Behind the Bar: The Ultimate Bloody Mary Bar

A proper Bloody Mary is a thing of beauty. Tangy, cold tomato juice mixed with vodka, topped with pickled accoutrements and finished with a bright, green celery stick. And that’s just the beginning. We chatted with our resident cocktail expert, Rob Ortenzio, on how to set up the best DIY Bloody Mary bar at your next brunch gathering.

Rule #1: Start with a good foundation. Unlike a good martini, we want you to stir, not shake, your Bloody Mary. If you’re making your own base, use high quality tomato juice. If you are short on time, go ahead and enhance a bottled mix with fresh ingredients. Spice up the mix by adding BBQ sauce for tang, or chopped cilantro for a fresh kick. If you really want to kick it up, concoct your mix in advance, give it a good stir, and let the different flavors marinate overnight.

Rule #2: Get Creative. The variations are endless, ranging from classic cracked black pepper, horseradish and lemon wedges to upgraded pickled jalapenos, candied bacon strips, and Sriracha. Set up a generous DIY buffet for guests to design their own cocktails. Along with the staples, offer a Slim Jim swizzle stick to replace celery. Line up different hot sauces, ranging from mild to burn-your-mouth hot. Rim glasses with Old Bay seasoning or a mixture of smoked paprika and kosher salt. Plate up cheese cubes, cured meat, and pickled vegetables. Stock multiple vodka brands to let guests truly customize their cocktail.

Rule #3: Stack the skewer. Once your Bloody Mary bar is up and running, we recommend stuffing your glass to the brim with tasty trimmings. A Bloody Mary is basically a pre-brunch appetizer. The only thing more delicious than a mixture of tomato juice and vodka is an overflowing glass of bite-sized cheese cubes. Heck, toss a fresh oyster in for good measure. Or, if you are crazy like us, throw a piece of fried chicken on top.

Recipes (serving: one pitcher):

The Classic:

  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 3 tbs celery salt (for rim)
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs kosher salt
  • 2 tbs freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tsp freshly grated horseradish (or 3 teaspoon prepared horseradish)
  • vodka
  • 1 celery stick (for garnish)

Place celery salt in a shallow dish. Rub a lemon wedge around the rim of the glass. Dip rim in celery salt. Place lemon wedge on rim of glass and fill the glass with ice. Add all ingredients (except vodka) into pitcher and stir. Let sit overnight. When ready to serve, pour into an ice-filled glass. Add one ounce of vodka and top with celery stick.

Banzai Mary:

  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs wasabi
  • 1 tbs of prepared horseradish
  • 12 dashes of habanero vinegar
  • black pepper
  • vodka
  • spicy pickled green beans (for garnish)

Combine soy sauce and wasabi. Add soy/wasabi mixture to pitcher of tomato juice and incorporate remaining ingredients (except vodka). Stir well. When ready to serve, pour into an ice-filled glass. Add one ounce of vodka and top with spicy pickled green beans.

Southern Twist:

  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs olive juice
  • 2 tbs Tabasco
  • ½ bunch cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs of prepared horseradish
  • 2 tbs of molasses BBQ sauce (or A-1 sauce)
  • candied bacon (for garnish)
  • vodka

Mix all ingredients (except vodka) in a large pitcher. Let chill overnight. Fill each glass with ice,  add one ounce of vodka to each glass, then fill with the Bloody Mary mix. Top with candied bacon.