The bloody mary, for most of my career in the service industry, was a very basic cocktail ordered almost exclusively in the morning, and every bar had its own simple recipe. Over the past decade and a half, I have seen the bloody mary become a drink ordered at all hours of the day. Many different versions have risen from the woodwork, not only to become a drink, but in some cases, artwork.
Of course, brunch just isn’t brunch without the effervescence of bubbles bursting atop the elegant glass that carries a fizzy liquid. The most common cocktail at brunch is the mimosa, and for good reason. The mimosa is a light and easy-drinking libation that all five senses respond to in a positive way: the sound of the cork popping, the light fizzing of the delicate bubbles as you watch the frothy liquid waterfall into the glass, releasing the scent of the wine and fresh citrus. The first sweet taste of orange juice is quickly followed by the acidic twang. Meanwhile, the bubbles jump inside your mouth like tiny kangaroos of joy. Ah, yes, we are ready to brunch!
The great thing about these cocktails is that you can truly enjoy either of them with or without the alcohol.
Fernet-Branca may be the bartender’s handshake, but as Farley’s bartender Jon Johnson once told me, “The bloody mary is the bartender’s thumbprint.”
I remember watching Sam Malone of Cheers and Gary from Gary’s Old Towne Tavern going head to head in their bloody mary contest on the acclaimed television show Cheers, and I always thought it seemed like such fun. There was so much pride behind their bloody mary recipes.
There are plenty of ready-to-drink bloody mary mixes on the shelf at your local store such as Zing Zang, Clamato, or, my new favorite, Major Peter’s Tapatio-infused mix. With any of these mixes, you can make them your own with a few spices, some green chile, and a little creativity.
The classic garnish for a bloody mary is a few olives, a celery stick, a lemon wedge, and a salted rim. You can enjoy this cocktail sans alcohol, but if you prefer a little hair of the dog, I suggest 1.5 ounces of Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
As the farm-to-table movement has grown, the garden-to-glass idea has popped up in specialty cocktail bars. One of my favorite recipes using this concept is the Santa Fe Cocktail. This bloody mary inspired cocktail uses all fresh ingredients and is closer to a vodka martini than a bloody mary.
The gentrification of the bloody mary has become a bit comical when you come upon a bar or restaurant that has one. They are whimsical and sometimes pricy, but I have found that they make the perfect centerpiece for a brunch potluck.
Have everyone you invite bring 15 – 20 one-bite appetizers, you as the host provide the bloody mary mix, vodka, tequila, and large skewers, and let everyone at the party build their own oversized brunch bloody mary.
Written by Daniel Gonzales | Photography by Amanda Gonzales