19 Bloody Mary Toppings To Give Brunch A Filling Boost

There's just something about Mary — a bloody mary, that is. Like a margarita or a martini or an Old-Fashioned, bloody marys are a flawless cocktail. They're the perfect blend of ingredients — in this case, vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and lemon juice — that comes together in the ideal way to be refreshing, savory, and highly crave-able. 

Believed to have been created in the 1920s by either a Parisian bartender or an American actor (depending on whose story you trust), bloody marys are special not just because they are delicious but also because they are so versatile — and highly customizable. If you're having one at brunch, you may want it lighter with thinner juice and less spice. Pairing your Mary with a steak at dinner, and you may want to ramp up the spice. 

And when you're talking versatility, don't even get us started on the garnishes: Long gone are the days of bloody marys sporting just a sad stalk of celery. Modern bloody marys are almost like mini meals, with an amazing assortment of potential garnishes ranging from veggies to meats and everything in between. In fact, when it comes to possible garnishes you can include with any DIY bloody mary, your options are almost unlimited. Here are some mind-bending, mouth-watering, out-of-this-world ideas to get your bartender juices firing.

Add some bacon to your bloody

One of the easiest and best-tasting garnishes you can add to any bloody mary is a strip of bacon. That's right, this BLT essential is a perfect accompaniment to any version of the tomato-based cocktail you can dream up. With its smoky, salty flavor and savory taste of fat, bacon pairs perfectly with the spice and acid of a bloody mary. 

For the ideal bacon garnish for your bloody, start with thick-cut hearty hickory-smoked bacon. Instead of frying it, lay your bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle on some black pepper, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, or other seasonings of your choice and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for around 15 minutes or until the bacon reaches a crisp, firm consistency. Let the bacon cool, and then use it to garnish your bloody mary. You can either partially submerge it in the glass, or balance the bacon slice over the top so your guests have easy access to sneak a bite, before dropping it into their drink.

Get fiery with peppers

If you really want to make your bloody mary shine, and amp up its fiery bite at the same, peppers are the garnish to go with. Depending on the pepper you use, you can add a wide variety of flavors and spices — and each pairs perfectly with the tomato and vodka base of the bloody mary. 

For simple freshness and little to no spice, garnish your glass with fresh slices of bell pepper. Looking for something simpler? Sprinkle a dash of dried cayenne pepper or even paprika (which is made from ground dried peppers) on the top of your finished cocktail. Finally, consider adding a slice or even a whole pepper on a toothpick or skewer to your bloody mary. Jalapeños (fresh or pickled), poblanos, serranos, Anaheim peppers, and habaneros are all great — and potent — options.

Pair your bloody mary with crab

Let your imagination soar — and take your cocktail over the top — by garnishing your bloody mary with its very own cooked crab leg. To start, either buy pre-cooked crab legs, or pick up some fresh or frozen legs and prepare them yourself. 

To cook crab legs, submerge the legs into boiling water (with added salt, Old Bay seasoning, and lemon juice) and let cook for about 4 to 6 minutes. Wash your crab leg well to remove any shells or debris, and then use them to garnish your bloody mary. You can either add the leg to the cocktail whole, or remove from the shell and serve the meat on skewers to make things easier for your guests.

Take inspiration from your shrimp cocktail

If crab seems a bit too elaborate a garnish, then consider pairing your bloody mary with shrimp. This version of the drink is basically a twist on the ever-popular favorite shrimp cocktail. Imagine your bloody mary as the cocktail sauce, and then just garnish your drink with shrimp as desired. 

You can add spices to the shrimp or just serve them just as is as you would with a shrimp cocktail. You can serve the shrimp perched carefully over the rim of your cocktail glass, or add them to skewers with lemon or olives and drop directly into your drink. Easy — and delicious.

Top your bloody mary with a kebab

Who doesn't love a chance to break out the grill? And when it comes to ideal garnishes for a bloody mary, you can't get much tastier than tiny personalized kebabs, each packed with your favorite grilled foods. 

First, you need the protein — we suggest a thick and juicy steak. Slather it with a dry rub, salt, and spices of your choice, and then char over the grill to your desired doneness. Let the steak cool, and then cut into small, single-serving strips or bites. Pair the steak with other fresh or grilled vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers are all ideal options). Thread a mixture of the meat and vegetables onto small skewers and serve either balanced atop your bloody mary glass, or submerged inside. Yum.

Go crazy with wings!

Grilled or barbecued chicken wings are another great unexpected — yet incredibly filling — option for garnishing any bloody mary. To start, buy or prepare your favorite classic wings recipe (such as traditional Buffalo wings or spicy harissa honey wings).

After your wings are cooked and have cooled slightly, you just need to thread them onto a long skewer. Add a wedge of lemon or lime to the skewer before the chicken, and make sure to pierce the skewer through its peel. This helps to create a firm, non-slip base for the wing to sit on so it doesn't fall into your drink. Round out your garnishes with an assortment of pickles or olives, making sure to pick options that pair nicely with the sauce on your chicken wings. Then drink up.

