas a bloody bull adds beef broth to the drink for another savory flavor.
Bloody Mary Kit, $75 on Mouth
Just add booze.
While altering the recipe is fun and can yield incredible and unique beverages, there will always be something irreplaceable about the original. DeCorsi has stuck to the same recipe throughout his 20 years of bartending, crediting a perfect ratio. He was nice enough to share his method with Chowhound, with an exception for his homemade bloody mix recipe.
DeCorsi begins by filling the bottom half of a shaker with ice. Then, he takes three large green olives and muddles them inside the glass. (To those who aren’t familiar with muddling, it’s basically crushing them against the bottom of the glass.) “The oil from the olives is the key to a good bloody mary,” DeCorsi said. He uses two ounces of premium vodka and five or six ounces of his homemade bloody mix, but theoretically any mix will do. He finishes by serving it up in a pint glass, with or without a salted rim for the drinker’s personal preference.
“Garnish it with a straw, because it doesn’t need anything else,” Decorsi said. “K-I-S-S: Keep it simple, stupid.”
Header image by Chowhound.