The Secret to Making a Great Bloody Mary

No crazy toppings required.

Skip the top-shelf vodka when making Bloody Marys. There’s a secret to bringing the biggest pop of flavor to your firewater. It’s easy, cost-effective—and be warned, it may help to one-up your grandparent’s timeless cocktail recipes.

The trick: add a splash of homemade pickle-, jalapeno- or bacon-flavored vodka.

I got the idea while I was infusing vodka with raspberries for a refreshing summer cocktail. You can infuse vodka with practically anything, but fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices work best. I tossed a few pickle spears in a jar with some dill sprigs, covered it all with vodka and let it rest for a bit. Then, I added it to this classic Bloody Mary recipe and it tasted insanely delicious.

This got me wondering if I could do the same thing with other flavors. Bacon vodka and jalapeno-lime vodka soon followed and my Bloodys have never been the same.

How to Infuse Vodka

Three jars of flavored vodkaTaste of Home

Infused vodka is so easy to make, plus it tastes better and costs less than artificially-flavored vodkas you’d get at the store. Here’s a basic guide for how to make it:

Step One: Learn the ratio.

Aim to use equal parts of fruit or vegetables to vodka. Use spices sparingly as the flavor will intensify over time.

Pro tip: This is a great way to use fruit that’s just a little damaged or overripe.

Step Two: Prep it.

Just chop it up, place it in a 1-quart Mason jar, and cover with vodka.

Step Three: Let it be.

Let the jar sit for 1-7 days so that the vodka can soak up all the flavor. The timing all depends on the type of ingredient you use. A good rule of thumb is that softer ingredients need less time to sit.

For example, berries and really-ripe fruits may be ready in 3 days, while harder ingredients like pineapple and pears, may take up to 7 or more. Be cautious when adding hot peppers. The flavor and heat are extracted very quickly—sometimes 3 hours is all you’ll need.

Step Four: Enjoy responsibly.

Strain the vodka and use in your favorite cocktail recipes. Savory flavors like pepper, bacon, and pickle work wonders in a Bloody Mary.

Make it Your Own

When it comes to infusing liquor, vodka will give you the cleanest flavor—but you can also infuse other alcohols like rum, whiskey and brandy. Experiment with your own flavor combinations. Here are a few of my favorites to help get you started.

  • Wild Blueberry & Lime: combine 2 cups fresh or frozen wild Maine Blueberries and the peel of 2 limes; cover with 2 cups vodka.
  • Ginger & Peach: combine 2 cups chopped fresh peaches, 1-inch of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced; cover with 2 cups whiskey or vodka.
  • Strawberry & Mint: combine 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries, 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint; cover with 2 cups vodka.
  • Raspberry & Basil: combine 2 cups of fresh or frozen raspberries and 2 sprigs fresh basil; cover with 2 cups vodka.
  • Pineapple & Star Anise: combine 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple and 1 star anise; cover with 2 cups rum or vodka.
  • Blackberry & Clove: combine 2 cups blackberries and 1 teaspoon whole cloves; cover with brandy or vodka.
  • Jalapeno & Lime: combine 1-2 seeded and chopped jalapenos and 2 limes cut into wedges; cover with clear tequila or vodka.
  • Apricot & Cinnamon: combine 2 cups chopped apricots and 1 cinnamon stick; cover with whiskey or vodka.
  • Cherry & Orange: combine 2 cups chopped cherries and the peel of 1 large orange; cover with brandy or vodka.
  • Apple & Cardamom: combine 2 cups chopped unpeeled apples and 3 whole cardamom pods; cover with brandy, whiskey or vodka.
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James Schend
Formerly Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversaw the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and managed all food content for Trusted Media Brands. He has also worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and at Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, James has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.