If there is anything more indulgent than a really good Bloody Mary, I don’t know what it is. Our introduction to drinking is often via the Mr. & Mrs. T Freeway -- and what’s not to love? Bloody Marys combine our favorite activities: drinking and pretending to be healthy. And what is the difference between a nutritious Mary full of vegetables and an apple kale wheatgrass smoothie? OK, seriously like 5000mg of sodium and vodka -- but whatevs, it's Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little V-8, but I’m just going to put it out there:
YOU CAN DO BETTER.
Really, you can. I’ll help.
Step 1: The Mix
Bump up your Bloody Mary mix by making your own. Start with fresh tomato juice, and then add freshly grated horseradish, lemon juice, salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Where you go from there is up to you! I love these three variations:
“Can You Pickle It?”
YES. I am bonkers for McClure’s pickley Mary Mix, but if he can do it I figured I could, too. Grab a jar of pickles, dump in some of the brine, and finely chop some of the pickles, dill and garlic in the jar as well. In it goes. You don’t have to stop there, you can add other pickles as well, or bump up the garlic.
Spice It Up
There are 100 ways to get the spice level up. Add diced jalapenos or sriracha sauce. Add a few layers of spiciness by doing small amounts of different spices: a bit of jalapeno on top of cayenne powder on top of sweet pepper sauce. Or go a completely different way and add skip the hot but keep the spicy: cumin and mustard powder (1 tsp to 16oz of juice) will give your mix this old world and interesting feel.
Take This Clam And--
Ok, I’ll admit it. I fucking LOVE Clamato juice. I realize most people think it's disgusting, but a segment out there must agree with me or they’d be out of business. That said, it's full of preservatives, so you can make your own. Buy clam juice (it's a real thing) in the market, and add 6 oz of clam juice and 3 oz of beef broth to 16oz of tomato juice.
Step 2: The Booze
A few years ago, my good friend Misha took me to the Russian Vodka Room and changed my life. In a scene just out of a movie, he ordered in Russian and blinis, caviar and vodka shots appeared in front of us. We sipped the horseradish vodka, and I swooned. Swooned, I tell you! Flavored vodka is super duper easy and will wow your guests. Also, making it will save some money because flavored vodka is more expensive than it should be. Start with cheap potato vodka. Literally, the cheapest you can find. No reason to use better. Buy a lot of it.
Peel and slice fresh horseradish and place in a glass bottle -- I like 2 tbsp or so. Pour in vodka to the top and set on shelf. In about 48 hours, you’ll get the taste of the horseradish, but leave it a month and the vodka mellows out entirely, and you get these delightful glittery bits in the vodka.
Tart As Anything
Remember these preserved lemons? Here’s another way to use them. Pop a few, with the lemon juice itself into a bottle, add 1 tbsp of peppercorns. Cover with vodka and let it sit for a month.
Step 3: The Fauna
5000+ bonus points for making your own pickles. What goes over big here? Pickled asparagus and beans, and you can make them happen in a short amount of time. But if you can’t, there is no shame in the supporting of your local pickler at a farmers market or, in darker times, Stop & Shop.
Trim your asparagus so the woodiest parts are gone. If using beans (and you can use both) trim off both ends and try to get them to a nice uniform length. In a VERY clean jar, stuff the asparagus and/or beans (a good way to do this is to hold the jar horizontally as you fill it, so you can get as much in as possible.
On top, stuff some fresh dill and garlic cloves. Literally stuff the sucker as much as possible. In a saucepan heat white wine vinegar, some peppercorns, and about 1 tsp of salt to 2 cups of vinegar. Once it's boiling, pour it into the jars and make sure you absolutely cover the vegetables. Put a clean lid on it, allow to cool on counter and then throw into the fridge. Wait 2 weeks.
A trio of olives would be a great compliment, displayed in three bowls. Most markets these days have olive bars, so think beyond the pimento. Almond stuffed, garlic stuffed and anchovy stuffed green olives are an amazing compliment. Make sure to leave out adorable toothpick implementers.
When you care to send the very best, you give your guests bacon wrapped shrimp. Wait, what? That’s right, I said it. Bacon. Shrimp. IN CONCERT. Because if someone is going to grab a piece of bacon, they’re the same people grabbing shrimp.
Buy nice thinly sliced bacon and raw shrimp, medium or larger, and devein it (I’m a big fan of buying the bags of frozen, deveined shrimp because it eliminates the pain in the ass of doing it yourself). Cut bacon slices in half the long way. Wrap bacon around shrimp and place under broiler or grill until you have some nice grill marks. Shrimp takes no time to cook, so you’re worried about the bacon, make sure it's cooked through.
BRING IT ALL TOGETHER PEOPLE
Leave out a plate of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper with some lime wedges so people can salt their own rims, or do it before they get there. Give them generous glasses. I am a fan of jelly jars. Make everything accessible and make sure the Bloody mix is cold.
Really, the biggest secret? Consume at least one Bloody Mary on your own before guests arrive and nothing else will matter much.