So stark are their differences that if you handed an alien a Bloody Mary and a Martini and said, “Here, we call these cocktails,” they might reasonably question what planet you’re from.
For the ease of putting things in boxes, we call the Bloody Mary a cocktail. But really, it is so much more than that: a complex, boozy meal in a glass; a vehicle for a range of elaborate garnishes, themselves a separate course of the meal; and a hangover cure, if only by means of placebo.
Beyond the all-important mix, which is as deserving of fresh preparation as lime juice for a Margarita, booze matters in the Bloody Mary. Though other options abound, vodka is the classic go-to. Rather than reaching for a random bottle simply to add booze, consider the spirit a genuine important component of the cocktail. Once you do, the Bloody Mary takes on an otherworldly new lease of life.
From prickly ryes to full-on habanero heat, here are 10 of the best vodkas for Bloody Marys.
Our go-to budget vodka at VinePair, Sobieski serves clean, neutral sips, with just a prickle of boozy heat. If you’ve mastered your house Mary mix and don’t want to alter the final cocktail’s flavor profile, this is the pick.
Average price: $13
Ketel One Vodka
The gentle spice and subtly sweet finish of this wheat-based vodka make it another option that marries well with a ripe, tomato-forward Bloody Mary mix. Generous texture and weight on the palate ensure the cocktail never feels disjointed.
Average price: $23
Crop Organic Artisanal Vodka
Produced using USDA-certified organic corn, this light and bright vodka lands with a subtle sweetness, which helps temper any tartness or acidity that may linger in a particularly tangy tomato juice. Garnish with a salty olive and a few sticks of celery for contrasting savory notes.
Average price: $25
Chopin Rye Vodka
Mixing with this vodka results in a combo akin to crushing perfectly ripe tomatoes on whole wheat crackers. Our palates lean toward a slightly sweeter Mary mix with this one; hold the black pepper.
Average price: $27
Tattersall Distilling Vodka
Distinctive grainy spice and a hint of umami define this characterful corn-based vodka. Each of those notes ensures that if you go heavy on Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, or celery salt, the Bloody Mary will sing to the same tune as the vodka.
Average price: $27
Castle & Key Sacred Spring Vodka
While its name references the water used for proofing, we’re equally intrigued by this vodka’s base ingredients — the combination of grains that make up the distillery’s bourbon mash bill (73 percent corn, 10 percent rye, and 17 percent malted barley). With a sweet and spicy grain character, this spirit takes the complexity of the brunch cocktail to the next level.
Average price: $32
Double Cross Vodka
Though clean overall, this wheat-based vodka finishes with a faintly sweet, tangy note. The flavor isn’t too far removed from biting on a refreshing green tomato, making this vodka ideal for Bloody Mary time.
Average price: $33
Chase Original Potato Vodka
If you season your Mary mix with olive brine and celery salt: a) you’re a pro, and b) this is the vodka to reach for. Its rounded, saline core weaves seamlessly among those seasonings, and demands a garnish of large, juicy green olives.
Average price: $37
Best Vodkas for Spicy Bloody Marys
Hanson of Sonoma Habanero Vodka
As chili-spiced spirits go, this is impressive. The habanero aromas arrive with vibrant gusto before prickles of chili pepper spice dance over the palate. A subtle undercurrent of sweetness from the base grape distillate ensures the spice doesn’t run too wild. Spicy Bloody Marys never tasted so good.
Average price: $28
St. George Spirits Green Chile Vodka
Distilled with jalapeños and lime, then infused with four other types of peppers, this vodka dials down the heat, relatively speaking, and instead focuses on green, vegetal complexity. Brimming with flavor, this vodka will hold its own in any Bloody Mary mix, no matter how bold you want to go with spices and seasonings.
Average price: $28