How to Build a Better Bloody Mary Bar

Katie Sweeney

If you’re planning a New Year’s Day celebration, perhaps a boozy brunch, it’s a fabulous idea to serve up a Bloody Mary bar. Set out all of the usual ingredients, plus some fun extras—bacon anyone?!—and let your guests make their own hangover cures. To encourage you to build the best Bloody Mary bar ever, I spoke with Mat Snapp, the director of beverage and mixology at Fox Restaurant Concepts. Snapp oversees the cocktail making at 40+ restaurants all over Arizona, so he knows a thing or two about making the ultimate Bloody Mary. Snapp believes “that in addition to their restorative qualities after perhaps enjoying yourself too much, if you do a Bloody Mary right, they are absolutely delicious.” He recommends that each drink have a perfect balance of flavor and bite. Below are the rest of his helpful tips!

Invest in the vodka. “If you get a vodka that’s too low end, it’s going to have a sharp flavor. This will overpower the Bloody Mary and just make it taste boozy,” explains Snapp. Treat yourself and spend that extra dollar. He likes Ketel One and Tito’s vodka.

Avoid pre-flavored vodka. “If you want to change or infuse your vodka, do it yourself,” Snapp says “the flavor will be more natural.”

Don’t shake it. “Never shake a Bloody Mary! What you want out of the Bloody Mary is that viscosity. The weight on the palate is what helps with the hangover. If you shake it, you’re oxygenating the liquid and drinking something that’s foamy can be off putting.”

Mix it: two-to-one. Always have two parts tomato base, one part spirit. “Four ounces of mix and two ounces of vodka,” are Snapp’s go-to amounts. “Don’t forget fresh citrus! You need a touch of acidity to enhance the tomato juice.”

Get creative with liquid additives. Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and tabasco are musts, but Snapp likes to add more unusual ingredients: “pickle juice, the liquid from pepperoncini brine, olive juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, and lemon juice. Wash out last night’s beer bottles and put labels on them. Make it fun!” He also says to have a small container of simple syrup handy. “A little jar of simple syrup will cut the heat because sugar cuts the heat, so have that for people who may not like a super spicy Bloody Mary.”

Go gaga with the garnishes. “I love a big fat thick piece of bacon, freshly cooked. Keep it in the oven and garnish it right then and there,” says Snapp. “Mix a little blue cheese with Cholula and stuff it into olives. A nice fat lemon wheel, cornichons, pearl onions, and even blackened shrimp goes really nice with a Bloody Mary. A celery stick doubles as a stirrer—make sure it’s fresh, cold, and crisp—and pickled asparagus and habanero green beans are also good. Remember that you want the garnish to be something you can snack on, but not be a meal within itself.”

Snapp recommends making your own tomato mixture or seeking out a quality mix like Major Peter’s.

What do you think makes the best Bloody Mary around?

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