The Best Bloody Mary

The Best Bloody Mary

The bloody mary is an icon in the cocktail world. Created in the 1920s, this vodka-spiked tomato cocktail developed into a favorite brunch drink and became well-known as a hangover remedy. It’s also excellent on a chilly day and is the drink to enjoy on New Year’s Day, which also happens to be National Bloody Mary Day.

Who Created the Bloody Mary?

The popular story of the bloody mary’s origin gives credit to bartender Fernand “Pete” Petiot around 1924 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Petiot brought it to the U.S. after Prohibition’s repeal in the ’30s when he was hired on at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. For a few years, it was called the red snapper (not to be confused with the cranberry-whiskey shot drink), particularly when made with gin instead of vodka.

What Ingredients Are in a Bloody Mary?

Quick to make, the bloody mary is a simple drink when you break it down: a shot of vodka over ice topped with tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire and hot sauces, and a few common kitchen spices like celery salt and black pepper.

The Secret Ingredients for the Best Bloody Mary

The two secrets to a spectacular bloody mary are the ice and lemon juice. Tomato juice is thick and best when diluted, so fill your glass all the way to the rim with ice cubes and mix the drink very well to lighten it up. The lemon juice marries the vodka and tomato juice. It does a better job than lime juice because lime juice has additional flavor notes that can distract from the tomato. Fresh lemon juice is highly recommended as bottled lemon juice can have a flat flavor.

How to Customize Your Bloody Mary

Use this basic bloody mary recipe as a starting point, then get creative. Make it extra spicy, switch out the liquor, or get wild with the edible garnishes. You can even make a pink-hued bloody mary with beets. It’s also easy to make a pitcher of bloody mary mix and store it in the fridge for entertaining, tailgating, or a quick single drink, and you can skip the alcohol entirely for a virgin mary.

Tips for Making Your Best Bloody Mary

  • The bloody mary is such a strongly flavored drink that the choice in vodka is not critical. However, you will get a better-tasting bloody mary with mid-range vodkas or a budget-friendly brand that you wouldn’t mind drinking straight. Save the top-shelf vodka for martinis and other transparent cocktails.
  • If using store-bought tomato juice, read the label; choose a juice free of unnecessary additives or sodium, and skip cans of tomato juice as they tend to be of lower quality. Good tomato juice comes in a bottle with a tight seal.
  • Try the bloody mary with fresh tomato juice. If you have an electric juicer, run a few ripe tomatoes through it. Or, make tomato juice in the blender: puree ripe tomatoes, then strain out the skins and seeds using a sieve or fine-mesh strainer.
  • Use a good hot sauce; the spiciness of the drink will depend on the kind and amount you use. Tabasco and Cholula are favorites but experiment with different brands, intensities, and flavors. As with any spicy cocktail, start with less and add more to suit your taste.
  • A great bloody mary needs a few good garnishes that you can nibble on as you drink. Go with the classic celery stalk (it doubles as a stir stick), or add a pickle to infuse the tomato juice with more flavor. Use the lemon wedge to squeeze a bit more juice into the drink when needed, or rub it around the rim of the glass to perk up your taste buds before each drink. Skewer slices of hot or sweet peppers, green olives, cocktail onions, cubed cheese, or cooked shrimp to rest on the rim. Crisp bacon is a favorite option, and a sprig of fresh basil or parsley or even a whole scallion is a nice touch.

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

“Driven by tomato juice, this cocktail has infinite variations, and trust that this recipe is a spot-on starting point to understanding this “hangover cure”. Play and tweak everything in this cocktail to understand your own palate, but know with a certainty that a bloody mary will be different everywhere you might order one.” —Sean Johnson

Bloody Mary Tester Image A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka

  • 3 ounces tomato juice, store-bought or homemade

  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 dash hot sauce, or to taste

  • 1 pinch celery salt

  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish, or to taste, optional

  • Lemon wedge, for garnish

  • Celery stalk, or pickle spear, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make a Bloody Mary

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. In a highball glass filled with ice cubes, pour the vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce.

    A highball glass with ice, vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the hot sauce, celery salt, black pepper, and horseradish (if using).

    Hot sauce, celery salt, black pepper, and horseradish added to the highball glass

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Stir well, or try rolling the drink. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

    A swizzle stick stirring the drink

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Garnish with a lemon wedge, celery stalk, and/or pickle. Serve and enjoy.

    A Bloody Mary garnished with a celery stick, pickle, and lemon wedge

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Big Batch Bloody Mary Mix

Whether you're serving guests or just want a pitcher waiting in the fridge for a quick drink, it's easy to scale up the recipe. The make-ahead bloody mary works out best if you hold the vodka because it gives you the option of pouring another liquor (such as tequila or mezcal) or enjoying a nonalcoholic drink.

  • For a bloody mary pitcher that will serve eight drinks, combine four cups (32 ounces) of tomato juice, 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon each of Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, celery salt, and black pepper, and about two teaspoons of horseradish (optional) in a pitcher. Stir well, taste and adjust the seasonings, and refrigerate for up to one week.
  • When ready to serve, pour 1 1/2 ounces of vodka in an ice-filled glass and add the bloody mary mix.
  • To spike the entire pitcher, add two cups of vodka.

How Strong Is a Bloody Mary?

Unless you overpour the vodka, the bloody mary is a relatively gentle mixed drink. Its alcohol content should fall somewhere around 10 percent ABV (20 proof), or about the same as a light wine.

Recipe Variations

  • A very popular variation is the bloody caesar, which uses clamato instead of tomato juice.
  • Rim the glass with a mix of equal parts celery salt and kosher salt. Spice it up with a pinch of cayenne in the salt blend. Or rim the glass with Tajín for extra spice.
  • Other liquors add an extra layer of flavor; gin, tequila, and Canadian whisky are great options.
  • Add other spices to create a personalized bloody mary mix. For instance, use garlic salt instead of celery salt, or add a pinch of smoked paprika, ground ginger, or dry minced onion.
  • Use the bloody mary mix instead of tomato juice to make red beer.
  • For a unique drink, infuse vodka with tomatoes and enjoy this tomojito recipe with muddled cherry tomatoes, basil simple syrup, and soda. Other savory vodka infusions (e.g., chile peppers, garlic, and herbs) are excellent in a bloody mary as well.

What Is the Difference Between a Bloody Mary and Bloody Maria?

The bloody maria is one of the most popular modern renditions of the bloody mary. It is, quite simply, the same tomato-based drink, but a shot of tequila replaces the vodka for an intriguing foundation. Try it with mezcal as well; the liquor’s smokiness is excellent against the tomato. You can also experiment with Mexican hot sauces (Valentina is a favorite) and even using a roasted and pureed tomatillo base instead of tomato juice.


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