The Only Way to Make a Bloody Mary

By Rachel Perlmutter, TheKitchn.com | January 3rd, 2024

Plus variations for tailoring the concoction to your tastes


Two individual glasses of Bloody Mary, with olive and celery for garnish, and a pitcher of Bloody Mary. How to make a Bloody Mary from scratch and tailor it to your tastes.

A Bloody Mary is my favorite brunch cocktail. I’ve even been known to order them sans-alcohol, if I’m not in the mood to imbibe. While some people drink the savory, spicy cocktail for the supposed hangover remedy, I’m all in on the flavor.

While I love the flavor of horseradish, the one part of a Bloody Mary I don’t care much for is the texture of prepared horseradish in my cocktail. I solve this by blending some of the tomato juice (I like the clean flavor of Sacramento brand) with the horseradish until smooth. From there, it’s just about picking my garnishes. I will happily accept any and all Bloody Mary garnishes — and trust me, there are many wild ones out there — but I love the classic leafy, tender celery heart and a few pimento olives.

What is a Bloody Mary?

The Bloody Mary was invented in the early 1920s at Harry’s American Bar in Paris by bartender Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot. He reportedly mixed together a concoction of tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Some stories suggest the drink is named after Mary Queen of Scots, the actress Mary Pickford, or a lovelorn young woman named Mary, yet the origin remains unknown.

Petiot brought the Bloody Mary stateside in 1934, serving it at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Here, he added lemon juice and Tabasco to suit the tastes of his American customers. The Bloody Mary didn’t become a brunch fixture until the 1960s, due to an aggressive marketing campaign by Smirnoff Vodka.

Bloody Mary variations

Here are a few of the many versions of Bloody Marys to try:

  • Red Snapper. While originally the red snapper was just another name for the classic Bloody Mary, today it refers to the same cocktail base with gin instead of vodka.
  • Caesar cocktail. Instead of tomato juice, this Canadian cocktail starts with a base of Clamato (or a combination of tomato juice and clam juice).
  • Bloody Maria. Either tequila or smoky mezcal stand in for vodka in this twist on the original.
  • Michelada. It can be as simple as swapping vodka for beer, but some recipes skip the tomato juice entirely, opting instead for a well-spiced and seasoned Mexican lager.

How to customize your Bloody Mary

You can add your own twist to the cocktail. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Stir in pickle juice for an extra sour, briny boost of flavor.
  • Rub the edge of the glass with lemon, then coat the rim in Tajín or another chili seasoning.
  • Garnish with pickle spears and other pickled vegetables, or go more daring with crispy bacon strips, poached shrimp, and meat snack sticks.
  • Swap tomato juice for V8 vegetable juice for a bolder vegetable flavor.

Bloody Mary

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 medium lemons
  • 1 (46- to 48-ounce) bottle or can tomato juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) vodka, such as Tito’s
  • Ice

Garnish options:

  • Small leafy celery stalks
  • Lemon wedges
  • Pimento-stuffed olives

Directions:

  1. Juice 3 to 4 medium lemons until you have 1/2 cup. Place in a blender. Add half of 1 (46- to 48-ounce) bottle or can tomato juice, 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup prepared horseradish, 2 teaspoons hot sauce, 1 teaspoon celery seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute.
  2. Pour into an 8-cup or larger pitcher (or 10-cup pitcher if making a pitcher drink) and stir in the remaining tomato juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or ideally overnight. Meanwhile, refrigerate 2 cups vodka.
  3. Taste the Bloody Mary mix and season with more kosher salt and more hot sauce as needed (or serve the hot sauce on the side).
  4. To serve individual Bloody Marys: Fill a Collins glass halfway with ice. Pour 2 ounces vodka over the ice. Top with about 6 ounces of the Bloody Mary mix and stir until just combined. Garnish with a celery stalk and pimento-stuffed olives and a lemon wedge speared with a toothpick.
  5. For a pitcher drink: Add all of the vodka to the pitcher and stir to combine. Pour into ice-filled glasses, stirring the drink before each pour (the tomato mixture and vodka may separate as they sit). Garnish each drink with a celery stalk and pimento-stuffed olives and a lemon wedge speared with a toothpick.

Recipe notes

Make ahead: The Bloody Mary base can be made up to four days in advance and refrigerated. Stir before serving.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in a covered pitcher for up to four days. Stir before serving.


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Rachel Perlmutter is a recipe developer, food stylist, and culinary producer at TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.

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