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An insider’s guide to Bloody Marys

The Bloody Mary is a classic. Some might say it’s even the marmite of the cocktail world. But for one brand ambassador, all it took was one fateful afternoon which ultimately led to the beginning of a new way of thinking. In this insightful read, Chris Hysted talks all things Bloody Mary – from his moment of clarity to KETEL ONE® Vodka – and squashes the traditional ‘need’ for tomato juice along the way…

"I love mornings!"

It’s not often you’ll hear many people in our industry utter these words but the last few months have had me changing my mind.

Firstly, I am a Brand Ambassador - that requires getting up in the morning to get prepared for the day and after a solid 7 years working nights and a few of these managing a “small bar” in Melbourne called the Black Pearl, it’s a novel feeling being up on the right side of sunrise.

Secondly, I’ve had a revolution and that’s what I really want to talk about…

"The proverbial penny..."

I never really ‘got’ the Bloody Mary in the past. There was something about the combination of bottled tomato juice and the texture in my mouth that just didn’t work.

But one lazy afternoon, I was lucky enough to be given a Bloody Mary made entirely of fresh ingredients.

The pieces fell into place!

The clouds cleared!

The proverbial penny dropped!

The combination of vodka, tomato juice, citrus and seasoning just worked. But how on earth did I recreate this experience again?

What makes a Bloody Mary so special? What makes it so iconic?

It’s a hard drink to classify, and so many people make it in so many different ways. In fact, most people guard their Bloody Mary recipes closer than their grandmothers do their chicken soup.

With this in mind, I knew my research into this cocktail had to be groundbreaking. From my bar experience I know it’s important to inspire established and aspiring bartenders to take off their creative blinkers, and not just conform to the idea that a Bloody Mary has to be made from bottled juice.

So after much deliberation, it’s clear that the Bloody Mary could definitely be broken down using the following elements:

Base – Vodka and for obvious reasons I would recommend KETEL ONE or KETEL ONE Citroen.

Citrus – Lemon or lime juice.

Body – tomato juice or a combination of fresh vegetable juice.

Spice – seasoning & spice for the cocktail.

Garnish – an extra element to make the cocktail ‘pop’.

It was imperative to investigate how each of these ingredients would work together. Channeling my inner nerd I focused on what they contributed to the drink and their variables. Here are the conclusions we came to:

Base – the copper pot still qualities of KETEL ONE will give the Bloody Mary a delicious mouth feel, the column still components will provide a lively freshness. Its long finish will help carry the flavour of the other ingredients.

Citrus – Approx. 30ml of fresh lemon juice contains six times more citric acid than orange juice. So theoretically we can use six times more orange juice in our recipes to achieve a similar sensation.

Body – This is a significant component of the drink so deserves respect. Certain vegetables and fruits have high water content, so not much concentration of flavour (think celery). Other fruits and vegetables have a low water content, so a higher concentration of flavour (think beetroot).

Spice – Salt helps us concentrate the flavours in our Bloody Mary so far, but we can use different spices to achieve hot, tangy or pungent qualities.

Garnish – The qualities of this can be used to accentuate or counteract certain qualities in the liquid.

It’s imperative to know that a denser body will stand up to a good amount of citric acid, such as lemon juice, but a watery body will need something softer, like orange juice.

Using this formula, you can start making a Bloody Mary from a bunch of ingredients you’ve never even used before. Pretty exciting stuff, even if I do say so myself.

How to make a Bloody Mary cocktail

“The secret recipe”

Armed with this information, all you really need now is a recipe to kick start the journey. Our man Jack Sotti (Eau De Vie, Melbourne) provided a great recipe of what can be done with this cocktail, given the right artistic mind and talent. He won our hunt for Australia’s Best Bloody Mary, and personally, it’s one of the best ways I’ve EVER seen KETEL ONE used in a cocktail.

I give you, his delicious, “Ernest’s New & Improved Tomato Juice Cocktail” - inspired by one of the characters intertwined in the Bloody Mary’s rich history - Cheers!

Ernest's ‘New & Improved Tomato Juice Cocktail’


80ml salt cured tomato juice

40ml pickled onion puree

10ml sherry

Dash of citrus fruit juice

Pinch of ground white pepper

Pinch of ground star anise

Pinch of ground pimento

Dash tabasco sauce

(1.7 standard drinks* per serve, 17g)

Glass: Bespoke Tomato Juice Can

Method: Throw

Garnish: Celery Stick, Pickled Onions

Want to see & hear more about the latest cocktails from down under? Follow Chris on Twitter & Instagram @chrishysted

(*One standard drink contains 10g of alcohol)