Next month, top contenders in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association compete in the 2009 WFTDA Nationals Tournament (Philadelphia, Nov. 13 to 15). Will Bloody Mary, star jammer of the Hell Marys roller derby team in Texas, best Nashville's Damsels of Distress, Hildabeast and Maulin Monroe? Locally, the River City Rollergirls' two teams, Poe's Punishers and Uncivil Warriors, frequently rumble at Skateland on Hull Street. And whether your next headache is due to a trackside collision with Maliciously Delicious or two too many Halloween tequila shots, there's one surefire remedy … the Bloody Mary.
Everyone loves a homemade Bloody, but what if you can't muster the Worcestershire sauce and celery salt to make it? To answer this question, I judged a baker's dozen mixes from around the country (including one from Richmond) according to:
- Tomato quality and consistency (beware of paste–based mixes and concoctions with fruit concentrates, powder spices and high-fructose corn syrup).
- Spiciness that arouses but doesn't numb the palate.
- Salinity (celery salt was abused in lesser mixes).
- Secondary flavorings (e.g. citrus and vegetable notes that give the drink heft and lovely jags).
Hot Blooded Runners-Up
Bloody Bold Bloody Mary Mix
Silver-medal winner. A stellar mix with layered flavors of horseradish, citrus and clam on the tongue, and a pleasing thickness. Though it's a tad sweet, the mix offers excellent corpse-reviver qualities; a great hangover panacea. bloodybold.com
Uncle Dougie's Torpedo Juice
Sweet and beguiling with a malt-vinegary taste and sharp ending. Good for spice lovers; great with brunch. original uncledougies.com
Whiskey Willy's Bloody Mary Mix
The so-called "Almost World Famous" mix is well-integrated with a perfect celery saltiness. Thinner than most, straight-on, with one-note pepper and garlic powder spiciness. hotshoppe.com
Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
A nice spicy thing with a V-8 consistency and a rich vegetable flavor; tastes like a classic bar-made Bloody. MSG saltiness detracts from the sharpness. zingzang.com
Jero Spicy Jalapeno Bloody Mary Mix
Nice jalapeño twang, citrus and sweetness. It's the most "doctorable" for home mixers; perfect for novices who won't miss a lack of complexity. carriagehousecos.com
Ben Jack Laredo's Bloody Mary Mix
Each bottle contains a pickled asparagus spear and family folklore going back to the Santa Fe Cattle Trail. benjacklaredo.com
Freshies Original Bloody Mary Mix
Uses fresh vegetables and herbs instead of concentrates and dried ingredients, plus Dijon mustard and fresh dill. freshies.com
Major Peters' Original
The most tomato-juice forward (94 percent juice), with a nice viscosity and a smooth glide, though salty to a fault. majorpeters.com
And the Winner Is …
Demitri's All Natural Bloody Mary Seasoning Classic Recipe/
Chiles and Peppers/Extra Horseradish
This seasoning (you add the fresh tomato juice and garnishes) is as good as it gets without making it from scratch. The mixed drink is sharp, peppery and fantastic with succinct flavors, a beautiful jaggedness of secondary flavors, balanced spiciness, great complexity and an exciting finish that kills you softly. Great for bartenders since it's a concentrate that won't degrade like tomato juice in a big bottle. For $9.45, you can buy a 16-ounce bottle that makes eight quarts or 40, 12-ounce drinks and fits smartly in an apartment fridge. demitris.com
When the Bloody Mary debuted at Harry's New York Bar in Paris circa 1921, vodka was the spirit of choice. Today, "little water" (as the Russians call vodka) remains the favored Hemi under a Bloody's hood, but variations feature the substitution of tequila (Bloody Maria), sherry (Bloody Bishop), saké (Bloody Geisha). I prefer the gin-based Red Snapper over a traditional Mary; the gin adds a juniper zip that vodka's innocuousness can't match. And serious enthusiasts can remove the ice-melt dilution factor by freezing a tray of cubes made from your favorite mix. Yes, Bloody cubes: They're in my drink this very moment. Have a Bloody marvelous Halloween.