For the first 20 years of my imbibing career, I used only one recipe book: Cocktails, a spiral-bound guide self-published in 1984 by my friend Michael Brunelle. An artist and sometime bartender, Mike’s goal was to create a quick reference to only the most requested libations, not an encyclopedia. “It should not take longer to find a drink (in a book),” he wrote, “than it takes to make and drink it.”
I now own a small library of bar books, including one devoted exclusively to martinis. But Cocktails is still my quick go-to, and it’s still the basis of what I think is the best Bloody Mary recipe.
I always associate the Bloody Mary with the holiday season, I guess because it was long the official bon voyage drink when my wife and I were preparing to return home from our Yuletide visits to her parents’ place in Southern California. And with the red of the tomato juice and the green of vegetable matter, it’s like a wreath in a glass.
Airport lounge Bloody Marys are notoriously bad — lots of tomato juice and ice, a mere sprinkle of vodka, and a celery sprig more desiccated than a Christmas tree come Twelfth Night. I’m also not a fan of bottled Bloody Mary mix, which is usually loaded with sodium and sometimes even more questionable things.
The great thing about Mike’s recipe is that it’s easy, you can adjust each of the elements to taste (I tend toward the heavy-handed with the hot sauce), and with my embellishments it’s really more of a salad than a cocktail. So go ahead and have another.
In a tall highball glass, build over ice:
1 1/4 oz vodka
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco sauce (I prefer Frank’s RedHot, Original)
Fill with tomato juice, or better yet V-8, or best of all, R.W. Knudsen Very Veggie Low Sodium (available at Whole Foods).
Garnish with celery, a squeeze of lime, a couple of pickled green beans and a fat, pimento-stuffed green olive.
(Mike’s original recipe calls for salting the rim of the glass with celery salt or regular salt. I’d forgo that and just take one more olive.)