A morning cocktail classic: Bloody Mary. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Today’s cocktail post was inspired by a question on Twitter asking for a good Bloody Mary recipe, and it is indeed a good topic because they are often so mediocre. And it’s not the vodka’s fault this time. It’s rather that the Bloody Mary is carelessly prepared, a fault I am guilty of, especially on a crapulous Sunday morning. So herewith a more thoughtful and refined Bloody Mary worthy of being called a cocktail.

The key is fresh tomato juice. V-8 vegetable juice or canned tomato juice is heavy and thick and obscures the other ingredients (which is why many prefer Clamato juice, for a “Bloody Caesar,” a choice I encourage). Now that we have an abundance of huge overripe tomatoes, it’s the perfect time to make your own juice. You want the fiber, but not the seeds (you could of course make this using clear tomato “consommé,” in which case I recommend serving it up in a martini glass). Pass tomatoes through some sort of food mill, or pulse in a food processor and pass through a basket strainer to catch the seeds.

I prefer OYO vodka, which is made a couple hours south of here with Ohio red winter wheat and which actually tastes like something rather than pure alcohol (I repeat Paulius’s memorable phrase: “We are a nation lobotomized by vodka.”). A proper ratio for a good Bloody Mary is 2 parts tomato juice, 1 part vodka.

High umami ingredients elevate the drink (I love the suggestion of adding veal stock, a topping idea). Here, my favorite is fish sauce, an all-purpose flavor enhancer throughout all my cooking when used judiciously. I was sent some of this premium Red Boat fish sauce, which is perfect for this cocktail (very high end; watch the videos in the link, don’t brush your teeth with it).

I also like a dash of Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomato and lime. It is the perfect brunch cocktail, savory, refreshing, rejuvenating. If you put some celery in it, you can serve it as a breakfast salad. Best with grits and eggs. If you are a Browns fan, substitute vodka for the tomato juice and triple the quantities.

This is highly inappropriate for tonight’s Friday evening cocktail; my suggestion for this evening is The Berkshire Martinez.

Ruhlman’s Bloody Mary

  • 100 grams fresh tomato juice, with pulp, not seeds
  • 50 grams vodka
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon good fish sauce
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sugar
  • several dashes of Tabasco, to taste
  • ice
  • celery (if you want to say you’ve ordered a salad)
  1. Combine all ingredients except ice and stir.
  2. Add ice, stir, add celery if it’s your salad course.

Serves one, multiplied as needed per person by weight and made ahead without the ice, but can be sextupled if you happen to be wrecked after an uncommonly festive Saturday evening, and have plenty of eggs, cheese, and bacon in the fridge and grits on stove.

Other links you may like:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


29 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Bloody Mary”

  • Carri

    I like to add a little dijon mustard and dill weed to the mix…and if I am really going for it, celery salt around the rim of the glass. Almost makes me want to drink too much on Saturday night!

  • Will

    I know it’s a Maryland thing, but I’m a little disappointed there’s no mention of rimming the glass with Old Bay. And a bit of horseradish perks things up quite nicely, too.

    • Mantonat

      My Ukrainian-Canadian parents always drank beer with Clamato. For cocktails, they made a “bloody Marushka,” which is basically the Caesar with a crushed clove of garlic thrown in.

  • Craigkite

    I was glad to see the mention of the Bloody Caesar. My first attempt at Gazpacho resulted in some of the tastiest and CHUNKIEST Bloody Marys. Yes, Mom, I am getting enough veggies.

  • Allen

    Glad you clarified that this is not tonight’s cocktail, this is definitely a morning drink that puts a halt to all planned activities and guarantees a day of lazy rest and relaxation.
    Was Louie, my late father in laws favorite cocktail, and we always raise a glass to him on that lazy day.
    The best one I ever had was at Simon And Seaforts in Anchorage Alaska. I asked for the recipe and the gladly gave it up. It used beef consommé, dill, pepper and fresh horseradish. I like to add Michael Chiarellos basil jalapeño ice cube, so the drink gets hotter as you sip it. You blend whole jalepenos, lemon wedges , basil and water, strain and freeze into cubes.

