In the world of Bloody Marys there aren't many absolutes.
The origin of the Bloody Mary is definitely not in dispute... except that it may be; it really depends on who you ask. The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris staunchly lays claim to making the first "Bloody." Esquire Magazine, on the other hand, along with many other publications, give credit to Harry's New York Bar around the corner. The first American bar to popularize the Bloody Mary (originally called The Red Snapper) is the King Cole Bar, at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan.
A Bloody Mary is supposed to be spicy... or it's not; it turns out this also really depends on who you ask. It can also be made with 3.2 beer, gin, scotch, or vodka. Ubiquitous at breakfast and brunch, the recipe for a Bloody Mary varies widely, and can be made to suit a wide range of tastes.
One thing is for sure: there's no wrong way to make a Bloody Mary, and that's one reason they're so popular.
Nowhere is this more evident than at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis... where, in 2014, over 35,000 Bloody Marys were sold. In November 2014 the owners opened a 35-foot long Bloody Mary Bar, allowing customers to build their own Bloodies from several different tomato bases, salt and spice rims, garnishes, and over 200 hot sauces.
Cynthia Gerdes, co-owner of Hell's Kitchen, says that the flavor really builds from the outside of the glass inward. Applying Kosher or sea salt to the rim of the glass, as with a margarita, is common. Some people choose to spice things up with an unsalted spice blend, or jalepeno or Sriracha-flavored salt. All of these can be purchased, or made at home pretty easily.
You choice of juice will also shape the flavor of the drink; classic tomato for a sweeter taste, Clamato (tomato juice, clam juice, and spices) for a more savory taste, or spicy tomato juice for some kick.
Vodka is the traditional liquor used in a Bloody but here, too, is an opportunity to improvise. Citrus vodkas are popular in the drink, but you could also choose something like Referent's Horseradish Vodka, distilled in New Richmond, WI by 45th Parallel Distillery. Others add gin, or even Scotch whisky, to a Bloody; anything goes!
Next come the garnishes, where pretty much anything goes. Celery, cheese, onions, and tomatoes are all typical garnishes. Increasingly, novelty items from sweet donuts and waffles, to salty bacon and fried chicken wings, are skewered across Bloody Marys. Hell's Kitchen has teamed up with hometown Jack Link's to provide beef sticks on their Bloody Mary Bar. Over 200 hot sauces line the bar at Hell's Kitchen, to further personalize your drink.
And, don't forget the beer chaser! It's common in the Midwest for a shot glass of light beer to accompany your Bloody Mary... something that may stump visitors from out of town. Why is it there? I've been told it's because Midwesterners can't handle spice, and the beer acts as a palette cleanser to wash away the burn. Cynthia tells me that, initially, Hell's Kitchen didn't have a full liquor license, so they would make their Bloodies with 3.2-style beer instead of vodka. Out of tradition, they'll still give you the beer chaser... if you ask.
The traditional "Bloody Hell" Bloody Mary at Hell's Kitchen will run you about 9 bucks a pop. If you want to run through the make-your-own Bloody Mary Bar, add another 5 bucks. Also, be sure to stop in to Hell's Kitchen before Sunday January 4th to enjoy Bloody Mary Week specials!