A Bloody Mary seems like such a safe drink for vegans. It’s basically just tomato juice and potato juice (vodka), right?
Wrong. Your Bloody Mary (or Virgin Mary) could have clam juice, anchovies, beef broth, or eggs!
Let me walk you through a basic “template” for creating a Bloody (or Virgin) Mary. I say “template” because Marys are highly individual.
Some people love them very salty, spicy, and hot.
Some people prefer to walk on the mild side.
You Will Need:
- Tomato Juice
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Hot Sauce (such as Tabasco)
- Celery Salt or Celery Seed
- Fresh Lemon
- Optional Garnish, such as Celery Stick
- Vodka (if you are making a Bloody Mary and not a Virgin Mary)
Let’s Talk Tomato Juice
Believe it or not, a lot of Bloody Marys are made with clam juice. Sometimes, it’s very obvious on the tomato juice bottle – “CLAMATO.” Other times, you have to read the label closely to make sure you’re getting a pure vegetable juice.
You also have to watch out for – of all things – beef broth. Technically, a Bloody Mary made with beef broth should be called a Bloody Bull, but you know people don’t always follow the rules. Bloody Marys are also “signature” drinks at some bars, with all kinds of twists and unexpected additions, so it never hurts to ask about the ingredients.
I also found beef bullion in a Bloody Mary mixer, once.
My personal preference is for a mixed veggie juice such as V-8. I think it gives the flavor a little more “oomph.”
I also look for low sodium varieties as I will be adding a lot of sodium to the drink.
Final note on the tomato juice base – chill it well. I don’t like adding ice to tomato juice – makes it watery and dilutes the taste. You can always slip in a cube or two of ice at the end of your mixing … OR pour it over ice at the last minute. Seriously, the colder you can get your tomato juice without ice, the better.
Let’s Talk Worcestershire
Worcestershire sauce is one of the key ingredients to a Bloody Mary. Be aware that many name brand Worcestershire sauces have anchovies. There are some vegan versions available – like Annie’s – and, oddly, many store brands.
Don’t be stingy with the Worcestershire. A couple of shakes won’t do it. You need at least a teaspoon for a tall glass.
If you use a mixer, check the label for anchovies.
Let’s Talk Hot Sauce
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. I like using a shake or two of Tabasco – any one of the many versions. My great Aunt Martha used to say, “there is very little a dash of Tabasco won’t improve,” and she was right!
Some like it hot – obviously, this is highly subjective!
Ryan Chetiyawardan, from the Mixology class on Masterclass, offers the thoughtful suggestion – if you’re making Bloody Marys for a group, set out some extra hot sauce on the table so everyone can adjust the hotness to their liking.
Let’s Talk Horseradish
This is another ingredient you need to be careful with. You can grate your own (although, I don’t think I’ve ever come across fresh horseradish in my local market) or you can use prepared horseradish. This is usually ground horseradish in vinegar or sometimes vinegar and oil. (The oil will actually give the drink a little more “body.”) But you need to be sure the horseradish isn’t horseradish sauce or horseradish-flavored mayo. Again, read the ingredients!
I would suggest adding just a tiny bit to your drink at a time to see what you like. Err on the side of less in the beginning. Too much and you will be drinking liquid shrimp cocktail sauce. Tip: It’s better to go with an extra-hot horseradish and use just a little, than go with a mild horseradish and use a lot.
Let’s Talk Celery Salt
Have you made friends with celery salt yet? You should. It tastes more like celery than celery, and is a quick way to add flavor to potato and pasta salads, as well as your Bloody Mary. Just add a tiny sprinkle to your drink.
Some people prefer to grind celery seeds – which is another great option, especially if you are watching your sodium.
Rim the glass with salt or celery salt? Your decision, but I think it’s overkill. This drink is pretty salty on its own. We are talking Marys here, not Margaritas, where the sweet and sour flavor plays nicely with that occasional hit of salt.
Let’s Talk Lemon
Lemon – the secret ingredient to a perfect Mary! A squeeze of fresh lemon somehow lightens and brightens the drink while bringing all the flavors together. Do not skip this step.
Let’s Talk Potato Juice (a.k.a. Vodka)
If you are making a Bloody Mary instead of a Virgin Mary, heed this advice regarding vodka: Less is more. Too much vodka can overwhelm the complex taste you’ve worked so hard to build, as well as cause your tomato juice to thin and “separate.” One shot is enough – you don’t want to get too “jiggy” with it!
Let’s Talk Garnishes And Glasses
I prefer to use a TALL glass for Marys – partially because that celery stick swizzler is so important!
People tend to get all out creative with Bloody Mary garnishes. They may not be creative in any other area in their life, but they’ll garnish with pickles, olives, asparagus spears, and (if they’re not vegan) even shrimp, cheese, and hamburgers!
I say, you do you, but I don’t see any point in guilding the Mary. I’ve never tried dill pickles, but I can (sorta) see that. Sweet pickles – nope. Forget olives – they are for martinis. As for regular food – save it for your plate! You can never go wrong with the classics – a (preferably leafy) celery stick or a wedge of lemon.
If You Are Dry
Are you doing Dry January or Dryer Lent or Sober October or maybe just dry forever? A Virgin Mary is one of my favorite mocktails. Especially in the winter. Take a thermos of this stuff with you on a walk on a crisp cold day and all the heat and spiciness will warm up your body and clear any sinus congestion or stuffiness you may have. It’s super invigorating.
This is an excellent drink if you are moderating. It’s hot and spicy, virtually impossible to “chug.” I also find this very filling – almost like a sippable soup.
Mary’s Dirty Little Secret
Mary’s dirty little secret is that she is a tried and tested hangover cure. You’re getting a big dose of fluid, electrolytes (sodium), Vitamin C, and a bit of the hair of the dog that bit you. Plus, since alcohol is full of histamines, all that hot pepper sauce and horseradish in your Mary will open up your airways and make you feel better, fast. (Ever notice how after a night on the town, you wake up puffy and congested with red eyes? It’s not that demon alcohol, it’s those demon histamines in that alcohol!) Even if you go with the virgin version the morning after a night of excess, you’re still getting most of these benefits.