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Happy Mother’s Day! It’s the busiest day of the year for high-end brunch restaurants, and nothing goes better with brunch than a mimosa or a Bloody Mary. Mimosas are pretty straightforward, just a bit of Champagne and juice. The Bloody Mary, on the other hand, is one of those mutable recipes that has a thousand variations, each tailored to a different specific taste.
A fun thing about making your own Bloody Mary mix is that it keeps very well, due to the acidity of the tomatoes and lemon juice, and the salinity of the salts or Worcestershire sauce. It's a very simple thing to prepare, and you can make a large batch of it that will last for weeks. Bloody Mary is almost a soup, and it definitely benefits from resting for a day or two. The folk adage: “the best soup is the soup that sets” works wonders on a Bloody Mary mix. So it's nice to make a big batch and keep it in the fridge. I start most of my days with a glass of Bloody Mix, without the booze. It’s just as nutritious as tomato juice or a V-8, but a little more stimulating due to the horseradish or chile “kick.”
Plus, it’s versatile. It’s on the same level of the French “mother sauces,” a basic standard recipe that can be adapted into numerous other sauces. Go through the liquor department at any store, and you'll find a wide selection of different Bloody Mary mixes tailored to many different needs. From basic economical options to very high-end elixirs, the options vary widely in what they offer. From sweet to tart, spicy to nourishing, savory to subtle; there’s bound to be a Bloody mix to suit your tastes.
Those mixes can get pretty pricey in a hurry. But they are remarkably simple to make at home. It doesn’t require any special tools, just a whisk or maybe a blender. You have the added bonus of being able to “fine tune” the mix to your specific tastes. Some like a big pungent zing of horseradish, some like the lingering spice of chiles.
This is where your personal preferences can really shine. No commercially marketed mix is going to have exactly what pleases you. Most breakfast and brunch restaurants start with a commercial mix, and then doctor it up to give it their own personal flair. The neat thing about a Bloody mix is that a can of good tomato juice is actually pretty inexpensive. Building up a cache of spices and condiments to gussy it up can look kind of pricey, but the additive ingredients all keep extremely well in the fridge or on the shelf. So in the long run, it's far cheaper to make your own mix. You're probably going to like your blend better anyway. It’s a very personal thing, sort of like a barbecue sauce.
The other traditional touches that make a Bloody Mary stand out are the garnishes. Standards accompaniments are a kosher pickle spear and a stalk of celery. Sometimes you find more decadent elements like a slice of crispy thick cut bacon. Restaurants can get pretty extra with their garnishes: I've seen chicken wings, vegetable and cheese kebabs and even a little slider burger speared above the drink. The heavy vegetable (actually fruit) element of the Bloody make it somehow more socially acceptable as a breakfast drink. A lot of breakfast food is just protein and starch: eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. The Bloody Mary has other vital vitamins and nutrients, but not so much as to induce a food coma. A perfect accompaniment to start your day of rest and relaxation.
I’m going to show you three different Bloody mixes. A standard traditional one, a Cajun variant, and a mango curry version.
That’s right, mango curry. Because you can do that when you’re making food for yourself. You can play around with it and have fun. A word to the wise, though: When playing around with recipes and mutating them, it’s good to remember the advice of famed chef Alain Ducasse: “You can mix two styles and get fusion; any more, and you just get confusion.”
With that in mind, the Cajun variant will substitute some standard Bloody ingredients for some standard Cajun alternatives. The mango curry will substitute mango juice for tomato and curry for traditional spices.
The origins of the Bloody Mary is a fun romp through the history of Prohibition, the origins of cocktail culture and the exploits of Americans in France between world wars. How brunch came to happen and its relationship to women’s suffrage is also a great rabbit hole to examine. We highly recommend looking into both of those stories, as we don’t have the space to explore those topics in this little article.
This article is dedicated those of you who maybe didn’t plan ahead quite well enough, who just realized it’s Mother's Day and need to whip up something in a hurry — something that’s a little more personal than a preprinted gift card. In the immortal words of Mr. T: “Treat your mother right.” OK, OK, that song is more of a cult classic. The videos are amazing and we highly recommend looking them up. They pair neatly with these similar cult classics: Bloody Mary mixes.
