The Bloody Mary has been the hair-of-the-dog cocktail king for generations. It harkens back to the 1920’s when tomato juice was the cutting edge of American hangover relief. Combining both ailment and cure in the same glass was inevitable. Soon came savory additions like Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco, and spices to add more layers. No one knows for sure who invented it, or even who or what the name refers to, but according to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Bloody Mary is responsible for popularizing vodka in the West, and remains one of the most popular and accessible mixed drinks in the world.
The Bloody Mary has lost some luster with the rise of mixology. Most places “known” for their Bloody Marys are in fact on the map for their Jenga towers of skewered bacon, sliders, and other exaggerated garnishes that rest precariously on top of the glass. Worse still are the DIY Bloody Mary bars where hungover patrons splatter tablecloths like crime scenes and experiment with less restraint than a twelve year old at a soda fountain. Not to yuck your yum, but the drink deserves better.
Despite these dings to its reputation, the Bloody Mary lives on in fine form today. Pre-made Bloody Mary mixes have never been better (Don’t sleep on The Real Dill Mix) and there are incredible versions of the cocktail at bars across the country.
One of those re-interpreters is Jersey City-based bartender, cocktail professor, and cocktail recipe developer Anthony “The Professor” Baker. He rethought the Bloody Mary for The Aviary at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in NYC. When the restaurant’s chef asked him to create a Bloody Mary in 2018, he replied, “Chef, I hate Bloody Marys,” to which the chef said, “Good, come up with one you like.”
What resulted might be the Bloody Mary in its finest form. Starting with fresh ingredients and a culinary focus on balance, Baker devised a cocktail that he says is so good that it “feels like a cold savory soup for a hangover, and the vodka is incidental.” In the process of workshopping his cocktail, Baker learned some vital tips on how to make a Bloody Mary that will surpass expectations for what the cocktail can be. If you’re looking to make the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever had, here’s what will do it.
9 Tips For Making A Better Bloody Mary
1. Use Fresh Ingredients
Fresh ingredients make or break a Bloody Mary. They are the basis of Baker’s, and he recommends using as many as possible as a general rule. That means fresh citrus, fresh vegetable juice, and fresh horseradish.
Especially fresh horseradish. The prepared stuff has too much vinegar in it and can make the drink bitter. Grating some fresh into the drink and adding a slight dash of vinegar, Baker says, changes everything for the better.
2. Sub Pureed Tomatoes For Tomato Juice
One things Baker didn’t like about making a Bloody Mary is that once you add the ingredients, the vodka thins it all out. For this reason, he doesn’t use tomato juice in his Bloody Mary, but instead uses good quality canned Italian Roma tomatoes, purées them, and adds a splash of water. This leads to a less watery consistency. Once the vodka is added, it will achieve the proper final mouthfeel which, according to Baker, is not too thick but “thicker than juice.”
3. Juice Your Own Vegetables
Baker uses fresh cold-pressed celery juice in his Bloody Mary, which he adds to the tomato puree mixture. It’s a game-changer. You can take this even further if you want: at the restaurant Dante in New York, they cold press a mix of tomato, celery, carrot, fennel, red bell pepper, and cucumber juice for their light bodied All-Day Bloody Mary. (If you want to go to this level of commitment, the best cold press juicer we’ve tested is this Hurom cold press juicer, which extracts every last drop and is shockingly easy to clean.)
4. Switch Up The Savory Elements
While the typical Bloody Mary recipe calls for Worcestershire, Tabasco, and salt and pepper for savory notes, Baker subbed out all of these for more unique flavors. “I added smoked salt or truffle salt instead of regular salt; instead of black pepper, I added white pepper, and instead of Worcestershire, I added mushroom soy sauce.”
Wanting to also balance the savory with a note of sweetness and tartness that would tie all the savory notes together, he added a homemade Shrub — an equal parts mixture of vinegar and sugar. The point? Experiment with unique flavors to suit your tastes.
5. Try Lime Juice
Baker uses lime over lemon, as he feels it gives the drink more “It’s much tarter than lemon juice, so I’m able to get the tartness with less juice, therefore taking up less volume,” he says, which helps serve the balance of the drink.
6. Pick The Right Vodka
Baker recommends Belvedere Rye Vodka for a Bloody, for its depth of flavor. Dante’s uses Reyka Icelandic Vodka in their All-Day Bloody Mary mentioned above. But Baker’s personal favorite base spirit isn’t vodka, but tequila. He personally loves to use Ghost Tequila, infused with ghost pepper, which adds a flavorsome kick of spice to the cocktail.
7. Shake Without Ice For Proper Dilution
In order to control dilution and ensure that your carefully balanced mixture isn’t thrown off the second you shake it over ice, Baker recommends shaking all the ingredients without ice, and then pouring them into a glass over ice.
8. Garnish For Elegance, But Show Restraint
At The Aviary, Baker served his Bloody Mary in a bowl and surrounded by Omakase bites as a garnish. For the home bartender, he recommends keeping it simple, and says that even a humble celery stick can be elegant. A skewered pepper and cornichon is also a sophisticated topper that offers a little flourish while still avoiding the appetizer gargoyles that perch atop many a brunch hall Bloody.
9. Seek Balance
“Due to the fact that Bloody Marys have so many ingredients, it’s easy to just add them all,” says Baker, “But it’s important to bring them into balance — don’t let anything stick out too much.” He says that like any other cocktail, the drink should be “harmonious.” In other words, the cocktail should drink far subtler than your hangover feels.
Anthony “The Professor” Baker’s Bloody Mary
- 1 1/4 oz of vodka (or Tequila, or whatever your chosen base spirit may be)
- 3 oz freshly pureed tomatoes with a dash of water added.
- 1/2 oz cold-pressed celery juice
- 1/2 tsp of freshly grated horseradish mixed with a dash of vinegar.
- 2 dashes of mushroom soy sauce
- 1 pinch of salt (regular, smoked, or truffle)
- 1 pinch of pepper (white or black)
- 1/4 oz of shrub (equal parts sugar and vinegar)
- 1/3 oz lime juice
- Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake without ice.
- Pour directly over ice in your choice of glassware (high ball glasses are typical, but Baker suggests trying a short thin glass like this one)
- Garnish tastefully and serve.