How to Make a Bloody Mary, even if you hate tomato juice

Is there a more iconic cocktail than the Bloody Mary? And it’s one of the easiest drinks in the world to customize to your liking.

You can even make a Bloody Mary if you hate tomato juice with some of my workarounds. That includes making a Bloody Mary with no tomato juice as well as improving the flavor and consistency of store-bought tomato juice.

This post will take you (quickly) through the basic recipe for a Bloody Mary, and then how to put the drink together. If you’re here for a Bloody Mary without tomato juice, you’ll still want to read those sections, since you’ll need the basic recipe and framework.

If you already have a Bloody Mary recipe, you can jump ahead to the tomato juice substitutions and hacks.

If you simply hate store-bought tomato juice but like tomatoes, check out my companion piece How to Make a Bloody Mary with Fresh Tomatoes.

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Bloody Mary Ingredients

Makes one drink (if served in pint glass)

  • 4 ounces of tomato juice or or other juices
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • shake of celery salt
  • shake of pepper
  • shake of paprika
  • 1.5 ounces of vodka (see below)

Optional – HEAT

  • pinch of ground horseradish – I HIGHLY recommend this but if you don’t like horseradish or spicy things, of course omit this. If you like spicy but not horseradish, sub in cayenne pepper or Tabasco. Or use some combination of the three. If you use my infused vodka recipe, you might need to adjust the heat factor.

What’s the best vodka for a Bloody Mary?

In my opinion, this is a drink that can handle a mid-range vodka and Tito’s is my go-to. Bottom line, don’t make your drink with a vodka that you don’t like but you don’t need the top shelf bottle. Save that for a Vesper Martini or another drink where smooth vodka is a must.

When I’m planning ahead, I make infused vodka for Bloody Mary mix.

Can you make a Bloody Mary without vodka?

Absolutely. To make a non-alcoholic Bloody Mary, just omit the vodka. You can add an ounce of water if the drink feels too thick. If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic drink that doesn’t lose any flavor by the omission, a Bloody Mary is a great choice.

How to Make a Bloody Mary

Follow these steps even if you’re modifying or substituting the tomato juice

FIRST – Season the rim of your glass as follows

Combine a teaspoon each of paprika, celery salt and cayenne pepper, then spread in a thin layer on a plate.

Use a slice of lemon or lemon juice to moisten the rim of your serving glass. A 20 ounce imperial  pint glass is the ideal glass for a Bloody Mary.

Turn the glass upside down and insert the moistened rim into the seasoning mix. Repeat as needed until the rim is coated.

Fill the glass with ice and stick the freezer to chill while you finish building the drink.

*as with the rest of this Bloody Mary recipe, tweak the rim seasoning or even skip it completely if you wish. It really adds to the flavor, though, so I’d encourage you to give it a try.

SECOND – Set up your Bloody Mary garnishes

Bloody Mary garnishes are one of the best parts of the drink and the place you can exercise complete creative control.

  • A celery stalk – the is THE Bloody Mary Garnish. Leave the leaf on, if possible, so it sticks out of the glass and adds some drama
  • A lemon wedge – either on the glass rim or floating in the drink

Skewer the following, in whatever order and quantity you like:

  • Green olives – Queen olives are ideal, but use whatever you like
  • Pepperoncini – they add a great hint of vinegar and spice
  • Salami or other thick cut cured meats – why not add some protein?

That list is as far as I typically go with my garnishing but don’t let that stop you. Put as much or as little in your drink as you’d like.

Need to set up your home bar? Here’s the Essential Tools You Need to Mix Drinks At Home

THIRD – The actual mixing 

Combine all of the ingredients in a large shaker.  The shaker needs to seal tightly because you are going to shake the holy heck out of this drink.

I recommend this shaker, it gets the job done flawlessly.

Fill with ice. Put the strainer and lid on. Shake as hard as you can. When the shaker turns frosty and is hard to hold, stop shaking.

Let the shaker stand for a minute so the contents settle.

Strain into the chilled pint glass.

Garnish as you wish.

Enjoy your drink.

Make a Bloody Mary Without Tomato Juice

Now we come to the real meat of this article. I love the idea of a spicy, savory drink and I love tomatoes, but I don’t care for commercially canned tomato juice. It turns out I’m not alone in this. Many people find canned tomato juice unappealing because of the texture or the canned taste. So if you like tomatoes but not canned tomato juice, one of these ideas might help.

Make Your Own Tomato Juice

There are three ways to make tomato juice for Bloody Marys, depending on the time of year and your inclination.

