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As a kid, I loved V8: not only for its flavor, but also for the adorably tiny can it came in. Sipping from that can, my little hand dwarfing it, I felt unspeakably grown up. At lunchtime, all the kids around me drank Juicy Juice, but there I was, choosing to drink vegetables. I surely was a mother’s dream.

A few years ago, on a morning flight, the stewardess wheeled her beverage cart to my row and asked me what I’d like. I was about to order my standard half-seltzer, half-cranberry juice with a lime when I caught sight of that little white-and-red can. I hadn’t seen it in years, and wondered if I’d still like it.

“V8 on the rocks,” I commanded. I took a sip.

But unlike Proust’s madeleines, this taste of my childhood didn’t bring any precious memories flooding back: I was too distracted by the awful, tinny, salty flavor of the “juice” to be able to conjure any such recollections. I ignored that V8 for the rest of my flight, letting the ice cubes melt into the bright-red liquid until the stewardess came back and disposed of my mistake.

One good thing came of my trip down memory lane: when I returned home from that vacation, I determined to come up with a simple homemade version of V8 that would taste a million times better. I experimented with both raw and cooked versions of this recipe, settling on the latter because it better blends the disparate vegetable flavors into one smooth, complex-tasting juice. All you do is chunk up some tomatoes, carrots, beets and peppers — I like to add jalapeño for some heat — and simmer them together, finishing the mix with bright, fresh parsley and crisp cucumber and blending everything into a silky, fire engine–red juice.

Now of course, as adults, there’s pretty much only one reason to keep tomato juice on hand: everyone’s favorite brunch drink, the Bloody Mary. This juice makes the best Bloody you’ll ever sip; accordingly, I like to accent my mix with the classic flavors of hot sauce, Worcestershire and plenty of celery salt. Add some cold vodka, invite your friends over, and enjoy this infinitely improved noontime beverage.

Related: 7 Ways To Upgrade That Boring Bloody Mary