Bloody Sunday

For the most part, I like cocktail garnishes to be elegant. Thinly-cut lemon or lime peels, a single sprig of mint or lavender, a trio of olives aligned on a cocktail pick. There’s nothing worse than an obnoxious half-wedge of citrus on the rim of a cocktail glass, one that threatens to throw the whole affair off-balance. (I’m the first to admit that I haven’t always erred on the side of restraint in such matters, but I was younger then, and far more foolish.)

Yet some drinks demand an over-the-top garnish, one that is as much a part of the drink as the alcohol itself, and such is the case with the Bloody Mary. My all-time favorite variation of this meal-unto-itself was created in Cape Cod by my friend Lee. She presented a pint glass of tomato juice, vodka, and horseradish, with a cocktail stick rife with olives, lemon wedges, and even a cocktail shrimp for a brunch treat that took my breath away. From that day forward, I never thought of the Bloody Mary in the same way again.

Another Cape friend, Wally, recommended I give gin a whirl in the place of vodka, and that was a revelation of its own. I actually prefer that twist nowadays, as I find gin preferable to vodka. This past weekend I was inspired by the vesper, and tried the Bloody with equal parts vodka and gin, along with a garnish of fresh dill and dill blossom from the garden.

The blossom part was a bit dicey – in such heat it wilted almost instantly, but the flavor and tart and tangy bite of the dill lent a delicious new slant to the proceedings, and would tie it in nicely to a fresh herb omelette. Here are some of the possibilities for making a Bloody Mary into an event.

Items for Garnishing the Bloody Mary:
  • – Celery (leaves intact)
  • – Olives (green, with pimientos)
  • – Cherry tomatoes
  • – Pickles
  • – Cocktail shrimp
  • – Lemon or lime wedges
  • – Cocktail onions
  • – Radishes
  • – Pickled beets
  • – Hot peppers
  • – Fresh sprigs of dill or chives

The beauty of this cocktail is in the way you want it to go. Pepper infused vodkas, hot sauce, and a habanero garnish can provide as much heat as you can stand, while a simple stalk of celery and a couple of cherry tomatoes can tone it all down. The garnish can be as light or as heavy as you want it to be – on some menus I’ve seen it served as a salad – and as cocktails go, this is one of the healthier ones. Fruits and vegetables in one savory swoop. Every brunch should be so Bloody.

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