How To Make a Great Bloody Mary

updated May 1, 2019
How To Make a Bloody Mary
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

The Bloody Mary is a ubiquitous brunch beverage, a supposed hangover cure-all and the perfect savory sip to accompany eggs and waffles alike. Made from a base of tangy tomato juice, seasoned with lemon juice and spices, and finished with a pour of vodka, Bloody Marys provide a savory respite from sweet brunch drinks and can be easily made by the glass or by the pitcher.

This version sticks to the classic expectations so it’s got a rich, tomatoey base and a bit of heat and zip from hot sauce. But there’s always room for improvement, right? So we’re adding one unusual ingredient to this recipe to really make it what we’re happy to call the best. And because a good Bloody Mary recipe is very much a template for further cocktail customization, we’re including a few pointers for seasoning these Bloody Marys. Even if you’re nursing a hangover, you can still make a pitcher of the easiest, tastiest brunch drink ever.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

A Brief History of Bloody Marys

The Bloody Mary was created in the early 1920s by Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot, a bartender at Harry’s American Bar in Paris. Petiot reportedly mixed together a concoction of tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, and pepper. As for the many rumors surrounding the drink’s name, Mary Queen of Scots, the actress Mary Pickford, and a lovelorn young woman named Mary who used to nurse these tall, red cocktails at Harry’s Bar, are just some of the tall tales linked to this classic drink.

Petiot brought the Bloody Mary to America with him in 1934 to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. His tomato juice cocktail recipe was adapted to American sensibilities, including the addition of lemon juice and Tabasco. It also experienced a name change, enjoying a brief stint as the “Red Snapper.” The Bloody Mary became a vodka-based brunch menu mainstay during the 1960s, thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign by Smirnoff.

For Better Bloody Marys, Use Vegetable Juice — Not Tomato Juice

Recipes for Bloody Marys abound, each with a unique twist on the tomato base or the spices. The tomato base is sometimes made with fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or even Clamato, but straight-up tomato juice is the most widely used base. After tasting several canned and bottled juices alongside Bloody Mary mixes, a friend (and Bloody Mary connoisseur) revealed her secret for flavorful Bloody Marys at home: vegetable juice. Yes, the classic V8 juice delivers more tomato flavor than other bases without any extra work. Since it’s shelf-stable, you can stock up so you can make a batch of Bloody Marys anytime the craving (or a hangover) strikes.

On Skipping the Horseradish

Grated horseradish is often considered a staple ingredient for Bloody Marys. We blind taste tested two batches side by side — one with and one without the prepared horseradish — and no one missed it. Considering that few people keep horseradish on hand, skipping this ingredient makes for a pantry and fridge-friendly Bloody Mary recipe.

Bloody Mary, Made Better Ahead

The tomato base for Bloody Marys only gets better with time; we suggest refrigerating for at least an hour, but an overnight chill is best. This is one of the secrets of restaurant Bloody Marys: big batches are mixed up regularly and left to marinate before adding the vodka and garnishing and serving. Some folks prefer to add the vodka for the Bloody Marys right into the pitcher, but I suggest making the base and then adding the vodka to each individual glass. This allows your brunch buddies to customize their tipple and keeps the vodka and tomato mixture from separating.

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Make the tomato base: Combine the vegetable juice, pickle juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, celery seed, and pepper in a large pitcher and stir to combine. Taste and add salt as needed. (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

How To Make a Bloody Mary


Nutritional Info


  • 48 ounces

    vegetable juice, such as V8 Original

  • 1 cup

    pickle juice, preferably dill, but even kraut liquid will do

  • 1/2 cup

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon

    Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon

    hot sauce, such as Tabasco

  • 1 teaspoon

    celery seed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt (optional)

  • 16 ounces

    vodka, such as Tito's

  • Ice

  • Celery stalks, for garnish

  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Pitcher

  • Mixing spoon

  • Glasses for serving


  1. Make the tomato base: Combine the vegetable juice, pickle juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, celery seed, and pepper in a large pitcher and stir to combine. Taste and add salt as needed.

  2. Chill the tomato base: Refrigerate the tomato base at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. This will mellow the spiciness of the hot sauce and pepper.

  3. Serve: Fill a tall Collins-style glass halfway with ice. Pour 2 ounces of vodka over the ice and stir to cool the vodka. Top with about 6 ounces of the tomato base and garnish with a celery stalk and a lemon wedge.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The tomato base can be made up to 4 days in advance.

Adding all the vodka to the pitcher: You can add all of the vodka to the pitcher instead of filling individual glasses, but stir the pitcher before each pour, as the tomato mixture and vodka may separate as they sit.

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