Learning to really enjoy drinking Bloody Marys can take some time, especially if your initial introduction to the famous brunch cocktail is through the watered down, cheaply made, all you can drink variety so many restaurants serve up. Until you have a truly good one, the drink is usually just something that comes free with your pancakes, or is a hair of the dog remedy to hopefully cure your hangover. Not usually something to write home about.
A drink that should be as complex as it is delicious, a Bloody Mary is a cocktail just like a Manhattan or a martini, which means pre-making a batch before the crowds file in to eat usually shows that a restaurant is more interested in saving time than serving up a delicious drink. That's fine, but the bottom line is that pre-made Bloody Marys or ones made with a mixture just usually aren't all that good. You need to put some work into making it from scratch for a Bloody Mary to be great. Otherwise you're usually just drinking a cold glass of tomato juice, a lot vodka, and too much horseradish.
One of the few exceptions to that rule that we've come across is the "This is Bloody Mary" concentrate from Stu's Kitchen (available for $35.00 on their website). It's one of the best mixes you can purchase that works because it doesn't try to overpower you with too much of this, or underwhelm you with too little of that. Instead, you get just the right amount of horseradish, pickle juice, and a kick from the anchovies added directly into the mix, instead of using the Worcestershire sauce that's usually one of the most common ingredients in the drink. If you buy the party pack, which can make up to 20 drinks, you also get to try something different than adding a few dashes of Tabasco or other hot sauce, with the ghost pepper hot sauce. Add too much, and your mouth will feel like a four-alarm blaze; one or two drops will do the trick.
Stu's is all about making a flavorful Bloody Mary, and the things you put into it are half of what makes a great cocktail. The other half is the tomato juice, which is also the base of the drink itself. You can mess around with ingredients all you want, but the juice should be a separate entity from the horseradish, pepper, pickles, and whatever else you toss in there. Not selling their mix with tomato juice is the thing Stu's gets right, and a lot of other mixes get wrong. Sure, you might not have time to make a batch of homemade tomato juice every week, but being given the option of how much juice and how much concentrate (and whatever liquor you add to it) you put in your drink really does go a long way. And focusing on half of what makes a Bloody Mary so great while letting you do the rest is what makes Stu's one of the only mixes you should consider keeping in your cabinet.
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