The Best Damn Bloody Mary This Side Of Paradise

I confess: I love liquor.

Charleston Mix and Atlanta's H&F Bloody Mary Mix. Image copyright and courtesy of Thirsty South

As if my Southern roots didn’t betray me enough, we low country types like to drink like it’s going out of style. We like to drink in a fashion that makes functioning alcoholics look at us and think, damn, how did you do that? Drinking, along with food, is the social glue that brings straight-laced citizens of the low country regions together, squeezing away the differences, whatever they may be and turning the usual arguments into, “Do you remember that one time?”

Let me be clear. Liquor, moreover, liquor that exists in a perfectly made drink, while able to open the sky and bring down the spirits of whatever being you may abide by to let things be good for one hot second upon the earth, certainly isn’t the cure for all things. It will not quell sexism or racism, and it certainly is not about to fix the messed up world we live in. But it will perhaps ease it for the moment. Now, before the naysayers start rolling in with the “You can’t numb out the world!” or ” Thats a sign of a problem,” I’d like to just offer a small token of advice: chill, broheim. We aren’t going big here, we are just  going to be making Bloody Marys. Which brings me to my next point.

Fine Cooking's Meyer Heirloom Bloody Mary. Image copyright and courtesy of Fine Cooking.

The Bloody Mary: that ravishing concoction of spicy tomato juice, good vodka, and assorted pickled items, is a gem in the South, a sort of ritual bath that keeps Southerners looking fresh, young, and wholesome.  Fernand Petiot of The New York Bar claimed to have invented the drink in 1921, though there is rumor that  actor George Jessel created the drink around 1939. The name itself, Bloody Mary, has made it a favorite feminist drink of mine on those nights where I’m aching to honor Queen Mary I of England or really, just relishing the taste of a broken patriarchy (or something like that). While no one officially knows how Bloody Marys became a southern staple, I can only guess that it was our cultural reverence for hitting the bottle at all hours, thus, accepting what is said to be one of the greatest hangover cures this side of paradise.

The Bloody Mary was a staple in my home, for the most part. With an icebox stocked full of vodka and a household that worshipped at the altar of the spicy, the garlicky, and the pickled, Bloody Marys held high revere in my house. I wasn’t so much a fan until my later years when I realized that it was drink that combined all my favorite accoutrements: various food items, a lukewarm, soupy-like beverage that would give me a buzz, but not a head or stomach ache, and enough spicing opportunities to declare war on my nasal cavities.

So I want to share my own recipe, perhaps lift the lid off the stereotypical Bloody Mary with the godawful celery that everyone seems to be acquainted with. Think of Bloody Marys as artworks, blank canvases of potential, rather than minimal hangover cures, watered down with ice that tastes of refrigerator.

The Best Damn Bloody Mary This Side Of Paradise

1 Bottle of tomato juice

2 3/4 cups of vodka (I like Tito’s, but any vodka  will do. If you want, you can get really fancy with a bacon vodka or a pepper vodka)

1/3 cup of extra hot horseradish (if you can grind it at home, beautiful, if not, Gold’s or Zatarain’s works marvelously)

1/4 cup worcestershire sauce (lady’s choice)

1/4 cup pickle juice (fresh pickles if you can)

1 teaspoon of Tabasco

1 teaspoon of garlic

1 lime, squeezed

1 lemon, squeezed

Celery salt (To taste. Careful, this stuff can be bitter)

Assorted pickled items, cheeses, and meats.

 

Are you ready for the involved process? Mix all these ingredients together in a pitcher, sans the celery salt and assorted garnishes. After you have thoroughly stirred your ravishing mixture, add celery salt to taste. The celery salt adds an often well needed savory salty taste to the mix, but it’s a case by case scenario. More often than not, I forgo celery salt, relying on the pickle brine to give me that punch.

The Bloodiest. I prefer mine sans celery, but you get the point. Image copyright and courtesy of Bakon Vodka

Once you have poured the Bloody Mary into chilled glasses (sans ice cubes, but if you have to, do as you must), now comes the accessorizing. I like to go overboard with my savory garnishes. Seriously, the Bloody Mary needs them! Forgo the celery, please darlings, and think more along the lines of pickles. I drape mine with pickled okra, green beans, a touch of pickled garlic, a slice of parmesan cheese, and if I’m feeling really fancy, the thickest, fattiest slice of serrano ham I can find (vegetarians, avert thine eyes!). Pickled asparagus is another favorite, as well as pickles themselves. All manners of cheese have found their way into the drink, as well as your low country adaptation of boiled shrimp gracing the side. Olives? A Must. Bacon? I’ve seen it.  A fried oyster? Yup. A cracker boat with small hunks of cheese and parsley marooned, waiting to be engulfed by your taste buds? There.

The beauty of this drink is that you can substitute, whether the vodka for a whiskey which gives it an amazing smokey tone, a tequila which gives the lime an extra kick, or one of the many garnishes. For those who enjoy a more tepid, less sinus burning beverage, you can play with the amount of horseradish, garlic, and jalapeno sauce that goes into the drink, making it a beverage that’s less dragon breath and more minimal.

Either way, the Bloody Mary knows no bounds. It’s a drink that only requires you hop out on a limb and perhaps venture into the unknown for just an hour or so, blazing through your taste buds like a fiery swamp of flavor. It works as breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as that after dinner drink you have been thinking about at work since 3. So snap out the pickles and prepare for the unknown. Let the Bloody Mary become part of your repertoire, if only for one forbidden afternoon. I promise, you won’t regret it. Hell, you may even like it.

 

 

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10 thoughts on “The Best Damn Bloody Mary This Side Of Paradise”

  1. YUM. I’ve never made my own Bloody Mary mix from scratch (I mostly just use V8’s spicy tomato juice mix) but now I am inspired! The last time I made Bloody Marys I infused the vodka with cucumber and cilantro, which only takes a couple days. Also, tip for vegetarians like myself – the cheap store brand Worcestershire sauce is often veg.

  2. I love love love Bloody Marys.  I don’t like celery, pickled things or super spicy stuff, so my bloody mary is definitely my own version, put not that far off from yours.  An ideal Sunday involves sitting at the bar someplace that has a make your own bloody mary bar.

    1. 100 times yes to the pickled goodness. There used to be a lounge near my house that did its bloody marys and caesers with a glorious amount of pickles. Like two little swords stabbed into a celery stalk and loaded with olives, pearl onions, peppers, beans, and asparagus spears. Sometime even pickled carrots. It was heaven.

      A chain here also does a meat caeser. Bacon, canadian bacon, and pepperoni sticks.

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