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

Is there a more iconic cocktail than the Bloody Mary? I’m not sure there is – love or hate this drink, everyone’s heard of it. Before I get into how to make a Bloody Mary, I want to say that this is one of the easiest drinks in the world to customize to your liking. About the only essential components are vodka and tomato juice. And as the title suggests, you can learn how to make a Bloody Mary if you hate tomato juice with some of my workarounds.

The other ingredients  can be omitted or swapped to suit preference. It’s very easy to add elements to this drink but start with the basic Bloody Mary recipe and go from there.

This is part of my Third Friday Cocktails series. Find cocktail recipes, drink mixing techniques and lore right here on the 3rd Friday of the month.
Bloody Mary ingredients on a silver tray

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Bloody Mary Ingredients

Makes one drink (if served in pint glass)

  • 4 ounces of tomato juice – if you don’t like canned tomato juice, see further down
  • 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 the infused vodka below, 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.

This recipe is great without the vodka, by the way, if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic Bloody Mary

When I’m planning ahead, I buy a bottle of vodka and infuse it as follows:

Infused Vodka for Bloody Mary

  • Bottle of Tito’s or other vodka
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 1-2 habanero peppers
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1″ chunk of fresh horseradish

Combine all ingredients in the vodka bottle, put the lid on and shake gently. Check the flavor after 24 hours. At this point, I usually take out the habanero but leave it in longer if you want a stronger flavor. I generally leave the peppercorns, horseradish and bay leaf in the vodka until I’m ready to use it for the first time.

Like everything else, tweak to your liking.

How to Make a Bloody Mary

FIRST – Season the rim of your glass as follows

Combine a teaspoon each of paprika, celery salt and cayenne pepper, the 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 to your liking.

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 to your liking 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.

Strain into the chilled pint glass.

Garnish as you wish.

Enjoy your drink. And keep reading to see how to make a Bloody Mary even if you hate tomato juice.

Bloody Mary Garnishes

How to Make a Bloody Mary if you Don’t Like Tomato Juice

Now we come to the real meat of this article. This was me. I loved the idea of a spicy, savory drink and I love tomatoes, but I don’t care for tomato juice. It turns out I’m not alone in this. Many people find tomato juice unappealing because of the texture or the canned taste.

Disclaimer – if you hate tomatoes full-stop, none of these ideas will help and a Bloody Mary probably isn’t for you. But if it’s just canned tomato juice you don’t like, one of these ideas might help.

Make Your Own Tomato Juice

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. Cut them into halves, and mash and strain as above. Fresh tomatoes are usually juicier, so this option typically yields more liquid. This is also delicious with green tomatoes. If you want to speed this up, freeze the tomatoes first, they’ll release their juice much faster once they thaw.

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. Even if you do like commercial tomato juice, straining whole tomatoes makes for a fresher flavor, which can be a nice upgrade.

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

Adjust Commercial Tomato Juice

4 – Thin canned tomato juice. This is much faster, so it’s great if you’re in a hurry. Water is the most neutral choice but you can also use light beer or 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 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?

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