Bloody marys go perfectly with meatballs

Meatballs and bloody marys are a match made in culinary heaven. For starters, these literal balls of meat are salty, fatty, and packed with flavor — qualities that align perfectly with the savory and umami notes in a bloody mary. The hearty texture of a beef or pork meatball is also the ideal textural counterpoint to the smooth consistency of a bloody mary. 

To whip up a few bloody mary-friendly meatballs, just combine ground meat, breadcrumbs, egg, onion and garlic, and herbs like parsley, basil, oregano, or thyme. Mix the ingredients well, shape the meatball to your desired size, and then fry until golden brown. Serve on a skewer in your cocktail or place the meatball directly over the glass with some additional flourishes, like cheese and olives, and enjoy.

Bloody marys are great with some antipasto

Antipasto is a traditional appetizer that is quick and easy to prepare — and that can definitely give any bloody mary a more filling boost. Believed to have originated in ancient Rome as a pre-meal "snack," antipasto is today one of the most essential parts of traditional Italian cuisine. 

Typical antipasto components include a variety of cured meats such as prosciutto, salami, mortadella, coppa, or bresaola plus fine cheeses including mozzarella, provolone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and pecorino. These tasty essentials are then paired with veggies like artichokes, roasted red peppers, marinated mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled eggplants, and a wide variety of olives. To add an antipasto garnish to your bloody mary, just pile the ingredients of your choice onto a skewer, dunk it in your drink, or balance along the top of the glass, and serve. Delizioso!

Bloody mary garnishes can include the makings of an entire salad

Prefer veggies with your bloody mary, or prepping a cocktail for the vegetarian or vegan in your life? If so, don't settle for just a stalk of celery or a couple of olives as a garnish. Go for a whole summer salad! The beauty of tomatoes is that they go with almost all other vegetables, even when in juice form. So take advantage of this versatility and jam-pack your bloody mary with a wide variety of fresh, flavorful produce. 

Slice a lemon or cucumber and perch that wheel of flavor on the side of the glass. Skewer some olives, cherry tomatoes, and fresh peppers and serve them in the glass. You can even take a small leaf of endive or other leafy green and add that to your glass as well. Experiment and have fun, knowing whatever vegetables you pick will all taste perfect in your ultimate veggie bloody mary.

Pair your bloody with sausage

Sausages of all types are another incredible, brunch-friendly, and filling garnish you can add to any bloody mary. We're talking maple breakfast sausage, cocktail wienies, spicy Italian sausage, chorizo, andouille sausage, kielbasa, bratwurst, and even hot dogs! 

In all cases, you just want to cook the sausage (if needed) and then serve the meat either dipped into your bloody mary, or on a skewer floating about the drink. Depending on the flavor profile you are going for, you may even want to swap your vodka for tequila, mezcal, whiskey, or gin. Try adding additional garnishes to make that sausage even more impressive, and you can split the sausage in half to display a series of grill marks. Or, for a spooky horror-themed evening of scary movies, add a piece of almond as a "nail" on your "bloody finger" cocktail (as shown above). The options are endless!

Amp up the acid with a pickle garnish

Bloody marys are already an acidic drink thanks to all that citric acid in the tomatoes. And sometimes, the perfect accompaniment to an acidic food is even more acid. That's why Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce work so well in a bloody mary: They both tend to contain vinegar. And that's also why pickles of all types — dill pickles, sweet pickles, even hot and spicy pickles — also make an ideal bloody mary garnish. The brine used to make pickles of all types is a mix of vinegar, water, and salt. In other words, it's exactly what you want in a good potential garnish.

There are a number of ways to work pickles in a bloody mary. Consider a pickle spear floating in the drink or a pickle skewer submerged in your glass. You can also combine different types of pickles — traditional pickles plus pickled green beans, pickled okra, or even pickled asparagus. Or just add a splash of pickle brine directly into your drink.

Make your bloody mary more savory with cheese

With its salty, creamy taste and texture, cheese is another ideal — and filling — garnish for bloody marys. And with the variety of cheeses out there, your pairing possibilities go on and on. 

You can dunk a long piece of string cheese directly into your cocktail. Or cube bites of colby, Muenster, and Gouda and thread them onto a skewer you serve atop the drink. For a visually stunning Instagram moment, sprinkle bits of blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese directly on top of your bloody mary as a garnish. And don't forget you can work cheese into other garnishes as well. Slice open a jalapeño pepper and stuff it with cream cheese, cheddar, or pepper jack cheese. Or — if you're in a rush — pick up a jar of cheese-stuffed olives to add to your cheese-travaganza.

Take your bloody mary to the grill with a rib garnish

It doesn't matter if they're slow-cooked, grilled, or broiled, beef or pork spare ribs make an awesome garnish to place atop any bloody mary. 

