7 Ways To Upgrade That Boring Bloody Mary

The iconic Bloody Mary has been the epitome of a hangover cure as long as most can remember having hangovers. Consisting of tomato juice, spices, vodka and in some cases pickled dilly beans, olives and celery, this cocktail has all the things you need for a jumpstart after a long night of imbibing. Plus, it tastes damn good.

It may seem like everyone has their own version of the Bloody Mary, but there are two schools of thought as to the drink's origin. One of the earliest references to this drink in the United States arrives from a gossip column in 1939 that credited the creation to the actor George Jessel.

The other accepted origin of the Bloody Mary comes out of the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, where the story goes that bartender Fernand Petiot made up the mix of vodka, tomato juice, lemon, salt, pepper, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. This drink was originally christened the Red Snapper and later became the Bloody Mary. Paul Nash, General Manager of the hotel says, "It is still the number one selling drink here today."

Just like the drink's origin, a few stories surround the name Bloody Mary too. Some say it was christened in honor of Queen Mary I of England, who was also called Bloody Mary due to her often times violent persecution of Protestants. Another tale stems from the ghost Bloody Mary, which, if you ever were a child in this country, you probably know from staring into a mirror in a dark room and saying her name three times before running away in hysterical fear.

No matter where the cocktail came from, today the Bloody Mary has become synonymous with the after-effects of a night of heavy drinking, and with brunch. Based on the original Red Snapper recipe, to make the Bloody Mary blend you incorporate two ounces of tomato juice, one dash of lemon juice, two dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne and three dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Though this tried-and-true method makes a delicious drink, chefs and bartenders have come up with other ways to upgrade the cocktail, using different liquors, juices and garnishes.

For example, while most people only think of vodka when they get this drink, the original Red Snapper used (1) gin. Or, for a completely different take, the (2) bourbon-friendly restaurant Char No. 4 in Brooklyn takes their house spirit and infuses it with chipotle, which then gets added to a special tomato juice blend and topped off with housemade pickles.

A Bloody Maria incorporates (3) tequila into the mixture. Some people have even taken the Bloody Mary to new heights by adding (4) sake instead of vodka to create the Bloody Ninja. You can even add (5) beer to the tomato mixture to get what is known as a michelada, aMexican drink consisting of the tomato juice spice mixture and alcohol.

Swapping in other juices is also an option. Bartender Vincent Vitek from New York's Macao Trading Co and Employees Only makes a Mango Mary, which has fresh (6) mango juice instead of tomato juice that he spices up with horseradish, house-made hot sauce, capers and pepper. In Canada they created the Bloody Caesar, which uses (7) Clamato, a prepackaged tomato and clam juice mishmash.

Back in NYC, chef Gabrielle Hamilton's Prune restaurant offers 10 varieties, including the aquavit, fennel and anchovy Danish version; another that has wasabi and beef jerky; and the Chicago Matchbox, which incorporates house-made lemon vodka, pickled Brussels sprouts, turnips, caper berries, green beans and radishes. With these alterations, the Bloody Mary becomes not just a hangover cure or breakfast in a cup, it's a whole creative experience.

5 Bloody Mary Mixes For The Home:

1. Ripe San Marzano Bloody Mary

If fresh is your game, this preservative-free Bloody Mary mixer is the way to go. To make it spicy, add some Tabasco or try a bit of chipotle for a nice smoky flavor. A bit of fresh lime or lemon will help brighten it and voila! Breakfast is served. $8.95

2. McClure's Spicy Bloody Mary Mix

This brilliant combination of fresh, spicy pickle brine mixed with tomato, cucumber juice and other seasonings makes the perfect drink every time. It's at once savory and spicy, a combo that especially goes well with tequila. A definite crowd-pleaser. $10

3. Tabasco's Bloody Mary

There's nothing too fancy about this brand of Bloody Mary mix, it's just a solid addition to the breakfast table (it also tastes great on eggs). It incorporates the basic Tabasco sauce with Lea & Perrins Worcestershire, and tomato juice. You may want to spruce it up with your own additions, but it's a great way to start. $1.35

4. Dave's Original Bloody

Don't fear the clam, it works in this mix by Dave's Gourmet. The bits of pepper and horseradish are not only good for the drink, but also to liven soups and sauces. $7.99

5. Employees Only Brands All Natural Bloody Mary

When this swank New York cocktail lounge first opened, they served brunch. Eventually they stopped catering to the breakfast crowd, but the demand for their Bloody Mary continued, hence the pre-packaged bottle full of capers, hot pepper sauce and horseradish is now available to take home. $9.99