Bloody Mary

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In Massachusetts, it’s against the law to order alcohol on Sundays before noon. That was good news for 8-year-old me when my family went out to breakfast since it meant my mom would have to order a virgin Bloody Mary. Sometimes we would be late enough that she could wait until halfway through breakfast for her drink to arrive, but more often than not she would opt for the spicy tomato drink sans alcohol. Then I could pull the straw in my direction.

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For years I would steal a few sips of whatever Bloody Mary she ordered. Then at some point I started ordering my own – still without the boozy kick, I was only about 15. Part of it was for the spectacle of a glass filled with vegetables and maybe a shrimp if I was lucky. But mostly I just loved the drink. At home I would sometimes throw some hot sauce and Worcestershire into tomato juice for my own homemade version.

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I won’t say ordering the real stuff was a letdown – I mean, it’s a Bloody Mary, how bad can it be? – but, well, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Between the vodka and ice it was kind of watery, less thick and rich than the drink I fell in love with. I suppose I could have gone back to the non-alcoholic kind but that just felt too weird, like admitting defeat. Besides, I didn’t want an alcohol-free version; I just wanted a half shot rather than a full one, not so much ice, and better quality vodka.

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Look, I’m not totally crazy. I don’t (often) make other people deal with my high-maintenance requests. To avoid that, I just make my own Bloody Marys. And since it’s just as easy to make them for a group as it is for yourself, they’re the perfect accompaniment to brunch. Garnish them if you want, but these are good enough that no one will complain if you serve them sans celery stick. That much I know from experience.

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Last year we ate: Honey Salted Caramels

Bloody Mary

The problem I have with making cocktails at home is that it generally involves buying a lot of specialty alcohols. The beauty of a Bloody Mary is that most of the ingredients are pantry staples. Everything in the mix, except the tomato juice and vodka, are things I cook with often. And having tomato juice and vodka around isn’t a hardship.

Makes enough for 6-8 people (recipe for one is below)

1 quart tomato juice
2 tbs soy sauce
2 1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce*
3-4 tbs ground horseradish (I prefer to add more)
5-6 dashes hot sauce
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp celery salt**
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Lemon slices, celery sticks, olives, or dilly beans, to garnish (optional)
Vodka (see note in the recipe)

In a large pitcher combine the juice, soy sauce, Worcestershire, horseradish, hot sauce, lemon, celery salt, and pepper and stir to combine. For more spice, add horseradish; more heat require hot sauce; if it tastes too sweet add a little extra lemon and some Worcestershire and if it’s a little one-note up the celery salt. These are my favorite proportions but if you like something different, make your own. The only requirement is to serve these cold.

If I’m making for a group I generally leave the vodka out and let everyone choose their own amount. If you add it yourself, include a shot for each drinker.

If I’m making just one for myself: 1 cup tomato juice, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp Worcestershire, 1-2 tsp horseradish, squeeze of lemon (one wedge, about 1/8 of the lemon), 1/4 tsp celery salt, 2 dashes hot sauce, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper. Mix that together with a half shot of vodka and serve cold.

To up the ante, you can rim the glasses in celery salt. Make a mix that’s half kosher salt and half the celery salt mix (yes, that’s a lot of extra salt. Put about 3 tablespoons of the mix on a plate with a flat bottom and put some water into a high-sided flat bottom container – I often use a small tupperware big enough for the glasses I’m making. Add enough water so that it’s 1/4 inch deep. Dip the rim of the glasses in water and then, without turning it over, dip it in the salt. Then flip the glass back right-side up and pour in the Bloody Mary.

* The quintessential Worcestershire sauce – Lea and Perrins – is made with anchovies. But it’s easy to find a vegetarian version so everyone can enjoy it.

** You can make your own by combining equal parts ground celery seed with kosher salt. Incidentally this mix is amazing in tuna salad as well.

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