How To Build The Perfect Bloody Mary

Let's be honest, there isn't really a bad time for Bloody Marys. You might get a funny look from the bartender if you're ordering one on a Friday night, but that funny look is immediately trumped by the drink in your hand that is far superior to a stupid vodka soda. Bloody Marys are really all in the details, and totally customizable to your specific tastes — and this is where the DIY Bloody Mary bar comes in.

An at-home brunch get together is the prime time to ditch your standard store-bought mix and build a Bloody Mary bar that will give everyone exactly what they want. With Mother's Day and Memorial Day fast approaching (and warm weather on its way in general) you probably have an occasion to try this project — not that you need an excuse. The great thing about this is that it's super easy, you probably have a lot of what you need in your pantry already, and once you're prepped the work is mostly done.

The perfect base mix and a host of drink "accessories" mean that you can get creative, and your guests (from the purist to the spice-lover to the "this needs bacon" guy) can pick and choose to build their ultimate, personalized Bloody Mary — and you'll be free to enjoy the party.

1. The Perfect Base Mix

This is the most important part of your Bloody Mary bar. If your base mix is great, it's kind of hard to mess up the DIY aspect.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 6 cups tomato juice
  • Juice of 1 large (juicy) lemon
  • 2 heaping teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh ground pepper and sea salt (or seasoned salt) to taste
  • A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
  • 1 dash celery seed
  • Optional: splash of pickle juice

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher. You can either do this directly into your pretty serving pitcher, or make it ahead in something more practical and refrigerate until serving. This recipe should make about six good sized drinks.

2. Gather Your Accoutrements

This is the fun part. I kept things fairly simple, but the options are endless. We've all seen some ridiculous Bloody Marys on the brunch scene, so you know you can go as crazy or as classic as you want. You're welcome to offer up bacon-wrapped shrimp or oysters, but a solid array of spices, citrus, pickles, and olives should be sufficient. You can also just put out the ingredients from your base mix so that people can doctor to their taste.

In addition to the mix ingredients, I also set out jalapeño-stuffed olives, pickled green beans, washed and trimmed celery stalks, and lemon wedges.

3. Prep Your Glasses

A little bit of effort when it comes to presentation goes a long way. Pick out some cute glasses (I know, the mason jars are so cliché), and prep them with a salty rim. I used plain old Lawry's seasoned salt, but Old Bay, Tajín, or Sriracha salt would also be great.

Simply coat the rim of your glass with lemon juice, and place face down on a small plate full of your choice seasoning. Twist it around (gently), and voilà! Instantly impressive.

4. Build Your Bloodies

When you're ready to serve, set out everything you and your guests will need to build your drinks — your prepared glasses, your chilled mix, and all of your spices and add-ons.

First, carefully put a handful of ice cubes in your prepared glass. Then, add a shot (or two) of vodka, without splashing the salty rim. Fill the glass almost full with base mix, leaving enough room for doctoring and accessories.

Don't forget to set out small skewers or toothpicks (and straws!) so that your guests can organize their additions.

And that's it! Go nuts.

Image: mhaithaca/ Flickr; Jenna Wexler