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How to set up a Bloody Mary bar

How to set up a Bloody Mary bar

The Bloody Mary may be the perfect brunch beverage. It’s a great celebratory drink for anything for a noon-kickoff tailgate to Father’s Day gathering. And if you’re hard-core about it, a Bloody Mary can be brunch all by itself. The savory tomato juice-based cocktail is endlessly customizable. Just tweak the seasonings and garnishes—even the liquor—until it makes you happy. We got some tips from Ed Doris, who we met at one of Kansas City’s favorite Bloody Mary destinations, and is now a bartender in Milwaukee, arguably the Bloody Mary Capitol of the U.S.

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Why do we love a good Bloody Mary?  

“It’s savory and kind of a comfort food—and it’s good for getting straightened out after a big night,” Ed tells us. “A Bloody Mary has lots of electrolytes, and it can include your first bites of the day.

“There are places in Milwaukee that make one single Bloody into a buffet,” he adds. “If you want to see engineering projects masquerading as brunch cocktails, search images for ‘Milwaukee’ and ‘Bloody Mary.’”

Impressive–but for a more down to earth libation, we asked Ed for his favorite Bloody Mary base and add-ons.

How to make a Basic Bloody Mary  

Here’s Ed’s base Bloody Mary recipe. It’s super-simple and made to be messed with, so it’s best served with a variety of add-ins and garnishes. It’s also a great starting point for your own signature Bloody Mary mix—make a batch and customize it yourself with the ingredients below.

Make your mix the night before and store it in a glass bottle or jar so the flavors blend.
• Start with a quart of your favorite tomato juice.
• Add seasonings to taste—start with about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper
• Mix in a tablespoon or two of savory Worcestershire sauce.
• Add heat with a few splashes of hot sauce.

Serve in a 12 oz. glass.
• Add 1½ oz of vodka (or another spirit of your choice, when you’re ready to experiment).
• Squeeze in about a half ounce of lemon or lime juice.
• Pack the glass with ice.
• Top with your mix.

Then it’s time to make it your own.

How to set up a Bloody Mary bar

How to build a Bloody Mary bar  

Add flavor
First, it’s time to punch up the mix.

“Sriracha is killer in Bloodies,” Ed says. “Adding beef broth is a good riff. Get freaky and try Asian fish sauce instead of Worcestershire.”

Along with those, you might provide:
• Celery salt and celery seed
• Different kinds of pepper
• Specialty salts
• Olive brine
• Pickle juice
• Hot sauce
• Soy sauce
• Grated horseradish

Throw in herbs
Another way to add flavor: “Herbs. Fresh herbs. Garnish with cilantro, rosemary or fennel,” Ed recommends.

To get the most flavor, crush the leaves. “Don’t destroy them, but be firm. Roll the sage between your palms; give the cilantro a little pat,” Ed says. “The aroma from the oils makes for an easy next-level addition.”

Start with basic garnishes
“Bare minimum, you want something salty and a cool, crunchy veggie,” Ed advices. A few to consider:

• Jumbo olives
• Celery stalks
• Carrot sticks
• Pickle spears
• Pickled okra
• Brined cheese

Try surf or turf
“Anything that goes well with tomatoes will work,” Ed says. “Seafood is good because of the cocktail sauce feel of the drink. I like BBQ rub with mine.”

So fill out your bar with:
• Beef sticks
• Crunchy bacon strips
• Cooked shrimp (grilled or chilled)
• Lobster claws
• Raw oysters—try them served with mix and vodka in a shot glass

Experiment with spirits
“The great thing about this cocktail is versatility,” Ed says. That means don’t have to limit yourself to vodka—tequila, whiskey, and beer work, too.

And for a true Milwaukee-style Bloody Mary, add a beer chaser—a 4 oz. glass of brew on the side. Ed recommends good domestic pils or lager: “It’s better than cheap bubbles and cleanses the palate just as well.”