The Plasma Mary

Everybody has a Bloody Mary recipe. And everyone thinks that theirs is the best one on Earth.
Everybody also has an assho….

Let’s not insult the readers, shall we? Not in the first line, anyway. Besides, what you say is not true. I do not have a Blood Mary recipe.


Among the (many) holes in my cocktail repertoire, perhaps the largest is the Bloody Mary. I always avoided it due to its resemblance to the hated V8 Juice, and thus I find myself with no experience here at all. During a momentary need for escape from Tiki monomania last February, I ordered my first Bloody Mary in a bar and found it darned intriguing. I resolved to undertake the task of developing my own Bloody Mary recipe this Summer. That quest begins here.

The problem is that it is a daunting task. Recipes are highly individualized, and since I have drunk perhaps five Bloody Marys in total, I don’t have a lot of experience to give me leads. I began with the basic recipe, at least as given in the BarSmarts Wired course, which matches up pretty well with a number of my books. It gave me the basic elements of a Bloody Mary: Tomatoes, Vodka, citrus, and spices.
But what kind of cocktailian would I be if I didn’t want to go beyond, to concoct my own twist on this most personalized of classics?

Inspiration struck last week in the form of a date night with Maggi, down to M at Miranova to see Columbus’ best bartender, Cris Dehlavi. (No really, she was just voted Columbus’ Best Batender) With all the mutterings around the web about Aviation variations, I wanted to try her new Violet Sour, an Aviation made with lavender-infused Plymouth Gin.
However, the other new offering I tried was her take on the Bloody Mary, which she calls the Heirloom. The key feature with the Heirloom is that it uses tomato water instead of juice. This makes for a less in your face appearance and a smoother texture that really appeals to me. Cris also garnishes it in a way that is beyond my resources right now, but I’ll work on gilding the lily when I have a lily worth gilding. If you are in Columbus, go try her Heirloom.

Or you can stick with me and give my experiment a try to see if you like it. I think you will.

The easy but time-consuming part is to make some tomato water. There are all sorts of recipes out there on the web, with varying degrees of complexity. I chose to eschew any peppers or other produce for this first run, simply choosing six or seven of the best looking tomatoes I could find and quartering them. I put them in my Blendtec (the new larger carafe makes this work a lot better) and hit the smoothie button. Have I mentioned before how awesome this blender is? It takes about four seconds to go from this…

to this…

Lay your largest strainer over a glass bowl and line it with several layers of cheesecloth. Carefully pour your pureé into the cloth and let drip overnight.
Making tomato water
The next morning, you can discard the pulp and you have a lightly cloudy, pale red, very fragrant liquid. The amount it yields will vary on the size and quality of your tomatoes, but you may get more than you were expecting the first time.
Rick Stutz tried this last fall, and recommends refrigerating during the draining, but I chose not to. Cold can do things to tomato flavors and textures that I like to avoid if possible. Cover overnight and live dangerously.
Interestingly, I could not find a commercial source of tomato water anywhere. If anyone knows of a brand of commercial stuff I could keep on standby for when I want a drink now, instead of tomorrow, I’d love to hear about it.

At last, I was ready to make my first shot at a decent, somewhat unique Bloody Mary. Here’s what I came up with, after a few iterations:


  • 3 oz. fresh tomato water
  • 3/4 oz. vodka
  • 3/4 oz. gin
  • scant 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. pinot grigio vinegar
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 2 dashes Tobasco sauce.
  • pinch of celery seeds

Combine ingredients in one half of a boston shaker with ice. Pour back and forth to fully combine. Wet the outside of half the rim of a large highball with lemon juice, and coat with a mixture of salt and pepper. Fill with ice, and strain drink in. Garnish with a sprig of freshly bruised basil.

Just a quick note here.
Protect your basil from any errant May frosts, or those two measly leaves in the picture will be all you have left that aren’t ruined!

The result is a mildly spicy deliciousness. The texture is far lighter than with traditional Bloody Marys, but it still possesses a definite comforting richness in your mouth and gullet that would be helpful with a delicate constitution. That said, the transient nature of the tomato water means I’ll be looking for a juice version to have on stand by if I ever get around to having my first hangover….

Stick around over the Summer, and help me figure out how to say, Well, my damn Bloody Mary recipe is the best there is! Or you can post your own version in the comments and I’ll steal from it shamelessly down the road if it is any good at all.


  1. This sounds really interesting Doug. I wonder, though, what’s the profile of the tomato taste? I’ve never made tomato water and I wonder how much of the natural sweetness of the tomato comes through in the water. To me, a Bloody Mary really has to balance the spices and citrus against the sweetness of tomato juice. Adding heat while not crushing the light sweetness in the process is one of the real challenges to making a good Bloody Mary. I’d guess the tomato water isn’t nearly as sweet as tomato juice.

    Also, while I tend to use gin more than vodka these days, I really like Karlsson’s for Bloody Mary’s. It’s a potato vodka and meaty enough to actually add flavor to a cocktail. I think it would work well with your tomato water version. What brands are you using for this?

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  2. Doug

    14 May


    I think the water is not quite as sweet as the juice. But the big difference is the texture, as far as I can tell so far. The water is remarkably flavorful and “tomatoey”. That said, the main issue I still have with this recipe is that it is a bit astringent, so you may be on to why.
    As for brands, I just used Sobieski and Sapphire. I wanted just a hint of the floral array the Bombay brings, but I did not experiment with either brands or the ratio. I didn’t make enough tomato water for that. Plus, I was thirsty and all that.
    The point of the post is that tomato water is well worth playing around with, for occasions when you can plan ahead for wanting/needing a Bloody Mary like dose.

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  3. Nate

    25 May

    There ARE a million recipes out there, but here’s mine, it is the best, and you’re welcome to appropriate any of my ideas. Glad you’ve come around to enjoying one of my favorite cocktails.

    What follows is a recipe I’ve submitted to a community cookbook for a big ol’ batch of my own special Bloody Mary’s.

    Credit for the inclusion of Cel-Ray goes to my dear friend Matt L.

    28 oz. Tomato Juice, low sodium
    9 oz. Gin
    4.5 oz. Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
    15 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
    15 dashes Aromatic Bitters
    15 dashes Hot Sauce (Tobasco, Cholula, Tapatio, etc.)
    2 pinches Kosher Salt, or to taste
    2 pinches Black Pepper, freshly ground, or to taste
    2+ T. Old Bay
    12 oz. (1 can) Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda
    3 stalks Celery, halved the long way

    1. Wet the outside rim of each of six 12 oz. glasses under a faucet.
    2. Place glasses upside down on a saucer and spoon old bay onto rim.
    3. In a pitcher, combine first eight ingredients and stir thoroughly.
    4. Divide Bloody Mary mixture prepared in step 3 evenly among the six glasses (~7 oz.)
    5. Top each glass with 2 oz. of soda and garnish with a halved celery stalk.

    Serves 6

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  4. lisi

    11 June

    Not much to contribute, although I’m setting the tomato water now and Matt, I really like the old bay idea and I think I’m going to incorporate it here. Thanks!

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  5. Redwan parves

    28 July

    I keep enjoying reading your blog.. thanks for you well writings…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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