Drinks

The Mary Diaries

Five bartender-inspired ways to build a better Bloody Mary
Blueprint Bloody Mary
Illustration: Kim Graziano/Tasting Table

It's the most complex cocktail in the world. It's a modern-day morning miracle. It's able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound—or something like that.

Though it may seem that some brunch bartenders are wearing a blue-and-red cape under their clothes, mastering the Bloody Mary isn't a super-heroic feat.

The many iterations of the drink range from bacon to balsamic, from curry to crème fraîche, from mustard to malt vinegar and everything in between. And don't even get us started on the crazy garnishes. To make the Mary foolproof, we've pared down a basic mix and five killer variations to go along with it, inspired by some of our favorite bartenders around the country.

But first, some basic guidelines to get you started.

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Balance your act. The key to any good Bloody Mary is balance. For the base, a good rule of thumb is to have about 3 parts tomato juice to 1 part everything else. After you've nailed that, the ratio of booze to base is equally important. The golden ratio: 5 parts base to 2 parts spirit.

Start slow. A Bloody Mary that doesn't pack a kick isn't doing its job, but the best way to get desired heat levels is to start with a relatively low amount of spice. You can always add extra hot sauce or pepper, but once it's in there, good luck dialing it back.

Have a little patience. It's perfectly acceptable to drink a Bloody Mary directly after making a mix, but your flavors will shine much brighter if you allow it to sit for a few hours (or overnight) before making your drink.

Salt away. No matter what style you're going for, adding salt will bring out each flavor you're adding to the mix. With so many competing elements, salt brings them all together and creates a harmony.

Master the mix. This is the perfect diving board for whichever direction you want to jump in—or it's equally delicious on its own. In a large pitcher, add 6 cups of tomato juice, ½ cup of lemon juice, ½ cup of Worcestershire sauce, ¾ cup of horseradish, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of freshly ground pepper and ¾ ounce of Tabasco. Stir until all the ingredients are combined and refrigerate for 1 to 6 hours (yields 2 quarts). When you're ready to serve, fill a glass with ice, add 2 ounces of spirit, 5 ounces of the mix and tumble once. Garnish with a lemon wedge and an olive.

Now you've got a choice: You can either add vodka to that bad boy and call it a day or take Mary out for a spin with these five variations.

At the Erin Rose in New Orleans, the Bloody Mary is one to write home about. The Irish establishment mixes its version with Guinness and other "top secret" ingredients, resulting in a malty brunch cocktail that borders on a michelada. Our version riffs on the idea.

Ice + 2 oz vodka + 2 oz Guinness + 3 oz basic Bloody Mary mix + lime wedge, for garnish

Fill a glass with ice. Add the first three ingredients and tumble once, then garnish with a lime wedge.

Cousin of the Bloody Mary, a bullshot is made with a beef stock base instead of tomato juice. At The Brooklyn Star in NYC, Simon Gibson combines the bullshot and the Bloody Mary to make The Bloody Bull. The popular choice with the brunch crowd uses homemade stock and pickled green beans. Ours takes a few shortcuts to equally delicious results.

Kosher salt + pickled haricots verts + ice + 2 oz bourbon + 2 oz beef broth + 3 oz basic Bloody Mary mix + 3 dashes Valentina hot sauce

Pour some kosher salt onto a small plate. Rub a pickled haricot vert around the rim of a glass and dip the edge of the rim into the salt to coat it. Fill the glass with ice, then add the bourbon, beef broth and Bloody Mary mix. Stir until combined and garnish with pickled haricots verts.

Pickled vegetables are a staple garnish at brunch restaurants from coast to coast. Whether it's the Chicago Matchbox from Prune in NYC or the house-spiced version at San Francisco's Nopa, bartenders across the country know that adding a bit of briny crunch to the brunch-time drink is what really grabs the dog by the hair. You should be able to find a variety of jarred pickled vegetables at your local store or Whole Foods, but when in doubt, we recommend making your own for our briny beauty.

Ice + 2 oz vodka + 1 oz pickle juice + 4 oz basic Bloody Mary mix + pickled vegetables (okra, haricots verts, carrot, garlic and a pickle spear), for garnish

Fill a glass with ice. Add the vodka, pickle juice and Bloody Mary mix. Tumble once and garnish with the veggies.

Think spicy cream-of-tomato soup that cures hangovers. Adding crème fraîche also helps to even out spice, so you can be more liberal with different hot sauces and peppers with our rich creation.

Ice + 2 oz vodka + 5 oz basic Bloody Mary mix + ¼ tsp Sriracha + 1 dollop crème fraîche + 1 celery stalk

Fill a glass with ice. Add the vodka, Bloody Mary mix and Sriracha, and tumble once. Top with the crème fraîche and stir until well combined (the drink will have a pink color). Garnish with the celery stalk.

And now, for something completely different. This version swaps the red tomato juice for a green tomatillo base. It's summery and refreshing with a Mexican flare.

For the base: 1 lb tomatillos, peeled and seeded + 1 jalapeño, sliced + 1 c cilantro leaves + 3 garlic cloves, peeled + 1 small cucumber, peeled and quartered + ½ yellow onion, chopped + ½ tsp black pepper + ¾ oz fresh lime juice

In a blender, combine all the ingredients. Fine-strain into a quart container. Makes 1 quart. Refrigerate.

For the drink: 3 tsp kosher salt + 1 tsp ground cumin + 1 lime wheel + ice + 2 oz tequila + 5 oz tomatillo base + cilantro sprig

Pour the salt and cumin onto a small plate and mix together. Rub the lime wheel around the rim of a glass and dip the rim into the salt-cumin mixture to coat it. Fill the glass with ice, then add the tequila and tomatillo base. Stir until well combined, then garnish with the lime wheel and cilantro.

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