I love a cocktail party and, quite frankly, Bloody Marys are one of my favorite classic cocktails. So why not marry the two?
You see, not only do I love Bloody Marys because you get away with drinking an amazing cocktail during the daylight hours (no judging here), but I also love that you can add all kinds of delicious, savory, and salty mini appetizers right into your drink!
Since Bloody Marys provide the perfect opportunity to host a brunch cocktail party, I thought it time to provide a DIY Bloody Mary bar with all the key ingredients for you to enjoy this true classic and show off your hostess skills. Behold: The Bloody Mary bar!
The secret to a great Bloody Mary bar is having a lot of options for your guests to choose from. I’ve compiled a list of ingredients I think are essential (and a lot of fun) to setting up the perfect bar. Since everyone likes their brunch cocktail a little differently, you can pick and choose your favorite ingredients to customize your bar to reflect your own personal style.
A prepared tomato juice makes it simple to serve Bloody Marys to a crowd. I think it’s important to choose a quality juice with good ingredients like real tomatoes, horseradish, and spices for the best flavor.
If you’re feeling adventurous enough to mix the Bloody Mary juice from scratch, you’ll need a few essentials like lemon and lime juice, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix everything together in a pitcher, and keep it simple. A basic mix makes an ideal starting point for guests, who can add their favorite flavorings from your bar.
I’ve provided one basic version and another pre-spiced version for that extra kick! Since juice is a major part of any Bloody Mary bar, feel free to play around with V8®, Clamato® juice (using Clamato® makes this a Bloody Caesar!), or other tomato-based concoctions.
Don’t forget to check for V8® coupons before you stock up your bar!
Most people instantly think vodka when they order a Bloody Mary. While this traditional take is fine, don’t rule out other liquors to experiment with. The benefit of building your own bar is that you can put out any base spirit you’d like.
First on the list: Tequila! This version is called a Bloody Maria and it’s delicious. Got gin? Gin works great with Bloody Marys. Hot pepper vodka? Try it! Think of it as chemistry experiment with tomato juice.
Bar set-up tip: Be sure to put a shot glass next to each bottle you choose so guests can try each flavor.
Everyone knows you need ground pepper on hand for your Bloody Mary bar, but there’s a world of other wonderful spices just waiting to perk up your cocktail.
Many people love adding celery salt to their Bloody Mary, and I’ve fallen in love with rimming my glass with Old Bay® seasoning, which adds a spicy yet smoky touch to every sip. If you want to go classic, make sure to plate up some kosher salt so those salt crystals are nice and chunky.
A group of delicious hot sauces at the end of your Bloody Mary bar allows guests to add that final personal accent on their creation.
A group of sauces that range from mild to fiery hot gives everyone the chance to experiment and build a cocktail that meets their spicy preference. Tabasco® is an all-time favorite and Worcestershire sauce is simply a must have. From there you can have fun adding any hot sauce that suits your fancy.
Fresh veggies & citrus
I’ve seen every vegetable under the sun in a Bloody Mary bar, but I think Bloody Marys simply need a little citrus. It’s an essential element that adds the right balance to the drink. I think the more the merrier, so be sure to have lots of lovely lemon and lime wedges on hand for that essential zing!
Another classic and essential Bloody Mary element is the celery stick. Not only do they look beautiful grouped together on your bar, but they provide each cocktail with a fresh swizzle stick. Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber wheels are other great additions.
Take a peek at the photo above for a few ideas on how to stock your Bloody Mary bar with some fun pickled and marinated garnishes that will bring any cocktail to life. Classic items start with cocktail olives and onions, then expand into other varieties like pepperoncinis, roasted peppers, pickled asparagus, or even pickled green beans.
Let your imagination run free on items in this category because almost anything pickled — I love pickled okra, for example — will work with your Bloody Mary.
Meats & fish
This is where you can get a little adventurous with your Bloody Mary bar garnishes. Bacon swizzles are all the rage right now along with pepperoni sticks. I think any way to add bacon to a cocktail is worth trying, so I sprinkled mine with some brown sugar before grilling and highly recommend the combination.
For the Bloody Maria, sliced chorizo sausage is a perfect compliment to the tequila. From there you can add in rolled prosciutto, boiled shrimp, and steamed oysters to give your Bloody Mary bar the full gambit of protein and flavor.
Now that you’ve got your shopping list of ingredients lined up, there are a few other things to consider to make your Bloody Mary bar absolutely top-notch fabulous!
Let’s face it — not everyone knows how to mix a good cocktail. Providing a little direction so guests can easily mix their own keeps the conversation entertaining and helps guide even a rookie mixologist.
I used an old frame and a water-based paint marker to help my guests follow the Bloody Mary-making process — the sign became the backdrop for my table so it doubled as decoration!
To serve your cocktails, you don’t need to set the bar up with fancy large glasses that require a lot of juice and ice to fill them. In fact, given how much people will enjoy making their Bloody Marys and adding all those custom garnishes, you might consider a glass that’s no bigger than an Old Fashioned. It’s the perfect size and everyone will want to come back for seconds, so this controls portion sizes.
When it comes to providing vessels for your pickled goodies and veggies, think mid-size containers. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on containers for your Bloody Mary bar, but unifying them with a color or shape helps to showcase the ingredients.
Have some fun thinking outside the box and get creative with your containers. I hit up my local thrift store and found these glass containers for a dollar a piece and they worked great!
You’re going to need quite a bit of ice for all those cocktails your guests will be making. Set up a fancy ice bucket and ice scooper next to your glassware for a special touch. Be ready to keep an eye on the ice and keep it filled at all times. I recommend a few extra bags of ice in your freezer for quick and easy refills.
Bloody Marys are a classic cocktail meant to be enjoyed at a brunch with friends, but who wants to worry about making cocktail after cocktail when each one requires a bit of tinkering to satisfy the flavor preference of each guest?
Solve this conundrum without running yourself ragged and still make sure everyone gets a drink they’ll love! Follow the guidelines above and build a memorable Bloody Mary bar. Your friends will have a blast mixing and customizing their cocktails and they’ll have you to thank!
Be your own bartender with more delicious cocktail creations!