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Typically relegated to brunch and used as a hair-of-the-dog hangover cure, the Bloody Mary is attracting the attention of mixologists, who are blending everything from balsamic vinegar to sausage into the salty-savory mix of tomato juice and vodka.
This month, a refined recipe by Yana Volfson, the head bartender at Freemans and Peels in New York City, took first prize against 17 other restaurants at the inaugural “Eat, Drink and Bloody Mary” contest. When she first arrived at the event, Volfson was intimidated by the variety of over-the-top cocktails, like a Mango Mary and an intense, anchovy-garnished version.
“The Bloody Mary has become a way of having breakfast within a cup,” Volfson says. By comparison, her entry was a relatively subtle departure from the original. Volfson’s requirements: approachable, balanced and not too thick. Instead of Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice (which she thinks can taste harsh), she uses balsamic vinegar and caper-berry brine to add acidity.
Both Peels and Freemans serve the winning recipe as their house Bloody Mary, but Peels also features a Red Snapper, made with floral gin instead of vodka and garnished with a crunchy radish to add a spicy element. A retired Peels favorite, which may soon make a comeback, is the Hairy Mary, made with homemade harissa, spicy ginger and smoky mescal and garnished with a sweet, crunchy carrot to contrast the drink’s heat. While creating it, Volfson was thinking about the spices in merguez, a North African lamb sausage. But unlike some new bars, she chose to simply be inspired by the sausage, rather than include it in the drink. “I generally try to keep the meat out of my cocktail,” she says.
For more inspired Bloody Marys, check out the bars below:
Veselka Bowery, New York City: Veselka’s new outpost uses kielbasa-infused Russian Standard vodka in their signature Bloody Mary and garnishes the hearty drink with a swizzle stick of either cabanossi (a dry sausage) or beef jerky—depending on what looks better at the butcher shop.
Barceloneta, Miami Beach: The South Beach tapas bar blends a fresh gazpacho, made with cream, with vodka and dry Manzanilla sherry for a rich Spanish take on the classic.
Playa, Los Angeles: This Latin spot’s new Via Maria is made with mezcal, seasoned tomato juice and chipotle chiles. With a molecular-gastronomy flourish, mixologistJulian Cox tops the smoky drink with a celery-tomatillo espuma (foam).
(Pictured: Zee Spotted Pig Bloody Mary)