Upgrade Your Next Bloody Mary With A Spice You Already Have In The Pantry

A classic bloody mary is honestly a perfect drink. The traditional combination of vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, black pepper, celery salt, cayenne, Tabasco, and lemon juice is served over ice and typically garnished with some combination of celery, a lemon wedge, and green olives. It's easy to drink, refreshing, and even sort of nutritious. Still, it's become a trend (bordering on a joke) to build these brunch favorites higher, bigger, badder, and more ridiculous than the next with garnishes that are basically full-blown meals. 


Upgrading a bloody mary really doesn't need to be that difficult, and certainly doesn't need to include an entire deep-fried chicken on the top of the glass. All you need to do is open up your panty and pull out that lonely can of Old Bay that's been sitting in the back corner since you made crab cakes three years ago. By replacing the celery salt in a traditional bloody mary recipe with this inherently American spice blend, your breakfast booze will take on an entirely new and delicious flavor reminiscent of the Chesapeake Bay in July.

What's in Old Bay seasoning?

Old Bay seasoning was invented by Gustav Brunn, a Jewish spice merchant who escaped Nazi Germany and settled in Baltimore, Maryland in 1939. He opened his own spice business close to a fish market in Baltimore and noticed that several fish vendors shopped at his store to make their own seafood seasonings. Brunn thought he could make a better product and created what would eventually be called Old Bay. It contains salt, celery seed, and paprika, plus the unusual additions of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves (and other secret spices). The unique combination of spices makes it unlike any other seafood (or bloody mary) seasoning blend.


Those who like a touch of spice in their bloody marys can substitute Old Bay Hot Sauce for the Tabasco sauce that is often used in the drink. Needless to say, a chilled shrimp garnish on one of these drinks would be very appropriate and tasty, as would some fresh crab meat or a lobster tail.

Other simple bloody mary upgrades

While it might be Instagram-trendy to garnish a bloody mary with a cheeseburger or all the elements in a Chicago-style hot dog, getting an extra boost of flavor into this brunch favorite/hangover cure doesn't have to require any cooking. You can play with glass-rimming spices beyond Old Bay. Tajin is a tangy delight made with dehydrated lime juice, sea salt, and ground red chiles and would be excellent on a bloody maria (a bloody mary made with tequila instead of vodka). Everything bagel seasoning would also be a different and tasty addition to a bloody mary, with surprising flavor coming from toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and dehydrated onion.


For the cocktail itself, try adding a touch of pickle juice, olive brine, or really any liquid from a jar of pickled vegetables (pepperoncini, okra, pickled green beans), and add those veggies to your garnishes. Instead of plain tomato juice, you can use Clamato juice, which is a mix of tomato and clam juices. Using it turns a bloody mary into what's known as a bloody caesar. It is typically not as thick as a bloody mary due to the clam juice, and because of its oceanic taste and vibe, it's a perfect candidate for the Old Bay garnish. Fried clams on the side are completely optional (but encouraged).