1 – Start with whole, canned tomatoes. Put them into a big, fine strainer and gently mash them. You can keep mashing them or just let them sit and slowly drain. If you go with option one, use a potato masher. For the slow drain method, it helps to put a heavy bowl or plate on top of the tomatoes.

  • use the leftover tomato pulp to make sauce or salsa
  • assume you’ll need at least one 28 ounce can for every two drinks

2 – Use fresh, whole tomatoes if they’re in season. Here’s my recipe for Bloody Mary mix with fresh tomatoes

If you have a food mill, you can use that to juice and strain the tomatoes.

3 – Puree canned or fresh tomatoes and then strain. This is a riff on the first two options. It’s faster but also messier and requires a blender.

You’re extracting the tomato flavor but straining out much of the fiber that makes tomato juice so thick. It takes a little more time, but it’s worth it if you hate tomato juice.

If you happen to have a sauce maker, it’s another option for extracting the tomato flavor and removing the pulp.

Adjust Commercial Tomato Juice

If you don’t want to make your own tomato juice, you can thin the juice to make the commercially canned stuff less pulpy.

This is a much faster option, so it’s great if you’re in a hurry. Water is the most neutral choice but you can also use light beer or even vegetable stock. Obviously those will change the flavor of your drink but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just mix the tomato juice and liquid until the texture and flavor are to your liking. You can do it in a pitcher or glass but using a blender will really cut the pulpiness.

The first three options are best if you don’t like the flavor of canned tomato juice. Option four is best for those who don’t mind the flavor but hate the texture.

How can I make a Bloody Mary without tomato juice?

While the previous ideas can do a LOT to improve the flavor and texture of tomato juice, they’re not a solution if you just can’t stand tomatoes. You best bet for making a Bloody Mary without tomato juice is to sub in another acidic vegetable juice or puree.

If they’re available, try green tomatoes. They taste very unlike their ripe counterparts (really!). But they do pack a lot of acid and umami flavor and that works well with the other elements of this drink. Juice green tomatoes using the same methods mentioned above.

No, I hate all tomatoes, even the green ones

That’s totally fair.

Tomato Juice Substitutions for a Bloody Mary

The next suggestion I have is to use a mixed vegetable juice that doesn’t include tomatoes. Aim for vegetables high in acid and low in sugar or sulfur. It’s best to use a blend of vegetables.

These juices are sweeter and include some other spices, like ginger. You can stick with the same proportions from the Bloody Mary recipe at the top of this post or adjust to suit your preferences. Personally, I like to use equal parts of the carrot and beet juices, with a few ounces of the ginger tumeric juice.

The spiciness of the habanero infused vodka will play nicely off the savory flavors of these. Though it’s NOT a Bloody Mary in the traditional sense, swapping juices will let you enjoy the same type of savory, spicy low-proof cocktail.

Make Your Own Vegetable Juice for Bloody Marys

I suggest a mix of sweet red peppers, carrots, celery and beets. Use vegetables that are very ripe and feel firm to the touch. That suggests they have plenty of juice and are at peak flavor.

If you don’t despise mushrooms, add four or five to the mix. They’ll add some of the umami flavor that tomatoes normally supply.

Peel the carrot and beets if you wish. Cut the vegetables into smaller chunks. If you have a juicer, use that to process the vegetables. If not, puree in a blender or food processor with one cup of water. Strain as much of the solids as you wish. Depending on the amount of juice you extract, you may need to add more water to puree or thin the strained pulp with water.

Adjust the proportion of each vegetable to suit your preferences. A good starting place is 2 peppers, 3 carrots, 4 celery stalks and a cup of sliced beets per eight ounces of juice.

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    How to Make Bloody Marys for a Crowd

    One of the many reasons the Bloody Mary is so popular for brunch is that it’s incredibly easy to make in batches. The only real limit is the size of your shaker. Just double or triple the above recipe and proceed as usual.

    If you’re hosting a larger group, however, you might want to let guests set up their own drinks. That way you’re not spending the whole time shaking drinks and your guests can add or subtract ingredients to their liking. In that case, consider one bottle of infused vodka and one that’s plain. Supply any and all garnishes you wish, along with skewers or picks. For a crowd, these bamboo skewers are the way to go.

    I’m of the opinion that there’s no wrong way to make a Bloody Mary. And you can even make a Bloody Mary if you hate tomato juice. If you don’t like this recipe as written, keep playing with it until you find the right combination. I’d love to hear from you – did you try the recipe? Did you change it up? What are your go-to tips for making a killer Bloody Mary?

    Bloody Mary ingredients on a silver tray