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The biggest and best guide to bloody marys

You may drink every weekend at brunch, but how much do you actually know about the classic bloody mary? With the rise in popularity, we've noticed some out-there renditions, which led us to question 'when is a bloody mary not a bloody mary?' Thankfully, Dave Beatty, UK ambassador for Ketel One Vodka, is on-hand with his comprehensive guide.

The bloody mary is a brunch classic – a good hit of vitamin c, kick of chilli to wake you up, and a touch of vodka to take the edge off the hangover. Taking our lead from America, brunch has become huge: being able to spend a relaxed couple of hours with friends over good food and a few cheeky cocktails feels like a real luxury without the price tag of dinner. With the expanse of restaurants now offering brunch, we have also seen a new wave of popularity for the bloody mary with venues offering everything from a simple classic to fantastic, Korean-inspired gochujang spiced ones at Bad Egg.

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Some interpretations, though, are really pushing the boundaries. So much so that some beg the question: when is a bloody mary not a bloody mary? We turned to Dave Beatty, UK ambassador for Dutch vodka Ketel One, who is on a mission to prove that there is a version out there to suit everyone, to get some answers.


Who invented the bloody mary and when?

There’s a lot of debate about when the cocktail first emerged and who should get the credit for its invention. Here are a few of the most popular theories:

– Fernand Petiot claimed to invent it in 1921 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. But we didn’t see any reference to a Bloody Mary cocktail recipe in print until a few years later.

– The St Regis Hotel claim it was perfected in 1934 in the King Cole Room, NY.

– George Jessel claimed to invent it in 1939 at La Maze, after Mary Warburton, containing half tomato juice & half vodka.

– By 1941 the Red Snapper recipe was published containing the more familiar ingredients of Worcesteshire sauce, salt, cayenne pepper & lemon juice.


Is there a fixed definition of a bloody mary?

Yes and no. While a Bloody Mary is widely regarded as a cocktail whose ingredients consist of vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice & spices, the spices can come in many forms and varieties, and are often to the personal taste of the maker or drinker – not everyone agrees on the best recipe for a Bloody Mary. We like to think of a Bloody Mary as a savoury cocktail with necessary spice & seasoning, and led by flavour.


We’re seeing it being reinvented with different veg juices and crazy garnishes – why do you think there has been such a resurgence in popularity?

There is so much room for creativity and flavour! With a diverse and readily available supply of interesting produce, spices and ingredients, there is a bloody mary for everyone now (even if you don’t like tomato juice). Plus, today’s bartenders are more daring and creative than ever, so we’re seeing all sorts of wonderful cocktail combinations.


What is it that makes it a bloody mary? Is it the combination of tomato juice and vodka specifically, or a more loose concept of veg juice and spirit?

Classically it is the vodka, tomato juice and spices that all combine to make it. Without one of those components, the drink loses its unique characteristics. However, these specific elements have all been altered in some form in the past while still maintaining the bloody mary DNA. The first ingredient to be switched about was the base spirit where usually gin or tequila would be substituted for the vodka. Soon the spices saw experimentation with exotic South American or Pan Asian ingredients entering the mix. The savoury Worcestershire sauce also began to become expendable with soy sauce and other such products coming into the fray, and now we have many different forms of vegetable juice being used such as beetroot, carrot or cucumber. Whatever you decide to use, fresh ingredients and balanced seasoning are what makes it great.


Can you use any veg/fruit juice?

Yes – as long as they combine to make a balanced drink! In cocktails we are always balancing flavours; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, etc. But it is also very important to be conscious of the water-content & acidity of the fruits & veggies we are using, too, as one of the Bloody Mary’s most susceptible vulnerabilities is over-dilution!


What are the golden rules for making a great bloody mary?

Always begin with the best base. Ketel One Vodka is made using traditional copper-pot stills, which imparts an oily, rich & viscous texture, perfect for a savoury cocktail like the Bloody Mary. 50% of the drink should be your tomato/veggie juice. A light juice with high water content like cucumber or celery will work well with citrus like orange due to its low acidity. While a heavier vegetable juice like beetroot will work well with lemon or lime citrus as it can stand up to the higher acidity. Seasoning is key, especially when using fresh-pressed juices! Himalayan salt works a treat with freshly-ground black pepper.


What about different spirits?

Try using floats to add a layer of complexity. In the summer, drizzle some manzanilla sherry over the top of the finished cocktail, or tawny port in winter.


What is the most out-there/unusual version you’ve come across?

Garnishing is what can really take this cocktail into the territory of ‘unusual’. When your Bloody Mary comes with a whole fried-chicken skewered on the top you are probably getting out-there. I’ve also seen a Bloody Mary blended with pepperoni pizza… Search on google or Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean. 


When is a bloody mary not a bloody mary?

When it lacks savoury characteristics & spice.


Where is the best place to get a bloody mary in London?

The Connaught in Mayfair for a mix of the traditional and the modern, The Folly on Gracechurch St offers all the fresh fruit & veggie combinations you can imagine, and 69 Colebrooke Row for something you will probably never have tried but absolutely should. Finally, China Tang at The Dorchester – they’re doing something really special with a seaweed bloody mary.


Three bloody marys to try:

Light and fresh

Ketel One vodka 50ml

freshly-squeezed orange juice 30ml

juice of ¼ quarter head of lettuce, ¼ of a cucumber & 2 stalks of celery to make 80ml

chilli ½, finely chopped

ginger tumb-sized piece, grated

Put everything into a tall glass, stir vigorously and then fill with ice before garnishing.

***

Bold & Savoury

Ketel One vodka 50ml

lemon juice 10ml

beetroot 1, juiced

tomatoes 2, juiced (to make 80ml when combined with the beetroot juice)

ground cinnamon a pinch

nutmeg a few gratings

cloves a small handful

Put everything into a tall glass, stir vigorously and then fill with ice before garnishing.

***

Sweet & Upbeat

Ketel One vodka 50ml

lime juice 15ml

Juice of ½ a granny-smith apple, ½ a pear and a decent-size carrot to make 80ml

pink peppercorns and fennel seeds a few of each, crushed in a pestle and mortar

horseradish sauce 1 tsp

Put everything into a tall glass, stir vigorously and then fill with ice before garnishing.


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