Start by either marinating your ribs or coating them with a dry rub, then cook according to your favorite method of preparation. Crockpots and slow cookers offer perhaps the easiest cooking experience: Just dump the meat in the appliance and let it roast slowly all day until it's fall-off-the-bone tender. You can get similar results by parboiling your ribs in boiling water for a few minutes, and then cooking on the grill or in the oven. In all cases, the lower and slower you can go (low heat and long cooking times), the better the meat will taste. 

When your meat is done, it's ready to serve: Just balance a single beautiful rib over the top of a salty-rimmed bloody mary and leave your guests in awe.

Crisp homemade crackers add sophistication to your bloody mary

For people looking for a non-meat, non-veggie garnish for their bloody mary, the options might seem limited. But there is one food out there that's versatile, easy to prepare, and goes perfectly with the tomato and citrus found in a bloody mary — and that food is the humble cracker.

Sure, you could use pre-made, store-bought crackers on a small plate with your drink. But for a more impressive garnish you can serve atop your drink, make your own crackers. All you need is some naan bread, a pita, or even a fresh flour tortilla. Slice your "cracker" into large wide strips, brush with a bit of butter, and then season with sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs like rosemary or thyme, or even spices like paprika or cumin. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown and crispy, let cool, and then serve atop your cocktail.

Turn your bloody mary into a charcuterie experience

Charcuterie boards are having a moment. These platters of various fresh and preserved meats rack up tons of likes on social media — and they also taste great. After all, who doesn't love a selection of prosciutto, salami, ham, chorizo, pancetta, mortadella, and more, all spread out and ready for you to snack on? 

One of the many beautiful things about bloody marys is that they allow you to create your own charcuterie experience, minus the board. In this case, all you need to do is spear a selection of your favorite meats on a large skewer, and then drape the meaty, savory — and uber-filling — garnish over your cocktail glass. Add a touch of extra cheese or a couple of olives, and you've captured the whole charcuterie experience in a single jaw-droppingly impressive cocktail.

For a showstopper bloody mary, try a mini slider garnish

Burgers are another comfort food most people just can't get enough of. And while we've seen bartenders and chefs try to pile an entire multi-layer hamburger on top of a bloody mary as a garnish, the most reasonable — and tasty — way to go is with the hamburger's smaller, cuter cousin: the slider. 

To make a bloody mary slider garnish, prepare your slider as normal, adding cheese, tomato, and whatever topping you find most appealing. To keep your slider from literally sliding down the skewer once you place it in the drink, look for metal or bamboo skewers with a built-in "stopper" that you can perch garnishes on top of. Or create your own by threading something extra firm — like a slice of raw carrot — onto the skewer before you add the slider. This "stopper" will lodge on your skewer and provide support for the slider, so it stays hovering perfectly over your cocktail.

Embrace comfort foods and garnish your glass with a grilled cheese

Does topping your bloody mary with a slider seem a bit too lofty an idea for your next "Sunday Funday" brunch with friends? For a simpler yet just as satisfying garnish, try a grilled cheese sandwich instead. 

You can prepare your grilled cheese in several different ways. For a basic and tasty option, just prepare the standard grilled cheese with regular sandwich bread and American cheese (that you might make to go with tomato soup). Then slice the sandwich into fourths and serve atop your cocktail. Or, for a slightly more refined experience, use slices of crispy French bread plus an extra melty cheese like brie or fontina. Create a stopper on your skewer, then perch your mini grilled cheese on top, balancing it perfectly above that cold yet spicy bloody mary.

Really hungry? Garnish your bloody mary with a wrap

For perhaps the biggest and most filling of all bloody mary garnishes, you can't go wrong with a wrap. These yummy stuffed and rolled flour tortillas are an ideal and versatile option for bloody marys of all types. For starters, they're versatile: You can pack a wrap with everything from classic deli meat and cheese to Mediterranean hummus and veggies to Thai-style peanut sauce, grilled chicken, shredded carrots, cucumber slices, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. 

Wraps are also more stable and easier to use as a garnish than a similar-sized sandwich. Again, try to find a skewer with a stopper, or make your own. You'll also need a couple of extra-long cocktail party toothpicks. Slide one pick through the top and bottom of your wrap to hold it together, then slide the wrap onto the skewer. And finally, use a second pick under the wrap as a bit of extra support to keep your wrap from accidentally tumbling into your cocktail. 

Short on time? Grab some jerky or a meat stick for an instant yet hearty garnish

In a rush and don't have the time to whip up anything fancy to use as a garnish and impress your brunch guests? No worries — just stop by your local gas station after you hit the liquor store, head to the snack aisle, and grab a handful of jerky or preserved meat sticks. 

They may not be bacon, but they're still delicious — and both make an ideal quick and easy DIY garnish. Plus, you should have a wide variety of bloody mary-friendly flavors to pick from, including teriyaki, black pepper, spicy hot, garlic, barbecue, and even Cajun-style. Just unwrap the meat and drop it into your glass, or thread onto a skewer with any garnishes you can think of — pickled veggies and cheese both work exceptionally well. Bottoms up!