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Originally published Friday, June 13, 2014 at 6:03 AM

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The best Bloody Mary can be made at home

You can let your friends have their drinks the way they want them by setting up a DIY Bloody Mary bar, with homemade Bloody Mary mix, cubed ice and an array of vodka and garnishes.


Tampa Bay Times

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Everyone thinks they know where to get the best Bloody Mary. But, while any spot serving brunch usually has a bloody or two on the menu — right next to the mimosas— — the surefire way to sip one you like is to mix it at home.

Some people are crazy for horseradish and others just want a vehicle for garnishes. You can let your friends have their drinks the way they want them by setting up a DIY Bloody Mary bar. Put out glasses, a large pitcher of homemade Bloody Mary mix, straws and cubed ice and let your friends decide on their vodka and garnishes. This allows you to prep the ingredients before everyone shows up so you don’t have to play bartender all day.

You might want to try making fresh tomato juice, but I found it easier and just as tasty to use high-quality tomato juice I bought at the store. Blending fresh tomatoes to make your own juice base will yield a thicker juice than what we’re used to buying. I included a Yellow Tomato Bloody Mary, which uses fresh tomatoes and offers a striking option at the bloody bar.

This fresh tomato juice will also have a more robust flavor. Feel free to thin out the juice to the texture you like using water or, the obvious choice, more vodka.

CHOOSE YOUR VODKA

Don’t break the bank with top-shelf vodka for such a highly flavored drink. Instead, if you really want to impress your friends, add some infused vodkas at the bloody bar. Figure on 2 ounces of vodka per drink. You’ll probably find that most people stop at 1 because the added garnishes can make them feel like a meal unto themselves. Vodka clearly wins most-popular at this party, but you might consider having gin on hand, too. Some people prefer this spirit for the added flavor it brings to a Bloody Mary.

INFUSED VODKAS

Infusing vodka with flavors is easier than you think, and most infusions require a lot less time than you’d expect.

I made small batches in pint-size Mason jars so I could make several flavors from one 750-milliliter bottle of vodka. With 2 cups vodka per infusion and the standard 2 ounces per drink, you’ll get enough infused vodka for eight drinks from each jar. The accompanying infusions were all done in one day, except the pickle, which needed another day to pick up more flavor.

My advice is to sample your infusion each day and decide for yourself when it’s done to your liking. Keep in mind that ingredients with strong flavors — citrus, hot peppers, horseradish — require less time to infuse than others. And make sure to shake the jars a couple of times throughout the day.

If the infusion gets too strong for your taste, just dilute it slightly by adding more vodka. More vodka is always the answer.

TRY THESE

Infusions

Bacon

Lemon

Habanero

Hot pepper and garlic

Black pepper

Mixes

Zing Zang: Affordable, easy to find, pretty tasty.

McClure’s: Kind of fancy. Pickle lovers swear by it. Available at Whole Foods, the Fresh Market and Williams-Sonoma.

Sauces and spices

Worcestershire

Sriracha

Tabasco

Old Bay seasoning

Fresh horseradish

Cumin

Garnishes

Make sure you have long toothpicks near the plates.

Celery stalks

Cheese-stuffed peppers

Bacon-wrapped shrimp

Olives

Cheese cubes (cheddar, Gouda and feta are good choices)

Okra

Bacon

A BBQ rib

Pickled vegetables

Pearl onions

Pretzels

Peppadews (stuffed with goat cheese!)

Lemon or lime

Oyster

Herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, cilantro, dill)

Salami

BASIC BLOODY MARY

2 ounces tomato juice

2 ounces vodka

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¾ teaspoon freshly grated horseradish

3 dashes hot pepper sauce, such as Sriracha or Tabasco

1 pinch salt

1 dash freshly ground black pepper

Juice of ½ lemon

1 stalk celery

Garnishes

Add all ingredients except celery and garnishes to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Serve in a pint-size Mason jar or highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with celery stalk and other garnishes you’d like. If desired, add spices or spice blends or use them to rim the glass. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Epicurious

BLOODY MARYS FOR A CROWD

Serves 8

16 ounces tomato juice

16 ounces vodka (see note)

2½ tablespoons Worcestershire

2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Tabasco

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 4 lemons

Garnishes

Put everything except garnishes in a large pitcher and stir vigorously. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If possible, store in the fridge for one hour to allow the mix to chill and the flavors to meld. Serve in glasses filled with ice and garnish each with celery stalks and a toothpick packed with other garnishes.

Note: If using infused vodkas, make the mix without the vodka and let guests choose the flavor they want to add. You could also prepare the mix (minus the vodka) the night before the party.

Adapted from Epicurious

YELLOW TOMATO BLOODY MARY

Serves 4

4 medium yellow tomatoes

Juice of 1 lemon

1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon celery salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated horseradish

Dash of salt

Dash of freshly ground black pepper

Dash of salt

8 ounces vodka

Garnishes (suggestions: olives, peppadews, okra, cubes of cheese)

Purée the tomatoes in a blender with a splash of water until mixture is smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients except the vodka and garnishes and blend until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Fill 4 glasses with ice and add 2 ounces vodka to each. Pour mixture evenly among four glasses. Top with garnishes and serve immediately.

Inspired by 101Cookbooks.com

HORSERADISH VODKA

Fresh horseradish

2 cups vodka

Cut a 2- to 3-inch piece from one end of the horseradish. Clean with a damp paper towel to brush off any dirt. Slice into thick rounds. Place sliced horseradish in a clean pint-size jar with a tightfitting lid. Cover with 2 cups vodka and store in a cool, dark area for about one day, shaking once or twice in that time. Strain infused vodka into another clean jar.

PICKLE VODKA

1 dill pickle

2 cups vodka

Chop pickle and place in a clean pint-size jar with a tightfitting lid. Cover with 2 cups vodka and store in a cool, dark area for one to three days, shaking the jar once or twice a day. Strain infused vodka into another clean jar.

JALAPEÑO VODKA

3 jalapeños

2 cups vodka

Slice jalapeños in half and place in a clean pint-size jar with a tightfitting lid. I added the peppers with all their seeds, but you can hold off on those if you think it’ll be too spicy. Cover with 2 cups vodka and store in a cool, dark area for one day, shaking once or twice in that time. Strain infused vodka into another clean jar.

GARLIC VODKA

6 cloves garlic

2 cups vodka

Peel garlic cloves and smash with the side of your knife. Place in a pint-size jar with a tightfitting lid. Cover with 2 cups vodka and store in a cool, dark area for one day, shaking once or twice in that time. Strain infused vodka into another clean jar.

— Infused vodka recipes from Ileana Morales



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