the perfect bloody mary bar

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In my opinion, brunch beverages are the best. They are flavorful and fresh, easy to customize, and they offer just enough kick to make any weekend morning a real celebration and a great way to start off the day.

Here are just a few wonderful brunch beverages and yes, these are all considered acceptable at a morning setting:

Moscow Mule.
Tequila Sunrise.
Spiked Sweet Tea.
Chilled Wine Cooler.
Iced or Hot Coffee Drink.
Spiked Hot Chocolate.
Mint Julep.

However, I believe – hands down - a Bloody Mary is the brunch beverage to end all brunch beverages. I just love sipping on one, sitting in my wicker rocking chair on our screened porch balcony, basking in the Southern summer sun. I love a good Bloody Mary so much so that I could drink it any time of the day, morning, noon or night (and truthfully, I have!)

I am a Bloody Mary connoisseur - ok, a Bloody Mary snob. There are good (oh, so very good) Bloody Marys and there are “oh my gosh, who made this…?” Bloody Marys. Actually, I am very proud of my Bloody Mary skills and over the years, I have found a Bloody Mary shortcut or two that helps in the process of setting up a killer Bloody Mary bar.

A Bloody Mary is one of those drinks that an ‘elaborate prep bar’ with all the yummy DIY ‘fixings’ can accommodate to create the ultimate Blood. The options are endless but the basic drink mix itself is the key to a good Bloody Mary. A Bloody Mary basic cocktail recipe includes vodka, tomato juice, and usually your choice of spices, flavorings and garnishes.

While there are some decent bloody mary mixes on the market, creating your own Bloody Mary mix guarantees a fresh and flavorful mix.

Stock Your Bar

Anyone hoping to make a killer Bloody Mary will need a great recipe. The classic Bloody Mary recipe includes the following list of ingredients:

A Good Tomato Juice, not that premixed ‘vegetable juice’ stuff!
I recommend you use Campbell’s Tomato Juice only – the quality and the taste is the best around and after all, this is the drink’s number one ingredient.

A few other key ingredients to be added to the tomato juice, all of which you can pick up at your nearest grocery store:

Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco sauce
Celery ribs
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Lemons and limes

Now one of those ‘shortcuts’ that I spoke about earlier: Whiskey Willy's Bloody Mary Mix (find it on Amazon) – GRAB IT! It comes in original and HOT, I believe the HOT is TOO HOT to really enjoy and you can add Tabasco to warm up your drink if you prefer. If you use this mix, you can forego all the mixing of additional ingredients, just shake it up, pour it in a pitcher and serve.

Lemons and Limes
I think the choice here is a personal preference, I prefer only lemons in my Bloods, but some people prefer limes, so offer both at your Bloody Mary bar. I cut them into quarters because a slice just doesn’t give you all the powerful favor that I believe the drink needs.

Now, along with the bowl of lemons and limes, I juice several lemons and put the juice into a small pitcher. Lemon juice is a main ingredient in my Bloods (I add a shot per serving).

Don't neglect the add-ons:
Garnishes provide a signature to a Bloody Mary. Of course, this is also a personal choice (seeing a pattern here?) I like a combination of celery sticks, lemons and olives, but you can also add cocktail onions. Now if you want to add a Southern flair to your Bloody Mary, you can use pickled okra or pickled green beans as an unexpected garnish. Inspired additions can transform this classic beverage into a memorable, one-of-a-kind brunch creation. Yes, I’ve seen those Bloods with crab legs, sliders, chicken breasts etc. but STOP this is your beverage NOT YOUR MEAL!

