While the South can’t lay claim to the Bloody Mary (even cocktail experts can’t agree on where or when it was first made), it’s such a fixture at weekend brunches and afternoon tailgates that it might as well have originated here. Like many Southern recipes, the cocktail appears simple, but it’s deceptively complex. Tomato juice and vodka are essential—from there, spices and seasonings vary as much as the person making the drink. We tested all sorts of add-ins (some traditional, some not so much) to make a spicy, pungent base that’s just right when mixed with your favorite vodka and served over ice in a sturdy glass. As for garnishes, some bars and restaurants are all about the showmanship, from steamed oysters to boiled shrimp, but we prefer a simpler approach with celery, pickled vegetables, and—to gild the lily—a bacon salt rim. Maybe the Bloody Mary is more Southern than we thought.
Bloody Mary Bacon Salt - Makes 1 Cup
3 thick-cut bacon slices
1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon celery salt
Spicy Bloody Mary Mixer - Makes 7 Cups
1 (46-oz.) container plain vegetable juice (such as V8 Original)
1/3 cup drained roasted red peppers
1/2 cup roughly chopped scallion tops
1/4 cup drained cocktail onions
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1/4 cup fresh juice (from 1 large lemon)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Crystal)
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 lime wedge
1 lemon wedge
2 ounces vodka
7 ounces Spicy Bloody Mary Mixer
Bloody Mary Bacon Salt
Garnishes: pickled okra pod, celery stick, or olives and cocktail onions
How to Make It
Cook bacon slices until crisp. Drain on paper towels and blot dry; then crumble (making about 1/4 cup). Pulse crumbled bacon, kosher salt, Old Bay seasoning, ground coriander, and celery salt in a mini food processor until ingredients are uniformly ground, 6 to 8 times. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.
Process all Spicy Bloody Mary Mixer ingredients in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 4 days.
Rub a lime wedge on the rim of 16-oz. glass. Spread Bloody Mary Bacon Salt in a saucer; dip glass rim in salt. Fill glass with ice. Squeeze lime wedge and lemon wedge into glass, and add vodka. Top with Spicy Bloody Mary Mixer; stir to combine. Garnish with a pickled okra pod, celery stick, or bamboo pick threaded with olives and cocktail onions.
Bloody Maria: Replace the vodka with tequila; serve as directed.
Michelada: Top off light beer with Bloody Mary mixer; serve with a lime wedge.
Virgin Mary: Hold the vodka. Add more citrus juice to taste; serve as directed.
Bloody Caesar: Equal parts Bloody Mary mixer and bottled clam juice; serve as directed.