With the weather improving every day, it’s time to start thinking about sunny brunches on the patio – whether it’s your own patio or the local brunch hot spot. And with brunch comes one sure thing: the Bloody Mary.

I won’t get into the recipe today (hint: come back Thursday for Chris’ amazing Mezcal Mary recipe) but I did want to take a little time to go over your garnish choices. After all, a Bloody Mary just isn’t a Bloody Mary without a bouquet of garnishes on top!

Must Have: Extra Long Cocktail Picks

Looking for a good way to go crazy with your garnishes? Check out these brand new Stainless Cocktail Picks that we just released on Amazon. They are a full 8″ long, super sharp and perfect for garnishes in any Collins or Highball glass. I had a lot of fun playing with these (can you tell from the photos?) and I think you’ll like them too!

p.s. I’ve dropped the price to celebrate the launch, so you might want to pick them up now!

Before we start:

The Salt Rim

I’m not sure this counts as a “garnish” but today I’m going to say it does. The salt rim is not only a very common (and delicious) addition to your standard Bloody Mary cocktail, it also opens up the doors to unlimited creative flavors and ideas.

  • Au Natural: A classic kosher salt rim is a great choice. Consider salting half the rim if you want the customer to have their choice of salted or not.
  • Salt and Pepper: Like a little “pep” in your life? Add a bit of black pepper or paprika to the salt. Be careful – a little goes a long way!
  • Celery Salt: Spoiler alert: you’re probably gonna want to put Celery in your Bloody Mary. Why not pair it with a celery salt rim? It also has the benefit of a beautiful savory aroma that’s perfectly matched for this tomato drink.
  • Meat Salt: This salt is basically dried and ground up proscuitto mixed with kosher salt. It is as savory as it gets and a perfect rim for a Bloody Mary.

OK, now on to the garnishes. Let’s start with the basics:

Common Bloody Mary Garnishes:

This is the standard lineup! It’d be hard to find a Bloody Mary without one or two of these poking out of the glass.

  • Celery: A must-have. The celery is the international symbol of “Bloody Mary”. Typically it’ll be untrimmed – meaning the celery still has the leaves on top.
  • Green or Black Olives: Another very common garnish, olives are a great choice. Consider pimento-stuffed or (as we’ll mention later) green olives stuffed with blue cheese!
  • Pickles: You’ll almost always find something pickled. I’ve seen dill pickle spears or cornichons pierced on cocktail picks.
  • Peppers: A perfect match for this spicy cocktail, it just makes sense to garnish with peppers. There’s a huge variety of peppers to choose from, with varying levels of spiciness and flavor. I like:
    • Roasted bell peppers: lots of roasty bell pepper flavor, not spicy at all.
    • Pepperocini: Slightly spicier with more of a “pepper” flavor
    • Banana peppers: Medium spicy peppers
    • Pickled Jalapenos: Spicier with a combination picked / spiciness flavor
  • Lemon / Lime: Add a wheel or wedge of citrus to the glass. It adds great color and gives you (or the customer) the ability to add more acid to the cocktail if they prefer.

Feeling zesty?

Next Level Options

If you’ve mastered the basics and want to start taking your Bloody Mary to the next level, there are a lot of great options out there that don’t require a degree in architecture (or a full package of Maalox!) Here are a few ideas:

  • Cocktail Shrimp: Who doesn’t like shrimp with tomato sauce? Shrimp and Bloody Marys are just the next logical step
  • Picked Green Beans, Asparagus or Cocktail Onions: Pickled stuff works really well in Bloody Marys – and I’ve seen all three of these done deliciously well.
  • A Strip of Bacon: It’s meaty, salty, savory, and shaped perfectly to stick in the glass. So what’s stopping you?
  • Cheese: I’ve seen cheese done several ways:
    • Cubes of Cheddar, Swiss or Monterey Jack speared on cocktail picks along with everything else
    • Bits of blue cheese stuffed in green olives
    • Balls of fresh mozzarella pierced on picks (sometimes with Cherry tomatoes and Basil for a “caprese” style drink!)
  • Marinated Artichoke Hearts: Not quite pickled, but still flavorful. Anothe great choice.
That’s it, now we’re getting serious

Bordering on Ridiculous

Just happen to have a degree in architecture, a bunch of cocktail picks, a creative spirit and a mop if things go wrong? Well then – go crazy! The only limits are your imagination, and, well, gravity.

I haven’t personally tried any of the following but I’ve definitely heard about bars that offer Bloody Mary Monstrosities that are a whole meal in and of themselves.

  • Sliders
  • Slice of pizza
  • Chicken wings
  • Devilled or scotch egg
  • Fried Chicken
  • DimSum

So the next time you find yourself craving a “hair of the dog” pick me up on a weekend morning, you’ll have no excuse but to break out the veggie drawer and garnish the heck out of that Bloody Mary. (Especially if you happen to have a set of these cocktail picks!)

Julia Tunstall

Julia Tunstall is the co-founder of A Bar Above and Chief Cocktail Taster. She's in charge of keeping things running smoothly around here, but you'll also find her stopping by on the Mixology Talk Podcast or hanging around the Craft Cocktail Club.