Bloody Marys may be the ultimate brunch cocktail, and they’re good all year round, but some can be a little too rich and heavy for ideal hot weather sipping. Luckily, there are a lot of great ways to lighten and brighten the classic Bloody Mary to make it perfect for summer.
Use Fresh Tomatoes
The best way to make the Bloody Mary especially apropos for summer? Use the most beautifully fresh, in-season tomatoes you can find. They don’t have to be heirlooms, but those do tend to be more flavorful, so they make a good choice. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, beefsteaks—choose whatever has the richest, deepest, sweetest tomato taste you can find. You won’t have to individually juice them all, so don’t be daunted about picking the little guys. No matter what kind of tomatoes you choose, you’ll simply put them in a blender with a little lemon or lime juice and salt (or even pickle brine) to taste, and puree until smooth. Strain through a mesh sieve, pressing on the skins and seeds and smushing them around with a wooden spoon, so you’re left with just the juice, and combine it with your vodka and additional seasonings, from grated ginger and Worcestershire sauce to hot sauce, horseradish, celery salt, even a bit of kimchi brine for funkier heat. If tomatoes aren’t quite at their best yet, roast them to intensify their taste, or if you find the fresh tomato flavor of pure juice isn’t quite intense enough, blend in a dab of tomato paste to boost it.
You can follow any basic Bloody Mary mix recipe and replace the bottled tomato juice with your own freshly extracted liquid, but you might want to start with a lighter hand on the spices, then taste and add more as you wish.
And you don’t have to stick to red tomatoes, either—try using orange or yellow for a lovely color (Sungold tomatoes are particularly perfect at the peak of the season, like nature’s candy with a rich orange hue). Just beware of mixing too many different shades together, or you may end up with a muddled cup—it should still taste great, though.
While using fresh tomatoes yields a lighter body and brighter taste, there are some other things you can do to further summerize the Bloody Mary.
In addition to ripe red, orange, and yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes make for a more piquant twist on the traditional Bloody Mary. If you do go green, you can enhance the tart taste with tomatillos.
And whether you use green tomatoes or ripe red ones, you can blend a bit of cucumber right into the tomato mix to add a great fresh lift of clean green flavor that doesn’t stand out so much as elevate everything else. You can blend in a little celery for the same effect, and/or fresh green chiles for more of a grassy kick.
Garnish From the Garden
Emphasis on the garden part; since it’s usually hot and you have plenty of regular sweats, you may not want to add meat sweats on top of that. So forgo the heavy bacon and fried chicken garnishes that have become so common and stick to light, fresh veggies, maybe some pickled prawns for more protein, and herbs in abundance, like basil, parsley, dill, thyme, and cilantro.
Be sure to spear some perfect cherry tomatoes to top off the drink too—even better if they’ve already been booze-infused.
Try Another Alcohol
Vodka is a great blank canvas, but you can try swapping it out for aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit infused with dill and caraway, among other herbs and spices, which makes for a more complex cocktail. And gin, one half of the classic summertime G&T, also makes an interesting base for a Bloody Mary (which would then technically be called a red snapper).
Since fizz is so refreshing, try adding a little bubbly to your bloody, in the form of seltzer, Champagne or Prosecco, or even beer—this IPA Bloody Mary dispenses with the vodka entirely, but you can still use it (or another base spirit) as usual and then top it off with a bit of beer or sparkling wine for a one-two punch of extra alcohol and effervescence.
Infuse Other Summer Flavors
If you have a lot of lead time (generally two or three weeks), you can make herb-infused vodka—cucumber basil vodka would be fantastic, but a bright lemon vodka would also work well. Ditto beet vodka, dill vodka, and a meta Bloody Mary vodka that includes fresh tomatoes and several other veggies.
No time for that? Try blending another summer favorite, watermelon, right into your Bloody Mary. It may sound odd at first, but tomatoes are a fruit anyway, and watermelons happen to be great with savory flavors.
You’re grilling everything else right now, so why not grill your Bloody Mary ingredients too? This one calls for grilling tomatoes, poblano pepper, spring onions, and lemons to make the mix, and then tops it off with more grilled veggie garnishes, for a brilliant summer brunch option.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, though, at least consider freezing fresh tomato juice (or your homemade mix) into ice cube trays so you can keep your drink icy cold without diluting it.
Play around with these suggestions to concoct your own ideal summer Bloody Mary, and once you’ve perfected it, invite your friends over for a Bloody Mary bar brunch, preferably al fresco. Or mix one up for dinner, because it is practically a meal in a glass.
Related Video: Do This For the Best Bloody Mary Ever
Header image courtesy of Nikolay Litov/Shutterstock.