In its simplest form, the Bloody Mary is little more than a glass of tomato juice and a splash of vodka. At its most outrageous, you’ll find it garnished with bacon, shellfish, hamburgers — basically anything that’s likely to send your Instagram feed into a meltdown.
While some of these garnishes go too far, the beauty of the Bloody Mary is that it allows you to be as adventurous or inventive as you like. You can play around with citrus, spices, and heat to come up with a combination that caters to your individual taste.
Creativity shouldn’t stop with the Mary mix or the garnish, either. This is a cocktail, after all, and one of its best features is its alcoholic kick. And while vodka does a great job of doing this, the cocktail can be elevated even further by experimenting with different spirits. From some well-known alternatives to surprising supplements, here are eight alternatives to vodka for your Bloody Mary.
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Gin (a.k.a Red Snapper)
Gin’s lengthy list of botanicals adds an extra layer of complexity, with juniper-forward options like Beefeater and Sipsmith amplifying the savory spices and celery salt. Citrus-heavy gins like Roku or Amalfi create a lighter, zingy, refreshing cocktail.
If you want to treat your Bloody Mary as more than a boozy brunch libation, Aquavit serves a serious, complex cocktail. It’s spicy, savory, and ever so slightly fishy, but somehow that works. Put simply, this is an even more nuanced Red Snapper, and one to impress your hippest friends.
Sherry (Fino or Manzanilla)
This mix is umami-rich with a lingering, smoked finish. The oxidative notes of the sherry highlight the savory side of the Bloody Mary mix, leading one taster to comment, “Drinking this, I feel like I’m eating a delicious roast chicken dish.”
Extra Dry Vermouth
The botanicals and herbs of vermouth blend elegantly with tomato, spice, and celery salt. The aromatic fortified wine seems to lift the drink, giving it a lighter, fresher texture. Meanwhile, its low ABV content will help keep a boozy brunch from getting out of hand.
Don’t be put off by its ketchupy nose — bourbon serves up a big, bold Bloody Mary. A sweet tang on the tip of your tongue is followed by the unmistakable finish of a charred bourbon barrel. Tomato takes a back seat, and bourbon leads the way as the dominant flavor.
Tequila (a.k.a Bloody Maria)
If you enjoy a spicy Bloody Mary, tequila’s agave notes pronounce the hot sauce and dampen the sweetness of the tomatoes. Meanwhile, the spirit’s peppery kick is a delicious match for the green celery notes. “This is bloody delicious,” one taster commented (apparently un-ironically). Another called for a huevos rancheros pairing.
Umami-rich and smoky, like a delicious cured meat, “this tastes like a smoke bomb,” one taster commented. Like tequila, the drink loses its tomato flavor and sweetness and takes on a savory, salty profile. Garnish with bacon, pickled jalapeños, or maybe even a burger if you’re feeling extra.
Sweet, smooth, and velvety, we can’t imagine exactly why you’d decide to put Cognac in your Bloody Mary — you have some spare Hennessy lying around, perhaps — but if you do, we can confirm that the mix is a winner. A straightforward alternative to the Bourbon Bloody Mary, with none of the smoky notes.