There are many occasions when a Bloody Mary is the perfect beverage: Sunday brunch, family gatherings, a long cross-country flight, and during lunch while skiing on a cold winter day. I have always loved a good Bloody Mary, I think mainly because they are salty–and I do love salt. In Wisconsin, where I went to college, when you order a Bloody Mary they serve a light beer on the side as a chaser, which I later learned is common in some places. In college, I loved that. What student wouldn’t? A tasty, two-for-one drink special that appealed to most students living on a tight budget.
Fernand Petiot claimed to have invented the Bloody Mary in 1921. Petiot was working at the New York Bar in Paris (which later became Harry’s New York Bar, a famous hangout for Ernest Hemingway. New York City’s well-known 21 Club has claimed the cocktail was invented there in the early 1930s by a bartender named Henry Zbikiewicz. In 1942, Life Magazine listed a Bloody Mary style beverage s a “new cocktail” but called it “Red Hammer“.
The basics of the drink aren’t complicated: the two main ingredients, vodka and tomato juice, are standard. However, the drink almost never consists of just these two ingredients. Bartenders pride themselves on their secret ingredients. There is a vast amount of variation on both the making and presentation of this well-known favorite. Some Bloody Mary’s even have different base spirits like bourbon, rye, tequila or gin. But liquor aside, a lot of mixologist creativity goes into the garnish. This has become a bit of a culinary obsession in recent years. Celery, a traditional garnish, is now the exception rather than the rule. Favored instead are eye-catching, ginormous, over-the-top garnishes such as beef sliders, giant shrimp, bacon slabs, pickles, a whole sausage, and onion rings. You name it, bartenders are out there making this drink a meal in and of itself.
Regardless of the size of the garnish, a Bloody Mary is a filling cocktail. For that reason, it is not one that I drink too often. But when the mood strikes, there is nothing else like them. I particularly enjoy whipping up a low alcohol version for family gatherings around the holidays. This is a drink to be creative with both heat-wise and garnish-wise: anything can work, just make it interesting, fun and maybe even dramatic. With my husband’s love of pickled products, I often have various things around the house to work with, so I put them to good use. But what I listed in this recipe is optional: even plain old celery works just fine on its own. My four semi-secret ingredients in the drink itself are low-sodium V8, pickle juice, spicy white horseradish and Louisiana hot sauce. After making this drink or many years, I truly believe it’s perfect.
- 3 ounces vodka
- 8 ounces low-sodium V8
- 1 ounce dill pickle juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground white horseradish
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
- dash of ground black pepper
- dash of salt
- dash of celery salt
- 1 dill pickle, for garnish (optional)
- 1 green olive, for garnish (optional)
- 1 pickled okra, for garnish (optional)
- 1 pickled onion, for garnish (optional)
- beef jerky, for garnish (optional)
- 1 lemon slice, for garnish (optional)
- Step 1 Using a cocktail shaker, add the vodka, V8, pickle juice, horseradish, lemon juice, hot sauce, black pepper, salt and celery salt and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
- Step 2 Pour mixture into a tall pilsner glass filled with a good amount of ice. Garnish with a pickle, olive, okra, onion, and jerky. Serve with a lemon slice.
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