With their origins in potent spirit-juice-and-spice punchbowls that date back centuries, it’s perhaps unsurprising that contemporary cocktails have primarily evolved into either ‘spirit forward’ (boozy!) drinks or those that showcase popular sweet, sour and bitter flavour profiles.
Ask almost anyone to name their favourite cocktail and you can bet on most responses falling into one of these broad flavour categories – perhaps with the occasional savoury note injected, courtesy of a salt-rimmed glass, olive or silverskin onion garnish – as in the Gibson, for example.
Exploring savoury cocktails
In a world where sours, collinses, slings, juleps and punches dominate, cocktails with a pronounced salty or umami kick are already the underdogs. Only a handful of cocktails could truly be described as savoury and most of those include either pickle juice (Pickleback, Dirty Martini), tomato juice (Bloody Mary, Caesar), hot sauce (Michelada) or – controversially – beef stock (Bloody Bull, Bullshot).
The fact that the best-known of these savouries, the Bloody Mary, occupies its own lane as a bizarre kind of aperitif/snack hybrid makes it a remarkable survivor, having supposedly celebrated its 100-year anniversary last year – assuming that the story of how bartender Fernand Petiot purportedly made the first Bloody Mary at Harry’s New York Bar in 1921, is to be believed.
Whether the Bloody Mary was a happy accident resulting from a fortuitous twin glut of Russian vodka and American tinned tomato juice in a fashionable Paris bar or a pick-me-up hastily concocted by Broadway performer George Jessel at Patio Lamaze, Palm Beach, is a moot point, though. That this unique cocktail has endured from the 1920s to the current day, in more or less its original composition, despite being something of a cultural oddball, secures its place in the pantheon of great cocktails.
Hair of the dog?
The jury is out on the Bloody Mary’s power to cure hangovers. The sensible way to deal with a hangover is to avoid getting one in the first place, natch, but drinking lots of water and rapidly replenishing lost electrolytes is generally regarded to be the next best strategy.
It’s likely that the cocktail’s reputation as the de facto ‘hair of the dog’ drink probably lies in the (highly unscientific) conviction that the tomato-juice-plus-salt-and-alcohol combo would help settle the stomach, replace minerals and stave off a headache – a belief that still persists today, to some extent. In fact, the Bloody Mary’s pseudo-medicinal properties are probably responsible for turning it into a brunch staple – although it’s the drink’s strong flavours that allow it to hold its own against cured meats, sauce and spices.
Perfecting the recipe
While no two recipes are the same, the Bloody Mary always features vodka and tomato juice in varying quantities; some mixologists advocate equal parts of each, while others recommend a 2:1 juice to vodka ratio. Other common ingredients include a splash of Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce, Angostura, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. The goal is to create a savoury cocktail with a complex flavour profile that reaches the parts other cocktails can’t.
Petiot’s seminal recipe combines salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice, shaken with ice and equal quantities of tomato juice and vodka and strained into a highball glass.
At Edmunds, we’ve refined the recipe to perfection, blending premium Sapling vodka with award-winning Spiced Tomato Mix from our Suffolk neighbours The Pickle House, which includes tomato juice, their Original Pickle Juice, vegan Worcestershire sauce, fresh horseradish, black pepper, celery salt and cayenne pepper for extra piquancy. Our Bloody Mary is so authentic that it won the highest marks – and a coveted gold award – at the 2022 International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC).
To enjoy your Bloody Mary at its best, we recommend serving with the traditional celery stick stirrer-slash-snack garnish and a plate of spicy scrambled eggs. Happy New Year!