build your own bloody mary with the perfect mix, spirits, toppings, salt and more. istock

How to make bloody brilliant bloody marys

Our favorite brunch beverage has been around since long before the last time we needed it to nurse a hangover. Most people agree that Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot created the bloody mary just after World War I at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. He combined vodka with canned tomato juice, which had recently made its way to the continent from the U.S. – simple beginnings for what is now one of the most variable drinks on a cocktail menu. Here, we’ve collected all you need to create your own bloody mary adventure at home or out in St. Louis.

The bloody mary is a big blank canvas. You can go as easy as two ingredients with a premade mix and vodka, or create your own recipe up to an entree-sized garnish.

I prefer the old standby Zing Zang if I’m going the premade route. There’s a reason the bottle with the bright green label is found in so many reach-in coolers. For many, it’s become the bloody base that all others are judged by, but plenty of other good ones are available. Southside Alchemy Sweat & Tears is a new local option with a tart and briny profile.

Once you get started down the bloody mary rabbit hole, you’ll probably start subbing or adding ingredients. Try replacing Worcestershire with fish sauce, soy sauce or michelada mix. Every bloody mary needs at least a touch of heat. Having classic hot sauces like Tabasco, Crystal and Cholula on hand is a no-brainer, but expand your heat signature with other sauces like local favorite Hot Charlie’s or Ozark Forest Mushrooms red or green hot pepper sauces.

The bloody mary is to barkeeps what chili is to home cooks – everyone has their own recipe, and of course it’s the best. If you want to make your own, here’s a traditional recipe that makes a solid base for further experimentation.

Bloody Mary Base Recipe
1 serving

4 oz. tomato juice
2 oz. base spirit
2 to 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 to 4 dashes hot sauce
¼ oz. lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

• In an ice-filled shaker, combine all ingredients. Roll the drink by pouring it from one shaker to another until thoroughly mixed. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish at will.

Southside Alchemy available at Intoxicology,; Ozark Forest Mushrooms sauces available at Larder & Cupboard,; Hot Charlie’s available at Vincent’s 12th Street Market,

Mary Mods

Vodka is the traditional base spirit for bloodies, so it’s imperative to have a couple varieties on hand. For a straight-ahead version, local 1220 Artisan Spirit’s Encrypted Vodka, made from Missouri corn, is a smooth choice. Sobieski, a Polish vodka distilled from rye, imparts a bit more spice, or you can add some oomph with a savory flavored vodka like Spirits of St. Louis Distillery’s cucumber and jalapeno vodkas or Chilled Dills pickle vodka, which brings a new level of tang to the table. 

You’re not limited to vodka when mixing up a bloody mary though. Try some other spirited possibilities with mary mods based on gin, tequila and more.

Red Snapper
Pete Petiot allegedly created this gin version of the cocktail when he landed at the St. Regis Hotel in New York in the 1930s because vodka was harder to find in the States at the time. Try a traditional, juniper-forward London Dry style of gin, like Beefeater, Bombay Dry or Broker’s, to stand up to all of the other flavors in a Red Snapper.

Danish Mary
Using aquavit as your bloody base yields this tasty Scandinavian variation. Aquavit has spicy notes of caraway and fennel that complement tomato juice and other savory ingredients without overwhelming them. Pick up a bottle of Norway’s Linie aqauvit or North Shore Distillery aquavit from Chicago to give this version a go.

Bloody Maria
Agave spirits tequila and mezcal, with their wide variety of sweet and savory vegetal notes, are employed in a bloody maria. Often sangrita (a Mexican tequila chaser typically made with tomato, citrus and chili) is subbed out for tomato juice, giving the drink even more depth of flavor. Start with a solid blanco tequila like Espolon Blanco, and work your way from there.

The Salts

The salted rim has become a bloody mary staple. Make sure to use a coarse sea salt (not table salt) when trying this technique at home, and instead of dunking the whole rim of the glass, wipe a lemon or lime wedge around the edge, then roll just the outside of the rim in the salt so you don’t get excess salt in the drink. I like to add these spice mixes or use them solo for custom rims.

The Fallout
This spice mix from the folks who created Sriracha Granada has plenty of sweet and savory garlicky goodness. $6. Larder & Cupboard,

Mother In Law’s Gochugaru Korean Chile Flakes
Based on the spices in the popular Mother-In-Law’s Kimchi, this mix brings mild smoke and sweetness. $6.50. Whole Foods Market,

Red Hot Riplets Seasoning
This piquant blend is just as good in a bloody mary as it is on those famous chips. $5. Schnucks,

The Tops

It used to be that a celery stalk and lemon wedge could ably serve, but in recent years, over-the-top garnishes have become de rigeur. Everything from pigs’ feet to entire fried chickens have been balanced atop bloody marys. Personally, I like to spice things up with a scoop of kimchi at the bottom of my glass. Here are some more low-key pickle-and-meat stick garnish possibilities for stocking your home bloody bar.

1. Bubbie’s Kosher Dill Pickles $7. Whole Foods Market,

2. Goya Pickled Green Asparagus $3. Jay International Food Co., Facebook: Jay International Foods

3. Zerget Pickled Pepperoncini $3.50. Jay International Food Co., Facebook: Jay International Foods

4. Roland Caperberries $3.50. Global Foods Market,

1. Todd Geisert Farms Pork Snack Sticks $5.50. Local Harvest Grocery,

2. Slim Jim $1.50. QuikTrip,

3.Volpi Salame Stix $1. Volpi Foods,

4. Three Spring Farms BBQ Flavor Snack Stick $1.50. Local Harvest Grocery,

Matt Sorrell is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine.