Red & Rad: Bloody Mary Challenge

Julie Sheppard

Julie Sheppard

03 November 2016

Every bar has its own signature Bloody Mary. But how far can – or should – you push the boundaries of this list classic? Julie Sheppard looks on as four spirits brands and very different venues team up to put their creative (ahem) juices to work

1800 Tequila

Where: The Gibson, 44 Old Street, London, EC1V 9AQ
What: The Gibson Bloody Maria

Marian Beke and his team at The Gibson are known for their left-field cocktail creations, so Team Imbibe were expecting something pretty special. Arguably they weren’t expecting edible insects though…

Made with 1800 Blanco Tequila and a dizzying list of unusual ingredients, this twist on a Bloody Maria drew inspiration from authentic Mexican eating and drinking rituals, so arrived in a bowl with crunchy meal worms and grubs on the side.

The intricate drink included chocolate mole, beef jerky, green jalapeños, four types of root vegetable juice, pickled horseradish and truffle oil. 'It's a very complex style of Bloody Maria,' said Beke, who explained that it had taken the team around a week to come up with the recipe.

'I can't fault the concept and the attention to detail,' noted Clinton Cawood, Imbibe's news and online editor. 'They've taken this idea to the extreme; it's a full-on take on a Bloody Maria – and incredibly interesting.'

Editorial assistant Isabella Sullivan noted: 'Chilli, chocolate, subtle spice and an evolving flavour palate' as she tasted the drink. 'The thick, grainy texture is almost soup-like. It's a surprise,' she added. Managing editor Julie Sheppard agreed. 'The texture is quite challenging, and with the complex vegetable garnish in the bowl it looks more like a meal than a cocktail,' she said.

'It changes every time you drink it, but for me it was more like cooking than bartending,' decided editor Chris Losh. 'There’s a lot of really creative thinking here, but the end result is probably one that will appeal most to hardcore palate-explorers.'


Glass: Ceramic bowl
Garnish: Pickled and fresh vegetables
Method: Make up the Bloody Mary mix in a demi-john and refrigerate for at least two days.
Strain and then build the cocktail over large chunks of ice.

50ml 1800 Blanco Tequila infused with wolf berry and chocolate mole
300ml Bloody Mary mix including:
red pepper powder, balsamic mustard, pickled horseradish, harissa, aged black garlic, grilled and pickled peppers, root vegetable juice, yellow cherry tomatoes, freshly muddled tomato paste, dried vegetable salt, mushroom ketchup, red wine, grenadine, hot salsa, beef jerky, green tomato chutney, beetroot brine, horseradish relish, truffle oil, green jalapeños, peppercorns

Crystal Head Vodka

Where: Dark Horse, 16 Victory Parade, London, E20 1FS
What: Dark Horse Bloody Mary

'Bloody Marys are so open to interpretation. You need to get a middle ground between something people expect and being too outlandish,' said Ian Goodman, whose neighbourhood bar and eatery has a crowd of regular customers that aren’t experimental and prefer the classics. So his Bloody Mary is a simple twist that’s made to complement the Spanish ingredients used in the kitchen, such as chorizo picante.

'My Bloody Mary mix is a cross between the usual suspects – Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, chilli and celery salts – and my own additions. I add celery trimmings, adobo sauce and slow-roasted garlic, which gets a real depth of flavour,’ said Goodman. 'At the end I add a drizzle of PX vinegar, which helps to accentuate the sweetness of the tomato and also ties in with the Spanish flavours on our menu.'

'The PX is a good addition. It adds heft to the mid-palate and the acidity integrates well. This has great balance and is very drinkable,' commented Losh. 'A great all-rounder,' agreed Sullivan. 'This has smoky chilli spice, saltiness, sweetness and citrus flavour. It's refreshing, yet filling and warming.'

'The savoury smoked paprika rim and the use of ingredients like adobo sauce and garlic are a tie-in with the restaurant,' noted Cawood. 'Using PX is a nice nod to old Bloody Mary recipes that use a fino float,' he added.

'This is a very traditional recipe, but the small culinary twists suit both the customers and the venue,' approved Sheppard. 'There’s a lovely classic Bloody Mary taste, with a nice balance of sweet and savoury elements. The smoky spice of the rim works well, too. I can see customers ordering more than one of these with brunch.'


Glass: Highball
Garnish: Rim of Maldon salt, celery salt and paprika. Celery stick and lemon wedge
Method: Build in a shaker over ice and strain to mix. Top with ice.

50ml Crystal Head Vodka
25ml Bloody Mary mix including:
Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, chilli, celery salts, celery trimmings, adobo sauce, slow-roasted garlic

10ml lemon juice
Drizzle of homemade PX vinegar

Grey Goose Vodka

Where: Duck & Waffle, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4AY
What: Clarified 'Green' Bloody Mary

'The first step of creating this drink was to define what a Bloody Mary is. It's usually a hangover cure, so we wanted something different: a cocktail to serve with a meal or as an aperitif,’ said Rich Woods, head of cocktail and spirit development at Duck & Waffle. 'We also wanted a drink that would fit in with the foraging ethos of our menu. We like finding ways to reuse what would usually be thrown away. So we used tomato leaves and stalks in this drink.'

Those green leaves and stalks are infused in Grey Goose vodka and blended with a homemade tomato consommé, which is frozen and then defrosted slowly, dripping through a muslin cloth, which clarifies the liquid. The resulting Bloody Mary is clear in the glass, with an amber yellow colour.

'I love this! It's completely unexpected,' praised Sheppard. 'It plays with your senses. Going on the colour and texture, you don’t expect it to taste like a Bloody Mary, but it does – and it smells like one, too.' 'The nose is savoury, with umami notes of beef crisps, nori and miso,' noted Cawood. 'There's great tomato character on the palate, with good balance and a spicy finish. But is it a Mary?' he asked.

'This rewrites the Bloody Mary and what it can do,' said Losh, describing the drink as 'complex, elegant, well-balanced, and really tomato-y'.He added: 'My only criticism is the tomato doesn't last right through the palate. Then again, that’s what you want if it’s being served with food.' 'This Bloody Mary makes you ask questions – it really is an engaging drink,' concluded an impressed Sullivan.

Clarified 'Green' Bloody Mary

Glass: Nick and Nora
Garnish: Desiccated tomato slices
Method: Shake over ice and strain.
Serve straight up.

35ml Grey Goose Vodka
65ml coal-roasted Bloody
Mary consommé
2 bsp Noilly Prat

Ketel One Vodka

Where: City Social, 25 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HQ
What: Contrary Mary

'We've got some very discerning customers here. They know how they want their drink,' said group bar executive Jamie Jones, whose recipe was an evolution of the Bloody Mary rather than a rewrite. He added different ingredients to a classic vodka and tomato juice base, including cucumber and Worcestershire sauce distillate.

'Cucumber has lovely cooling notes to help draw out the spice, while the Worcestershire sauce distillate is Worcestershire sauce turned up to 11,' he explained. 'Tio Pepe fino sherry helps to add complexity and enhances the salinity.'

'I liked the sherry and the distillate. Both had a place in the drink; nothing was unnecessary. But it didn’t live up to its name – it wasn’t very contrary,' said Losh. 'It's not incredibly revolutionary, but it's a solid Mary and it’s appropriate to the audience, too,' noted Cawood.

'The presentation of the drink in a silver goblet suits the venue perfectly,' agreed Sheppard. 'Beer is served in silver tankards here, so it fits with the overall look of the drinks list.’ She also liked the unusual pomelo citrus instead of lemon. 'It's a subtle but very effective twist on the classic,' she said.

'This was full-flavoured and spicy, but the cool cucumber flavours make it very drinkable,' commented Sullivan – though she also noted that the distillate was 42% abv, which made the finished drink very boozy. 'I don't think I’d want a second glass. For me it’s more of an aperitif,' she concluded.


Glass: Silver goblet
Garnish: Pomelo peel, cucumber slices, rosemary sprig
Method: Build in a shaker over ice and strain to mix. Top with ice.
35ml Ketel One vodka
15ml Worcestershire Sauce distillate

80ml tomato juice
10ml fino sherry
10ml lemon juice
5ml British agave
Strips of cucumber
Pinch of Social spice mix

Related content


The Remy Martin sommelier and patissier challenge: Five worthy winners announced

The #RemySprint competition put some of the country’s top sommelier and pâtissier teams to the test.

News |  Spirits & Cocktails

Star Serves: Red Reviver

In the first edition of Star Serves by Imbibe, we shine a light on some of the fantastic bartending talent in the UK and the drinks being created.

News |  Spirits & Cocktails

Gin 1689 launches pink expression The Queen Mary Edition

The Dutch gin will be distributed to the UK on-trade by Distilled Brands.

News |  Beer & Cider

Geipel Bock crowned winner of Imbibe's Lager Challenge

After gruelling heats, months of buildup and an Imbibe Live final that looked almost too close to call, Bock by Geipel Brewing has been chosen as the