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Lazy weekends and holiday mornings call for a Bloody Mary Bar with homemade mix and all the savory pickled stuff you can find. It’s a total crowd-pleaser; from the purists to the meal-in-a-glass folks, everyone loves making their own.
What’s not to love about a custom Bloody Mary, enjoyed right at home? Believe it or not, it’s not hard to do. Stir up the homemade mix, chill the vodka, raid the refrigerator door, and set everything out in a bunch of cute little dishes. By the time company shows up, they’ll know what to do.
Let this be your guide, but don’t stop here. If some tasty garnish-worthy snack catches your eye at the store, by all means, add it to the choices.
Stock the bar:
- Clamato or tomato juice: Personally, I love Clamato, which is made with tomato juice and a hint of clam juice. It adds a little extra umami flavor, but if that’s not your thing, just go straight-up tomato juice.
- Vodka: The best vodka for Bloody Marys is the one you like. No need to buy the priciest, most top-shelf vodka for this cocktail; the bold tomato mix will overpower it. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a pepper-infused vodka for a little kick! If you’re into flavors, pick out a few and let them pick.
- Celery salt: You can always make homemade celery salt (from leftover celery leaves) or use store-bought.
- Hot sauce: If you collect hot sauce, now’s the time to show off your collection. I prefer Cholula, but if you have a few favorites, take them out and let people go crazy.
- Garnishes: Classic garnishes for a Bloody Mary are typically celery ribs, green olives, maybe an extra lemon or lime wedge. But I like to add heartier stuff, too: beef sticks (soaked in vodka if you have time), a skewer of cubed cheddar, pickled garlic, and pickled dilly beans. See below for more options.
- The night before the bar opens for business, make the Bloody Mary mix so the flavors have a chance to mingle. Stir together the Clamato, (or tomato juice) lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, celery salt, ground pepper, and hot sauce, if you need it. You can double or triple the recipe to take care of everyone at the party, but I suggest keeping the vodka out so it can be added by the person building their Bloody Mary. Some folks like it weaker than others.
- In the morning, set out a smorgasbord of garnishes, a bucket of ice, and the vodka. Don’t forget the frill picks, straws, skewers and toothpicks. Make sure there are enough glasses for everyone, too. And a jigger for measuring out the strong stuff. By the time everyone is ready for a drink, it’s all smooth sailing. All you have to do is concentrate on brunch and refills.
Recipe tips and variations:
- Make ahead: Make the Bloody Mary mix at least a couple hours before you plan on serving. Or better yet, make it the night before (even up to 24 hours ahead) and stow it in the fridge to let the ingredients mingle. Just make sure you have enough for everyone.
- Keep the mix separate: In case some people want a lower-octane brunch cocktail, make the tomato mix without the vodka. Let everyone add the amount of booze they prefer later.
- Virgin: You can drink the mix as-is, without alcohol, and it’s delicious!
- Salt the rim: Use coarse Kosher salt or some homemade Lawry’s seasoning, celery salt, or Margarita salt.
- Add some meat: Fry up some bacon. Rip up some beef jerky. Cook up some lil’smokies or spicy chicken wings. Heck, even fried chicken. If you have them, cold poached shrimp make a luxurious garnish. By the time you’re done, your cocktail will pass for a complete meal.
- Or eggs: Deviled eggs are also popular to have on the side or to skewer and float on top. Plain hard-boiled eggs work, too.
- Load it up: If you can dream it, do it. Pepperoncini, radishes, caper berries, hearts of palm, dill pickle spears, stuffed olives, pickled or blanched asparagus,
- Bloody Maria: Same cocktail, just made with tequila.
- Red Snapper: Gin instead of vodka, which is very good too.
More brunch recipes worth celebrating:
Bloody Mary Bar
For the Bloody Mary:
- 48 ounces Clamato or tomato juice (6 cups, see note 1)
- 2 cups vodka (see note 2)
- 4 ounces fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
- 1 ounce Worcestershire sauce
- 4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- ¼ teaspoon celery salt (see note 3)
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce plus more, to taste (see note 4)
For garnish (see note 5):
- 12 celery ribs
- 1 jar pimento-stuffed green olives
- 36 dilly beans
- 12 pickled garlic cloves
- 12 beef sticks
- Skewered cheese cubes
- In a large serving pitcher, whisk together Clamato, vodka, lemon juice, Worchestershire sauce, horseradish, celery salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cover and refrigerate until flavors meld, about 2 hours.
- Stir bloody marys to recombine and serve over ice in chilled collins glasses. Garnish with a stalk of celery and other items as desired.
- Clamato or tomato juice: Personally, I love the little extra umami flavor of Clamato which is made with a hint of clam juice. If that's not your thing, go straight-up tomato juice.
- Vodka: The best vodka for Bloody Marys is the one you like. No need to buy the fanciest, most top-shelf vodka here; the bold tomato mix will overpower it. However, that doesn't mean that you can't use a pepper-infused vodka for a little kick!
- Celery salt: You make homemade celery salt (from leftover celery leaves) or use store-bought.
- Hot sauce: Optional depending on your need for heat. I prefer Cholula.
- Garnishes: Classic garnishes for a Bloody Mary are typically celery ribs, green olives, maybe an extra lemon or lime wedge. But I like to add heartier stuff, too: beef sticks (soaked in vodka if you have time), a skewer of cheese, pickled garlic, and dilly beans.
- Make ahead: Mix everything together at least a couple hours before you plan on serving. Or better yet, make it the night before (even up to 24 hours ahead) and stow it in the fridge to let the ingredients mingle.
- Keep the mix separate: In case some people want a lower-octane brunch cocktail, make the tomato mix but keep the vodka out. Let everyone add the amount of spirits they prefer later.
- Virgin: You can drink the mix as-is, without the booze, and it's delicious!
- The works: If you can dream it, do it. Make your Bloody Mary a salad in a glass by reading the refrigerator. Garnish with chilled poached shrimp, beef jerky, lil'smokies, bacon and hard boiled eggs, pickled asparagus, radishes, pickle spears, pepperoncini, fried chicken, anything!
- Bloody Maria: Switches out the vodka for tequila.
- Red Snapper: Use gin instead of vodka, and that's what you get.
- Bloody Mary Bar: Set out a pitcher of mix, a bottle of vodka, and all your favorite garnishes.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.
One of my favorite restaurants cuts grilled cheese into little bite-sized squares and uses those as a garnish :)
Wow Amy, that sounds amazing! Definitely going to try. – Meggan
This looks fantastic and I want to make/eat it ALL. What seasonings did you use on your shrimp?
Hi Erin, it’s cajun seasoning! Thanks so much – Meggan
I like to have pickled okra there too.