The creation of the Bloody Mary recipe was traditionally attributed to Fernand Petiot, a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1924. He named his invention the “Bucket of Blood,” but the name didn’t catch on (thank goodness). Ninety years later, the world is still crazy for Bloody Marys, and the make-your-own Bloody Mary bar has become a selling point of many brunches. If you’re considering adding a Bloody Mary bar to your restaurant brunch menu, we think that’s a bloody good idea. To help you out, we’re offering a few ideas for recipes and garnishes to get you started on the right track, as well as a primer on what you should keep in stock at your do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar.
Stock up on some bloody good alcohol
Before you open your Bloody Mary bar, you’ll have to decide how you want to offer your alcohol. The standard practice for a do-it-yourself bar is to serve the alcohol in a carafe, usually enough for two drinks (or one very stiff drink, depending on your customer). It is also standard practice to include a separate glass of ice, so that your guest can add as much or as little ice as he or she chooses.
You can offer a flat fee for the build-your-own bar that only includes well liquors, or you could offer a scaled fee that’s dependent on the vodka your guest would prefer. With the scaled fee option, you can also choose to offer other alcohols besides vodka, such as tequila, which adds an earthy flavor to the drink and blends well with a spicy Bloody Mary mix. Other interesting alcohol choices are flavored vodkas or even beer.
Don’t forget the bloody mix
Arguably, the most important part of your Bloody Mary offering will be the flavor of the mix. If you make your own mix, and spend time and effort crafting a delicious concoction, you can charge more for your Bloody Mary bar because you will earn a reputation for serving up a great breakfast drink. The easier, cheaper option for a build-it-yourself bar is to offer standard mixers such as Clamato juice, low-sodium V-8, Spicy Hot V-8, and Mr. and Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix. Offer a variety to add value for your guests.
If you choose to make your own Bloody Mary mix, you’ll have to check it frequently, and try hard not to make too much, as fresh mix doesn’t usually keep long. To engineer the perfect mix, you’ll need to engage in frequent taste testing over ice, so that you best simulate the perfect Bloody Mary conditions and so that you understand how much dilution the ice will cause.
Your Bloody Mary mix should be as thick as you can get it, and it should start with a base of tomato juice, Clamato, or V-8. To thicken the base, just add tomato paste. Essential flavorings include Worchestershire sauce, horseradish, and Tabasco or other hot sauce, and popular ingredients include pureed salsa; pickle, jalapeno, or olive juice; balsamic vinegar; soy sauce; fresh lime or lemon juice; A-1 steak sauce; and barbeque sauce… plus anything else you can think of. Watch out when you add spices. Though some of your guests would like their Bloody Mary to be atomic, others want a less nuclear drink, and it’s easy to include spicy additions in your do-it-yourself bar.
Offer ridiculous garnishes that make people say “Bloody hell, what is that?”
If you want maximum visibility for your restaurant, offer completely over-the-top garnishes for your Bloody Mary bar. Fun seekers will flock to a brunch that offers drinks topped with pizza slices, vegetable tempura, jalapeno poppers, and sliders. Let your servers run wild with their imaginations and take guest requests for each successive weeks’ garnish selections. One way to build buzz would be to create a contest in which guests come up with garnish ideas, then the ideas are voted on. The winner could be awarded a free brunch appetizer to bring them back the next week.
If crazy toppings sound too adventurous to you, standard options include a citrus wedge, a salted rim, cooked shrimp, stuffed olives, cherry tomatoes, cippolini onions, bell pepper slices, roasted garlic cloves, and jalapenos.
Make sure not to forget to create some edible swizzles too: a leafy celery stalk is the traditional choice, but stiff pickles, Slim Jims, and asparagus do just as well—and like the garnishes, the sky is the limit for interesting ideas.
No matter how you decide to offer your do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar, you should always remember to advertise it in your restaurant, around town, and on your digital wine menu, so that your guests know that when the weekend rolls around, your guests know where the party is.
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