Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Spicing it up: classic Bloody Mary

There are a couple of drink challenges going on this month: one for “Click,” and the other for my "Still Life With" food photography group on flickr. I’ve been thinking about drinks that would both provide a photography challenge and be fun to drink and have come up with two ideas. The first, posted here, is the classic Bloody Mary. Fellow blogger Lynne from Café Lynnylu beat me to the punch with a beautiful creole Bloody Mary. You can see hers here.

I love nothing more than a two-fisted Sunday brunch experience: a Bloody Mary in one hand and a cappuccino in the other. If I don’t wake up after that, there’s absolutely no hope. I love the bite of a good Bloody Mary and love the way it cuts through eggs or whatever other less than healthy feast you may be having on a lazy Sunday. There are countless ways to concoct a Bloody Mary according to your taste - be it smooth, thick, mild or spicy.

I did a search for Bloody Mary recipes and seemingly every chef and bar tender has a version. Most are variations on the classic ingredients: vodka, tomato juice, lemon or lime juice, Tabasco, horseradish, celery salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Others have put their own spin on it adding wasabi, basalmic vinegar, sherry, red wine, or beef bouillon (otherwise known as a “bloody bull” (as my cousin would have it)).

Garnish options abound. Celery and olives are classic. Other common garnishes include pickled beans or okra, radishes, cherry tomatoes or jalapeño peppers.

I, myself, like a virgin Bloody Mary (i.e. without alcohol: I have a hard enough time dealing with vodka after sundown), and I like it to be spicy and meaty, with tons of flecks of “stuff” floating around in it. Everyone has a different tolerance for heat. The best bet for preparing a pitcher for guests is to leave out the vodka and go light on the Tabasco, providing vodka, extra Tabasco, seasonings and toppings on the side so everyone can prepare and spice up her own.

If you want to veer off the classic track a little, there are my cousins to the Bloody Mary that result from replacing vodka with other alcohols or changing the mixer. For example, there’s a Bloody Maria that uses Tequila and a Ruddy Mary that uses gin in place of vodka. In terms of mixer changes, there’s a Bull Shot that replaces tomato juice entirely with beef bouillon or beef consommé, and a Bloody Caesar that replaces tomato juice with Clamato (a clam juice / tomato juice combination) that is apparently more popular in Canada than the traditional version.

All of this, of course, begs the question of why a Bloody Mary is so named. You can read up on this in detail (plus find a reference to an interesting-sounding book solely on the Bloody Mary if you are so inclined to dig further) in a Bon Appétit article Café Lynnylu found. The part of the story I take particular interest in, of course, is the part that ascribes the rise of the drink to old New York: the drink apparently first appeared at Harry's New York Bar in Paris and where it was invented by bartender Petiot. John Jacob Astor allegedly discovered the drink at Harry's and brought both the bartender and his drink to the Astor’s hotel, The St. Regis. The rest, as they say, is history. Why the name? Some ascribe it to the slaughter of protestants by of Queen Mary Tudor, “Bloody Mary,” the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII. Others say it comes from a British man who incessantly complained about his wife while sipping the tomato-juice based drink at Harry’s bar. There are countless other theories.

If you want to read more, Wikipedia has a nice summary of the history and varieties of Bloody Mary, and an entire website devoted solely to recipes. For more on the history and lore surrounding the Bloody Mary, see Bon Appétit here.

Bloody Mary (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

I like starting with the Barefoot Contessa’s tame version and spicing it up to my taste. Her version calls for minced celery stalks which adds a nice, thick texture to the mix. I then double most of the seasonings and add the juice of one lime, a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (not too course as that can be unpleasant) and my own secret juju: ¼ cup olive juice (yum!). I’m providing my own version below, but the original can be found here.

3 large stalks celery from the heart, including leaves, plus extra for serving
1 46 ounce can tomato juice (recommended: Sacramento)
5 teaspoons prepared horseradish
3 teaspoon grated yellow onion
1/4 cup olive juice
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
16 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco), or to taste
1 3/4 cups vodka

Cut the celery in large dice, including the leaves, and puree in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until finely minced. In a large pitcher, combine the rest of the ingredients except the vodka. With the food processor running, pour 1/4 of the tomato juice mixture into the food processor through the feed tube. Then pour the contents of the food processor into the pitcher with the remaining tomato juice mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add the vodka and chill. Serve in tall glasses over ice with a stick of celery, olives or other garnish of your choice.


Anonymous said...

I love this photo and your commentary and I don't even like tomato juice. The composition, light and coloring are spot on. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Skrockodile: That "bloody" looks like a summer garden - so beautiful and tempting. I too, favor a "virgin" - especially with a hamburger. I will try your Barefoot version tonite, while grilling burgers in the snow.

Lynne Daley said...

thanks for the link. Your bloody mary is so lovely with spot on lighting and composition.

Anonymous said...

If the Bloody Mary you describe is anything like the quality of the photo, the drink is clearly world class. When did my little girl grow up so fast to know so much.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful composition! I love a bloody mary and hope to taste this particular version soon - hint hint.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo and great drink. Thanks!

Mansi said...

Bloody maru never looked prettier:) nicely clicked, and thanks for the recipe:)

Katy said...

love it! yum. i always drink these before lunch on vacation -- this is making me want to go on vacation!!!

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