But if your personal preference goes towards extra garnishes:

Add Salad to Your Bloody Mary

·        Cucumber slices
·        Kosher pickle spears
·        Pimento, garlic or blue cheese stuffed green olives (plain’s ok too)
·        Pickled beans, okra and asparagus
·        Pickled beets, cauliflower or carrots
·        Pickled jalapeƱos
·        Pepperocinis, peppadews or other peppers
·        Large caper berries
·        Marinated artichoke hearts
·        Marinated pearl onions
·        Baby corn

Add Protein to Your Bloody Mary

·        Bacon
·        Oysters
·        Cooked shrimp
·        Beef jerky or pepperoni sticks
·        Steak bits
·        Hard boiled eggs
·        Cheese squares

And last but not least, A Good Quality Vodka. Yes, I know it is a mixed cocktail and people say the top shelf stuff isn’t as important… WRONG! Juice and vodka, that’s the drink, do you really want to skimp? My preferred vodka is Absolut Citron (remember I am all about the lemon?), but there is also Absolut Lime. And don’t forget about Absolut Peppar, if you like to spice it up on occasion.

My second choice on vodka is Ketel One Vodka. (hands down the smoothest vodka around and my stand-by for martinis as well).


INGREDIENTS (makes one serving)

1/4 cup (2 ounces) Campbell’s Tomato Juice.
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
1 ½ oz lemon juice.
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish.
3 dashes hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco.
1 pinch salt.
1 dash freshly ground black pepper.
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) vodka.
*can be added to mix or omit it for each guest’s discretion in pouring
About 1 cup ice cubes

NOTE: Remember, if you purchased Whiskey Willy’s – a lot of this has already been done for you. And NO not all Bloody Mary Mixes are alike! PERIOD!


Mix the tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, horseradish, hot pepper sauce, salt and black pepper in a large pitcher.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To assemble drinks, mix celery salt, kosher salt,and/or Old Bay Seasoning (your choice of favorite seasonings) on a small plate. Dip the rim of your glass in a shallow amount of lime or lemon juice, then dip into the salt mix and twist. Fill an 8-ounce glass to the top with ice. Add 2 ounces of vodka then top with bloody mary mixture.
NOTE: all this can be set on a bar for each guest to DIY their drink.

Garnish with anything your heart desires.

Outfit Your Bar

For novices and pros alike, don’t forget to stock your bar with stylish pieces to further elevate your Bloody Mary-mixing experience. Whether you have a bar cart tucked into a corner of your living room, a fully stocked bar spread, or are mixing up drinks over your kitchen sink, you need some key items.

Pick up a set of highball glasses. Not just any highball glasses, though. They should be durable, tall enough to accommodate the meal of garnishes you’ll add, and delicate at the rim but with a satisfying heft at the base – it will be a ‘top heavy’ drink when complete.

For stacking your garnishes and angling them jauntily on the rim of the glass, you’ll need a durable pick. I have sterling silver picks that are long enough to add several olives and lemons or whatever your choice of garnish is going to be.

To accompany your drink, always include a cloth or paper cocktail napkin. There’s a vast array of choices out there from monogrammed linen to fun images on paper. Set the mood of the brunch with your choice of cocktail napkins.

When refilling guests’ glasses, you’ll need an elegant pitcher. Your option here is whether to mix the Bloody Mary mix and vodka together in the pitcher or set several choices of vodkas on the bar for that DIY drink experience. The advantage of a Bloody Mary Bar is that your guests make their own drinks, freeing you up to be a guest at your own Brunch.

For ease, I suggest that you have an ice bucket stocked with small cubes of ice (not too large, they take up too much room in the glass) along with a nice ice scoop. I prefer a scoop, not ice tongs because I get completely frustrated with those stupid tongs. But that’s your call.

Arrange the Bloody Mary, tools, mixes and garnishes so guests can easily access them and create their own customize drinks. For example: Celery should be presented in clear, tall glasses or arranged on a tray. Fill beautiful glasses and dishes with the rest of your garnishes. Arrange the highball glasses, picks, etc at the beginning of the procession, add the cocktail napkins at the end of the bar, and let the celebration begin.

There you have it! With a few key ingredients, a couple of clever additions, and those essential tools, your Bloody Mary bar will be ready.

Invite a few friends over this weekend, and brunch will become your favorite meal of the day—if it isn’t already.