    My Friday cocktail will have to be the perfect martini since I just made a large batch of lye cured olives. It will involve a flamed twist as well.

    Cheers, happy Friday all. And have a great relaxing Sunday with a nice Bloody Mary.

    Cheers Louie!

    • Allen

      Louie’s Bloody Mary:
      15 parts vodka, 1 part homemade canned tomatoe juice, dash of Tabasco, dash of worsteshire 1 homeade canned pickled green bean.
      Just enough tomatoe juice to scare the vodka. “BOO”!
      Canned items are a precious commodity, vodka is not.

  • Michael Shea

    I recommend trying the “Red Snapper”, a Bloody Mary make with gin instead of vodka. The gin botanicals and the savory Bloody Mary go especially well together.

  • Bricktop Polford

    I love the Clamato version with a hot spicy pickle spear. It’s almost impossible for me to get a good one out, because they always seem to be out of balance to my taste. Home made, I can tweak to my heart’s desire.

  • KristineB

    Apparently I’ve been on a Bloody Caesar kick and didn’t even know it. Vodka, Clamato, horseradish and a little celery salt.

  • Matt Krantz

    I highly second the “Red Snapper” version. We once spent an entire summer having nightly bloody mary competitions. The top 3 all were made with gin.

  • Kelly M

    Here in the Northwest, they’re regularly served with a pickled asparagus spear. But being a Browns fan (gasp — not a Seahawk?), I love your suggestion!

  • Allen

    I’m sure glad your not wasting the Blis fish sauce on this drink. Save that stuff for the manhattan!

  • Daniel

    Michael, how about doing a post on FISH SAUCE. I use it in soup, stews, chili, sauces, dressings, and texas caviar. It adds a dimension to many dishes that nothing else seems to be able to touch.

  • Allen

    1 big martini, not 2 or 3, just 1 good 1. Good 2 go.
    But then a nice big shot of limonfukencello 4 dessret = uh oh!
    If I could moon walk like m. Jackson 2 Clevland & share a shot of this fantastic summer in a glass, you would moon walk to Romney’s mansion & tell him to clean the racin stripe out of his magic underwear!

  • Julie

    Bloody Mary extra spicy. Time for one now. And congratulations on Terry Francona joining the Indians. We miss him in New England!

  • Tags

    I’m still tickled by your comment when you introduced OYO Vodka on April 4th. “We’ve made vodka the most popular spirit in America in the same way we’ve made Wonder our bread choice, and Oscar Meyer the quintessential mortadella.”

  • Ruthy

    LOL loved that special instructions for Browns fans. That’s me while watching the Lions through my fingers the last six or seven years. A bloody on a Sunday while watching the game can’t be beat, but never thought of adding fish sauce to the recipe- thanks for the tip!

  • luanda

    No hot sauce?? Or couple of dashes of ground hot peppers?? I do love the idea of fish sauce. For the tomato part, I like using 2 parts Clamato to 1 part V-8 (for texture). I can’t stand tomato juice. A couple of shakes of Mrs. Dash – adds more veg to the mix. HA! I still have 4 plastic Clamato glasses with the Bloody Caesar recipe printed on them. Lord only knows how old they are.

  • Natalie Luffer Sztern

    My doctor only allows me Virgin Mary’s – he’s got this thing about Virgins, I guess. (This is a drink I always have on vacation…for those not allowed too much alcohol and stronger seasoned Virgin Mary is quite delicious on a cold day.)

  • Ken

    Is there a drink more flexible than a Bloody Mary? There are many variations and so many of them are delicious. I salute my neighbors to the North and thank Canadians for the Bloody Caesar, a drink of which I knew nothing until a trip to Toronto a few years ago. Even in its simplest form it’s a great cocktail, and adapts to most any and all additions that you care to try.

  • Mark L.

    I like a little sriracha in mine in addition to the Tabasco, would go nicely with the fish sauce.

  • Chris

    I’ve used a sun gold tomatoes and call it a Sunrise Mary, because it’s not red. The downside is the Worcestershire dilutes the bright colors somewhat, so I may need Wylie Dufresne to clarify some for me in the future…

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