Bloody Mary Improvisation

I posted over on Serious Eats about my favorite Bloody Mary garnish, the bacon swizzle stick. So my intention was to share my Bloody Mary recipe here … until I realized I don’t have one. Now, this isn’t because I don’t make Bloody Marys. But every time I’ve tried to document my recipe, I end up tasting and tweaking. I have at least 13 half-written recipes that I stopped documenting. I think as much as I love the taste of a good Bloody Mary, I also love the process of improvising one.

I link to some good recipes in the bacon post, but here’s what I usually do:

  1. Make spicy tomato juice by blending fresh or canned tomatoes with a chile pepper. (You’ll need about 4 ounces per drink.)
  2. Add soy sauce (or Worcestershire sauce) to taste. Possibly also some garlic? Maybe a dash of Tabasco or Sriracha?  Often some celery salt, but usually some pepper? Oh, and of course a big old dollop of horseradish.
  3. Now some lemon juice. Maybe a little more.
  4. Vodka time! One shot (1 1/2 ounces) of whatever I have, which is often a mini-bar-sized sample bottle I got for review purposes.
  5. Roll the drink with ice (this is pouring the liquid and ice back and forth between two halves of a Boston shaker or two pint glasses).
  6. Serve on the rocks in a tall glass and garnish the hell out of it.

Now for the best part … garnishing options. I usually do at least two garnishes. Besides the always-wonderful bacon stirrer, other options are:

  1. The traditional leafy celery stalk
  2. Olives
  3. Cornichons
  4. Pickled asparagus or green beans
  5. Crab claw
  6. Skewered, hard-boiled quail egg
  7. Shrimp
  8. Okra
  9. Skewered cheeses

I’m open to more. Like I always say: Everyone loves a cocktail that comes with a snack.

DIY vs. Buy: Sometimes It’s Not Worth it to DIY

Normally, I’m writing about why you should make a cocktail ingredient yourself. But there are times when it’s just not worth it.

If I had a nickel for every mason jar full of herbs, spices, and liquor steeping in my kitchen, I’d have 55 cents. (That’s not a lot of money, but it is a lot of weird jars.) So it might seem like I am biased against store-bought cocktail ingredients. But when it comes down to it, there are only three things I would never buy for my cocktails: simple syrup, pre-juiced citrus, and sour mix. Seriously, if you can’t combine sugar and water or juice a lemon, I’m not sure you should be allowed to drink. But there are a few items that I will just never try to make myself. And I don’t think you should either.

DIY vs. Buy: Cocktail Ingredients You Should Not Make Yourself on Serious Eats

Photo by Liam Boylan

DIY vs. Buy: Allspice Dram, the Tiki Secret

Tiki drinks are so much fun … and so are tiki ingredients. Allspice dram is a little hard to find and a lot easy to make. So make it already!

Allspice dram is a simple liqueur flavored with allspice berries. It’s also known as pimento dram, because allspice is a berry from the pimento tree. (But pimento makes most people think of olives, so I don’t like to call it that.) There’s nothing like it. It’s a big part of Tiki drinks, adding a dark, strong, and spicy counterpoint to rum and sweet ingredients.

DIY vs. Buy: Should I Make My Own Allspice Dram? on Serious Eats

Photo by Liam Boylan

DIY vs. Buy: Delightful Pear Liqueur

This homemade liqueur is the perfect match for Champagne! That makes it the perfect match for me.

During the winter, many of the more showy fruits are out of season, but you can still find decent pears. (You have to love a fruit that goes equally well with stinky cheese and pork chops as it does with Champagne and brandy.)

DIY vs. Buy: Should I Make My Own Pear Liqueur?  on Serious Eats

Photo by Liam Boylan

DIY vs. Buy: Get Tiki with Falernum

You may not have heard of falernum, but if you love Tiki cocktails then you probably love falernum. It’s a combination of lime and spices, either as a rum liqueur or a syrup. Give it a try!

Falernum is indispensable in Tiki drinks, brightening the sour notes of citrus and adding a hint of rich spice. But it also plays well with slightly bitter flavors. If you’re at all interested in Tiki cocktails, this stuff is a must-have for your home bar.

DIY vs. Buy: Should I Make My Own Falernum? on Serious Eats

Photo by Liam Boylan