Cocktail Basics: Bloody Hell! Bloody Mary for Dummies

Bloody Mary


Ahh… the time-honored Bloody Mary. This cocktail has been with us for an eternity. Even today, it’s as wildly popular as ever. Yet for some reason, most of us have it in our heads that this buzz-inducing, yet seemingly health-conscious concoction, should only reasonably be consumed on Saturday and Sundays before dark (a.k.a., Brunch). Where’d that idea come from?

This is one of those standard cocktails that every barkeep – from the buffoon at your hog-roast/bait-n-tackle shop on the Gulf Coast, to the master mixologist at the Occidental – must be intimately familiar with. Despite the commonality, like a dozen or so other standards, bartenders routinely muck this drink up for some odd reason. Typically, their establishments (a) use gasp – use commercial Bloody Mary mix – perish the thought or (b) they’re so disengaged, that they’ve become much more interested in pumping out a sub-par drink and moving on, than creating repeat business by offering exceptional cocktails. From my experience, “b” is far more pronounced a problem.

I’m not going to go into the history of the Bloody Mary. There’s a plethora of information out there already for the reading, if only you unleash your wicked google-Fu upon your trusty browser. Not so astonishingly, there is also a shockingly high level of Bloody Mary recipe variations, and they’re all over the map. There is little to no consistency other than the basic Vodka and Tomato Juice components.

So, here’s what I suggest…

Basic Components:

  • 8oz quality Tomato Juice
  • 2oz quality Vodka (I prefer Tito’s)
  • 1/2 Tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 Tsp Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco Sauce
  • 3/4 Tsp Celery Seeds
  • 3/4 Tsp White Horseradish Sauce
  • The juice from 1/4 of a fresh large lime

Important Notes:

  1. I tend to use Sacramento Tomato Juice most of the time. It’s widely available in conveniently-sized #5 cans. Using fresh tomato juice is obviously best and will impart a significantly more luxurious flavor experience. But, the reality is, this is way too tedious and expensive for the bar to undertake.
  2. I’ve mentioned it before, but don’t drink crap vodka – ever
  3. I’ve tried coarse sea salt with this drink before. It doesn’t dissolve as well. Stick to fine salts.
  4. Celery Seeds are the key ingredient in my recipe. Well, the balance of all the ingredients is key actually. However, Celery Seeds are what most folks neglect. I don’t particularly like Celery Salt as it contains Celery Flakes and common Table Salt. It’s a different product.
  5. Don’t neglect the fresh lime juice or cheap out by using the bottled, chemically-infused crap.
  6. Be careful with the Hot Sauce. It’s easy to overdo it. Most folks want to “taste” the heat but not necessarily feel the heat. It’s always easy to add additional heat if needed. But on the flip side, it can be a massive pain in the arse to remake a Bloody Mary from scratch if you’ve over-done it.


For single servings, such as what this recipe calls for, you’ll want to use a Boston Shaker (pint glass). That’s a 16oz vessel. Anything smaller will not be able to properly contain the above proportions. Given the choice, I prefer to stock and serve Bloodys in Parfait glasses. It’s simply a whole lot prettier.

Mix all the above ingredients directly in the glass, stir vigorously, and fill with ice. Don’t shake it. Shaved/crushed ice is not a pleasant experience in tomato juice.

In a commercial (bar) setting, this is not a cocktail you want to prepare à la carte, as described above. It’s far too time consuming. Rather, you’re going to want to batch it fresh every day or two. I highly recommend using half-gallon Store-n-Pours for this purpose. They’re perfectly sized and not too weighty. Simply multiply the proportions above to suit the container.

And for God’s sake people, don’t over-fill the drink only to have crap running down the sides. That’s nasty and unprofessional. No cocktail should ever be filled higher than 1/4 – 1/2 inch below the rim of the glass. Take this into account as inserting the celery stick will cause the level to rise slightly.


One thin celery stick and one lime wedge. Olives, thick-cut bacon, pineapples, french fries, sauteed onions, blue cheese, etc. are all ridiculous and don’t belong. It’s not a meal, it’s a cocktail. If someone asks, which they do, I’ll provide 2 or 3 olives on a toothpick, gently floated on top.


Bloody Maria: substitute Tequila for vodka. I know… it sounds weird but it’s actually an incredibly tasty delight

Bloody Caesar: Same recipe but use half Tomato Juice and half Clam Juice.

Bloody Bull: Ditto but with half Tomato Juice and half Beef Broth


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