Editor’s note: When two Post Food section staffers each offered what they consider to be superior tomato cocktails that beat your standard bloody mary, we knew we couldn’t choose between them. For readers, it’s a win-win.
For the past three summers, one of us (Kara) has been creating bloody mary mixes with fresh tomatoes, an array of pickle juices and spices, and input from friends. The ingredients and proportions always change, but in the interest of spreading the fresh-is-best gospel, a recipe was agreed upon and recorded.
Because the main ingredient is delicious, perfectly ripe, in-season tomatoes, this mix actually tastes like tomatoes – unlike some versions that, ahem, rely on store-bought tomato juice, steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
Yes, okay, fine. This does require more work. You have to cut the tomatoes – plus some cucumber and watermelon to balance the flavors – and puree and strain the whole shebang through a fine-mesh strainer, an activity that has the potential to be messy. But your efforts will be rewarded.
Pair this mix with a pop of bubbly, a trick learned from the Duck & Bunny in Providence, R.I., and you’ll have a Bloody Mosa, lighter and more refreshing than its traditional vodka-laden counterpart.
But fresh tomatoes, as lovely and summer-sunshine-tasting as they can be from a community-supported agriculture (CSA) share, are not what the other one of us (Fritz) wants to deal with on those Sunday mornings when he is in need of a tomato-based cocktail – and when he is least likely to be patient enough to deal with straining and sieves.
That’s when he turns to the Red-Eye, the beer cocktail that was a staple of the late, lamented Sunday brunch at the Passenger, a bartender’s bar near Mount Vernon Square. It’s nothing more than a spicy bloody mary alternative made with 10 to 12 ounces of beer from a tallboy can of Schlitz.
Fritz says a cocktail based on beer neatly handles a common hazard of brunch: The best bloody marys expertly mask the fact that they can contain more alcohol than the average cocktail, and the next thing you know, Sunday afternoon slowly slips into a boozy replay of Saturday night. While a shot of vodka is usually around 40 percent alcohol by volume, your tallboy is only 4.7 percent. (As a bonus, the Red-Eye comes with a serving of beer on the side, which can be added to the drink or consumed neat.)
Some people – probably from Texas – will claim that beer plus hot sauce plus tomato juice equals a michelada, and although the Red-Eye is similar, the two drinks are different. The latter’s steak sauce adds savory flavors and body, and its Old Bay spices provide a familiar whiff of the Chesapeake.
You can squeeze your own tomato juice for a Red-Eye; Fritz would never tell you not to. But he says it is delicious enough made with fresh organic juice from the supermarket.
We’ll let you decide.
10 servings (makes about 5 cups Bloody Mosa mix)
It’s best to use in-season tomatoes; you want a really good tomato flavor. If you can’t find those, use four cups of high-quality store-bought tomato juice in place of the tomato-cucumber-watermelon juice.
Horseradish powder is available online at TheSpiceHouse.com, MySpiceSage.com and Amazon.com. For this recipe, we use juice from Arlington, Va.-based Number 1 Sons Dilly Beans and Crystal brand hot sauce.
MAKE AHEAD: The Bloody Mosa mix can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Stir well before using.
Inspired by the Bubbly Mary at the Duck & Bunny in Providence, R.I.; from Food editorial aide Kara Elder.
For the tomato mix
About 2 pounds tomatoes (a mix of in-season heirlooms), cut in chunks
1/2 English (seedless) cucumber, cut in chunks (about 5 ounces)
1 cup watermelon chunks (about 5 ounces; optional)
1/3 to 1/2 cup pickle juice (see headnote)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
2 to 4 tablespoons hot sauce (see headnote)
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the drinks
2 teaspoons smoked salt, such as hickory- or cherry-flavored wood smoke
1/2 teaspoon coarse or flaky sea salt
2 teaspoons horseradish powder, sifted to remove any clumps (see headnote)
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Juice of 2 limes
For the tomato mix: Combine the tomatoes, cucumber and watermelon chunks, if using, with a large pinch of salt in a blender; puree until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large liquid measuring cup or mixing bowl, using the back of a spoon to extract and push through as much liquid as possible. You may need to puree and strain in batches. Discard the solids. You should have about 4 cups of thick juice.
Whisk in 1/3 cup of the pickle juice, the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the hot sauce, the Spanish smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper and the black pepper. Taste; add more pickle juice, hot sauce, cayenne pepper and/or kosher salt as needed.
For the drinks: Whisk together the smoked salt, sea salt, horseradish powder and sweet paprika in a shallow bowl. Pour the lime juice into a small plate, then dip the rim of a highball glass first into the lime juice and then into the salt mixture to coat the rim. Repeat with more highball glasses as needed.
Fill the glasses almost all the way with ice. Fill each glass about two-thirds with Bloody Mosa mix, then top each portion with prosecco. Stir until well blended before sipping.
Nutrition | Per serving: 120 calories, 1 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar
1 serving (makes about 1 quart of tomato mixture; enough for 8 servings)
Schlitz is the preferred beer here, as it was the house cheap tallboy at the Passenger in D.C., where this drink was served.
MAKE AHEAD: The tomato mixture can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Based on the tomato juice-beer cocktail served at the Passenger in D.C.; adapted from Jade Aldrighette, general manager of that bar.
For the tomato mixture
2 1/2 ounces A.1. Steak Sauce
2 ounces fresh lime juice (from about 1 1/2 limes)
2 ounces Frank’s Red Hot brand hot sauce, plus more for garnish
2 ounces Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh horseradish root
About 3 cups pure tomato juice
For the drink
16 ounces canned Schlitz beer (see headnote)
Lime wedge, for garnish
For the tomato mixture: Combine the steak sauce, lime juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay and black pepper in a large pitcher, and stir until well blended. Grate a small amount of horseradish on top (to taste) and stir again, then add the tomato juice and stir until well incorporated. The yield is about 1 quart; you’ll need 4 ounces for this drink. Refrigerate the rest in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
For the drink: Pour 4 ounces of the tomato mixture into a pint glass. Top with some of the beer.
Squeeze the lime wedge into the drink, then drop it in. Garnish with a dash of hot sauce; while you’re drinking, occasionally refresh the glass with more beer from the can.
Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.