My house is a house that loves a well made Bloody Mary. From home-made tomato water to every bottled version of tomato base under the sun, we’ve tried and tested a great deal of these. Some day I will get around to posting a listing of my top mixes, and those I beg you to stay away from. But it’s far from complete at the moment.
What am I drinking right now? My top favorite Bloody Mary mixes currently are McClure’s Spicy Mix, Lefty O’Doul’s San Francisco Original Mix, and Zing Zang’s Mix. One important factor is trying to find a mix where high fructose corn syrup is not the second ingredient or even exists at all. It’s added sweetener where sweetener need not be. All of these are around this ballpark. McClure’s has a taste all its own. Known for their pickles, this mix is kinda like drinking a spicy tomato pickle brine. I love it, however, it’s definitely not for everyone. It really has a nice bite too, because honestly, when a Bloody Mary mix says spicy, I mostly disagree with that statement. The other two mixes here are good to have around if you have a crowd that varies in levels of ‘heat’ they want in their drink. One can drink them as is, or doctor them up. I prefer these for cocktail making for that reason. They make a great base where the flavor can be taken in sudden and unexpected directions (for a Bloody Mary).
This post is mainly just that. A quick way to ‘doctor up’ if you will a pretty solid base into a more complex drink with just a few touches. Also, why I’m including it into the ‘quickie’ section here.
Your standard Bloody Mary will call for vodka, but if I have a bottle of Aquavit around, I will always substitute that liquor instead. Why? For me, it gives the drink more body, more meat. And there is a subtle caraway flavor that it also imparts on the drink that is a nice match for the briny, tomato base. And hand in hand with this Scandinavian liquor goes dill. I will also stick that in if I’m making the Aquavit version.
One detail that you will see in restaurants and bars that many people will skip at home is rimming the glass with some house devised salt and/or pepper mix. For a satisfying Bloody Mary at home I don’t see the point in missing this. You can get a whole other layer of flavor just by quickly combining some spices and adding that to the glass.
If you think this is the part where I have you add a giant stick of celery to the drink, you’re wrong. Personal preference has me sit that ingredient out. I find the smell of fresh celery simply too overpowering and it ruins the flavors of the drink. However, a stick of cucumber? Oh yeah, throw one in. That flavor is a match with the dill.
I do a lot of eye-balling when I make this for myself, but for consistency I will give measurements here. As always, adjust for your taste, you gotta drink it.
2 oz. Aquavit
4 oz. Bloody Mary Mix
1/2 medium lime
1 sprig of dill
2-3 dashes of hot sauce (Tapatío is my preferred hot sauce)
1 tbsp of smoked sea salt flakes
1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
small sprig of dill
Let’s make some garnishes first. For the skewer, peel alternate patches of skin from a cucumber lengthwise for a zebra stripe effect. Cut a round from the cucumber and slice in half for a half round. Cut a spear of cucumber and set aside. Add the half round, a small sprig of dill and an olive to a skewer. Set aside.
For the salt rim: Add smoked sea salt, fennel seeds, black pepper and some of the dill fronds into a mortar (bowl) and using a pestle (or end of a wooden spoon), crush all of the ingredients until they are all roughly around the same size, not quite a powder with some crunchy bits left behind. Pour out the salt mixture onto a saucer and set aside.
Cut the lime in half and use one half to rim a highball glass with the juice. Immediately dip the glass into the salt mixture, turning to coat the entire outside rim of the glass. Many debate whether to actually stick the whole rim into your mixture, or just turn the outside around in the mixture so nothing gets inside the glass. I’ll leave this step up to your discretion. Squeeze both halves into the glass, add dill sprig and muddle both just to combine and break up the dill a bit. Add ice cubes and build the rest of your drink by adding Aquavit, Bloody Mary mix, hot sauce, spear of cucumber and your skewer.
As I mentioned earlier, that salt mixture just adds another level to your drink. It has a nice smoky and sweet smell and tastes the same too. Fennel works well with both caraway and dill, and I find it a better addition than say, celery salt. If you’re going to make yourself a quick drink at home, why not spend a few extra minutes to give it an extra shot of flavor? This may seem like a lot, but it really just takes a couple minutes to put together.