Makes 6 to 8 drinks
46 ounces canned tomato juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon celery Salt
1 teaspoon pickle juice
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon horseradish sauce
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 to 1 mix of paprika and salt
1 to 1 mix of ground black pepper and salt
Dill pickle spear
Crisped, thick sliced bacon
To prepare: Mix ingredients together very thoroughly. This can be done with a spoon in a glass, with a whisk, or in a blender. You want to make sure the mixture is very smooth with no lumps or clumps.
To put a rim on a glass and serve the drink: Fold a kitchen towel into quarters and get it wet. Squeeze out some of the excess moisture. You want it to be fairly damp, but not dripping water all over the place. Put it on a plate to catch the excess water.
Put a thick layer of the rim spices onto a saucer. Put more spices than you will need onto the saucer. Only the wetted parts of the glass will pick up the rimming mixture.
Flip your glass upside down and press it into the wet towel. Roll it around a little bit to increase the surface contact with the towel. Wherever it gets wet, the rim salt and spices will stick to the wet glass.
Press or roll the wet rim of the glass into the saucer holding the spices. Wherever the wetted rim touches the mixture, it will stick to the glass. Now that it has the rim on it, you are ready to fill the glass with ice.
Combine your Bloody mix of choice with alcohol. A 3 to 1 ratio is normal, with 6 ounces of mix to 2 ounces of vodka. A "stiff" Bloody will be 2 parts mix to one part booze. So, 4 ounces of mix to 2 ounces of vodka. Remember that these ratios are all a matter of personal taste and preference. Also remember that it’s going to be poured over ice, so you don’t need a full 12 or 16 ounces of booze and mix to make a full glass.
Stir your Bloody Mary mix and alcohol of choice together and pour over the ice.
To garnish and serve: Add your garnishes at the end. Long garnishes, like a celery stalk, pickle spear, or slice of bacon can just be dropped vertically into the glass. Smaller garnishes like cocktail onions or shrimp should be put on a skewer so they don't get lost in the bottom. I like to stab the skewered bits into the celery stalk so they are submerged but accessible. This lets them pickle in the drink a little bit, which improves their texture and flavor.
To finish: 1 can or bottle of light beer, held in reserve.
It's always nice to have a cold beer ready as a chaser to a Bloody. Once you get halfway through the drink, it's wise to slow down a little bit. Refilling the glass with beer at the halfway point lets you savor the subtleties of the mix for a while longer, without getting too tipsy early in the day.
Cajun Bloody Mary
Makes 2 drinks
12 ounces tomato juice
1 ounce lemon juice
4 tablespoons clam juice
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Old Bay spice mixture
1/4 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
Mix all together. Stir 6 ounces of Bloody mix into 2 ounces of vodka.
The Cajun version also mixes quite well with bourbon or rye whiskey instead of vodka.
Rim: Cajun spice mixture (they usually have salt in them already)
2 pieces of shrimp dusted with Old Bay spice
Pickled cocktail onion
Thai Curry Golden Mary
Makes 2 drinks
12 ounces mango nectar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon A1 steak sauce
1/4 teaspoon fish sauce (or 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce if you prefer)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 teaspoon cocktail sauce
Stir all ingredients together with a spoon or whisk. Make sure the curry paste is broken down and fully incorporated. You don't want little bombs of curry explosions in there.
2 precooked, deveined shrimp, frozen. Sprinkle some fish sauce (a few drops each) on them and let thaw in the fridge overnight.
Pickled cocktail onion
A long peel of carrot, folded up (take a vegetable peeler and pull a long slice of the carrot)
Source: Adapted by Joshua Tibbetts and Emily Qual
Emily Qual contributed to this article.
Chef Tibbs, also known as Joshua “Tibbs” Tibbetts, is a Cedar Rapids native who has been a professional chef for more than 30 years.