How one of the most beloved brunch pairings ever became associated with a murderous ex-queen of England is beyond me. Countless were condemned to an early death under the rule of Queen Mary I, leaving her with few friends to raise a glass with. Complicating matters is the fact that the tomato and vodka mixer didn’t appear anywhere in history until the 1930s when vodka began to flow from Russia following the second world war, many centuries after her own demise. Numerous early mixologists claim to have invented the original cocktail, and just as many stories behind the gruesome name exist- None particularly compelling. Attempts at uncovering the truth end up looking about as murky and opaque as the drink itself.
No one needs help understanding the modern Bloody Mary, on the other hand. Instantly recognizable and ubiquitous across the globe, you can rest assured that if there are spirits on the menu, the bartender can undoubtedly fix you the bold red brew. Like pizza and sex, even the bad ones are pretty good.
That all said, there’s no reason to settle for sufficiency or fall into a boring routine. Though incredible simple in composition, each separate component can be tweaked to yield a brave new blend.
Vegetable Juice: Tomato will always reign supreme and for good reason. Naturally balanced with the delicate nuances of savory, salty, sweet, and sour, it’s tough to beat such a carefully calibrated blend. Tradition shouldn’t put a damper on your creativity though; there’s plenty of room for a fresh perspective, and this foundation ingredient is where you’ll make the biggest impact. Shake things up, with or without a proper cocktail shaker, by looking farther afield. Either solo or in concert with pure tomato juice, consider carrot, celery, tomatillo, or beet.
Alcohol: While generally mild spirits that play well with others are your best bets here, more robust beverages can become a more prominent piece of the puzzle, defining the character of the drink. Vodka or sake are your best bets for simplicity, and tequila or gin can provide a refreshing change of pace. You could even turn it into more of a spritzer or cooler with champagne or dry white wine. For a virgin drink, use still or sparkling water.
Acid: Bright, astringent notes are essential for lightening the overall mix, delivered via citrus or vinegar. Lemon juice, lime juice, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or balsamic vinegar are all excellent options.
Umami Sauce: For lack of a better title, this is your secret weapon; the component that most people will overlook but miss sorely if it doesn’t make the final cut. Vegan Worcestershire, store-bought or homemade, is the default option, but you should definitely consider soy sauce, coconut aminos, or vegemite/marmite for the job, too.
Spice: Heat preferences are highly subjective so dial it up or down according to taste, taking the potency of your selection into account. Add a touch of warmth or a blazing inferno with horseradish, Tabasco sauce, sriracha, wasabi paste, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or paprika.
Salt: Salt is salt, right? Not so fast. Seasoned salt can jazz things up, and celery salt could lend an extra vegetal zest. Smoked salt is also fabulous for adding another layer of depth and meaty aroma.
Garnishes: If it fits in or on a glass, it’s a valid garnish option. The sky is truly the limit (just take a cursory look through Google Images if you think that’s an exaggeration) but classic, mostly highly recommended options include: coarse salt rim, celery stalks, pickled okra, jalapeno, or green beans, lemon wedge, cucumber spears, asparagus stalks, olives, or sliced radishes.
With these suggestions in mind, select your favorites and follow the Basic Bloody Mary Blueprint:
1/2 Cup Vegetable Juice
1/4 Cup Alcohol
2 Teaspoons Acid
1/2 Teaspoon Umami Sauce
1/8 – 1/2 Teaspoon Spice
Pinch Ground Black Pepper
Mix everything up, adjusting individual components to taste. Serve over ice (or don’t) and garnish as desired (or don’t.) You really can’t mess this one up, I promise.
Makes 1 Drink
Considering how much I already enjoy rambling on about the weather, past, present, and future, I can only imagine what a hoot I’ll be by the time I’m 80 and mostly senile. Every conversation will begin and end with the forecast, as reliably timed as the news stations themselves. Who knows, maybe I just inadvertently stumbled upon a whole new gig for when I retire.
Regardless, it seems that everyone is gossiping about the atmospheric conditions lately. 50-degree days in late January, immediately followed by sleet, later to be washed away for another sunny afternoon? It’s the best sort of madness, removing the fangs from a brutal winter season while keeping things exciting. Scores of sunny days in a row make it seem like spring is just around the corner, and I can’t help but feel optimistic that we put the worst behind us way back in October. Unfortunately, the growing season is now lagging far behind my cravings for fresh produce.
Glistening red orbs of heirloom tomatoes taunt from pristine display towers, looking every bit as viable as the misshapen turnips and beets just down the aisle. Winter tomatoes, which sounds like the butt of a joke, tempt me like never before, and with the warmth of an unseasonably bright sun on my side, I can’t resist this time.
Condensing those savory fruits into a pure and fresh elixir seemed like the best approach, and nothing says “refreshing” quite like home-pressed juice. Inspired by the classic Bloody Mary, this virgin drink is not nearly so gruesome, and so much lighter and brighter than the original.
4 Large, Ripe Tomatoes
1 Ounce Fresh Parsley
1 Very Small Clove Garlic (Optional)
2 Stalks Celery
1 Medium Cucumber or 4 – 6 Big Leaves Romaine
1/4 Lemon, Seeded
1/2 Inch Fresh Ginger
1 Teaspoon Coconut Aminos or Braggs Liquid Aminos
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to Taste
If you have a juicer, simply run all of the veggies through skim off the foam. Stir in both aminos and pepper.
For those working with a blender, toss everything in, except for the lemon. Squeeze the juice from it first before discarding the rind. Turn it on high speed and process until completely smooth. Pass the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or nut milk bag and discard the solids.
Garnish with lemon slices, celery stalks, cucumber spears, or any sort of pickled veggies. Drink up!
For a Full-Blooded version, simply add 2 teaspoons light agave nectar and 1/4 cup (2 ounces) vodka.
Makes 2 Servings