Popping one too many champagne corks at a riotous New Year’s Eve soiree often leads to a slow moving morning on New Year’s Day. Given our annual tendency to imbibe and indulge at the turn of a new year, it is no wonder January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day. 

Believed to cure nasty hangovers, the enduring Bloody Mary cocktail made its debut in the early 1920’s.  The original blend contained nothing more than a mixture of vodka and tomato juice, but over the years the drink evolved to include a veritable laundry list of ingredients. Thanks to the additions of black pepper, horseradish and cayenne pepper, Bloody Marys became spicier than ever before. An arsenal of creative garnish options bring a sense of whimsy to the salty/spicy drink and give home kitchen mixologists a chance to put their own spin on a traditional brunch cocktail.

I once ordered a Bloody Mary in a restaurant and it came pathetically garnished with nothing more than a stick of string cheese. Sure I was in Wisconsin, but I immediately began questioning what the heck that rubbery cheese was doing in my poolside drink. I couldn’t figure out why a bartender would ditch pickle spears and celery stalks in favor a kids’ favorite snack food, but I knew one thing for certain–my husband’s expertise in the Bloody Mary making arena had ruined me on the drink forever.

My husband, Leif, makes a divine Bloody Mary. Seriously, we’ve converted many a Mary hater in our house. He is decidedly anti Bloody Mary mix. Ready-made mixes don’t give enough freedom to flavor the drink according to personal tastes and often feature heaping doses of hallow cayenne pepper heat. He prefers instead to base his cocktail on readily available V-8 vegetable juice. V-8 is thicker than traditional tomato juice and can stand to up to thinning with vodka and ice easily.

This robust Bloody Mary is thoughtfully favored with black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, whole grain mustard and prepared horseradish before being served over ice in a celery salt rimmed pint glass with a small beer chaser on the side. Pickle spears, celery stalks and lemon wedges are must haves on Leif’s garnish list, but he loves to add more options on special occasions. To celebrate the New Year and National Bloody Mary day, I often make a festive array of colorful banderillas to fancy things up a bit and we adore adding beef jerky sticks and bacon to more traditional garnishes.

Spice up your life and set up a Bloody Mary bar where guests can personalize their complicated cocktail with ease. Relax and have a bloody good New Year! 

New Year’s Day Bloody Marys

This makes a large pitcher of cocktails!   If you want a virgin variation try substituting the vodka for 1 ½ cups of additional V-8 and 1 cup of orange juice.

  • 2 1/2 Cups of Tito’s Vodka
  • 6 Cups of original V-8
  • 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 heaping teaspoons whole grain mustard (Maille brand is my fav)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons prepared horseradish 
  • 1 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • Assorted banderillas, lemon and lime wedges, celery stalks, dill pickle spears, dilly beans, and beef jerky and/or cooked bacon strips for garnish
  • Lager or light beer chaser

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and mix well.  Fill a pint glass with ice and pour the Bloody Mary mixture  into the glass.  Garnish each drink as desired.  Lemon, lime, dill pickles and celery are non-negotiable in my book, but go on an gild the lily with festive banderillas and a stick of beef jerky as a special treat. Be sure to kick it Wisconsin style and serve this “meal in a glass” with a light beer chaser.

Bloody Mary Worthy Banderillas

Inspired by darts used in bullfighting, banderillas, are popular in Spanish tapas bars.  The small skewers feature assorted ingredients and make a perfectly fanciful garnish for a batch of Bloody Marys.  Use these combinations as a jumping off point for creating your own creative banderillas!

  1.  The Classic: alternate sweet gherkins, cocktail onions and pimento stuffed green olives on 4” skewers
  2.  The Sea Brine: alternate marinated artichoke hearts, cooked shrimp, raw green bean segments, and sliced celery on 4” skewers
  3.  The Veg Head: alternate cucumber chunks, grape tomatoes and 1” scallion sections on 4” skewers.
  4.  The Cheese Head:  Alternate 1” cubes of summer sausage,  1” cubes of sharp cheddar cheese, and red pepper chunks on 4” skewers

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