I love entertaining, but what I don’t love is being the full-time bartender.  I love making everyone their first drink, but after that, I want them to be on their own.  This guide on How to Build a Bloody Mary Bar frees you up to enjoy your guests.

I love Bloody Mary’s.  I think it is THE DRINK for celebrating first thing in the morning (Did I say that?  Don’t tell me you’ve never put together a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s to get you through holding that garage sale starting at 7 a.m.) and especially perfect for a celebratory brunch.  Makes you feel like you’re drinking something healthy with all that tomato juice (think lupine-antioxidant) and other vegetables and quite possibly protein.

I went to brunch at a restaurant in Philadelphia Noord eetcafe and saw the lovely Bloody Mary Bar they set up and knew I had to do this for my New Year’s Day Celebration.  So, here are the components that I think are important.

The Vodka

The vodka is a truly important ingredient.  Be sure to select a quality vodka.  But, is vodka gluten free?  Well, I had always believed that vodka was distilled from potatoes as the base ingredient.  But, what I’ve learned is that a lot of the popular vodkas use wheat or rye as the base ingredient.  And, some others use a mixture of gluten containing grains.  And, although some believe that the distillation process eliminates any fear that gluten is left in the final product, I just don’t believe it’s worth taking the chance.  So, I’ve listed a few vodkas below that are gluten free, but check out this more complete gluten free vodka list.

Tito’s Handmade – made in the U.S. – corn as the base ingredient – in the $20 range

Ciroc – made in France – grape as the base ingredient – in the $30 range

Chopin – made in Poland – potato as the base ingredient – be sure it’s the black cap as they make other vodkas from other bases – in the $30 range

Prairie Organic – made in the U.S. – corn as the base ingredient – in the $20 range

The Tomato Juice

Are you truly ambitious and have a garden full of fresh tomatoes?  You could make your own – or buy one of the many good quality tomato products out there.  I like the following:

V-8 regular or spicy hot

Clamato Juice

Campbell’s Tomato Juice

The Rim Options

First, you need something to make the rim options stick to the glass.  I provide wedges of lemons and limes that I slit so that they sit on the rim of the glass perfectly.  Rim the glass with the citrus wedge and then you’re ready for the good part.  Just set up as many of these as you like in shallow bowls.

Coarse Kosher Salt

Celery Salt

Old Bay Seasoning

Ground Caraway Seeds

The Skewers

Now, you need something to thread all these goodies on.  You need some of those fancy toothpicks – like a frilly pick or a bamboo skewer with a knot on the end.  I could find none of these in my small town.  I ended up cutting a bamboo skewer in half and gluing twine to one end in the shape of a knot.  They looked pretty good.

The Protein

Maple Brown Sugar Bacon – OMG I just tried this for the first time and it’s like crack.  You must have this.

Shrimp – Get the big ones for this.  I like the 21/25 or 16/20 (that just means that’s how many in a pound of shrimp).  Just cook these ahead and chill.  You just need boiling water seasoned how you like – I use Old Bay – throw the shrimp in the water and bring back to a boil until they’re pink.  It takes merely minutes.  Chill in ice water, drain and refrigerate until needed.

Noord is known for their smoked fish or prawns.  If these are available, great choice.

Cubes of cheeses of your choice – pepper jack, muenster, cheddar to name a few.

Other Charcuterie – sopresatta, pepperoni, capicola, sausage

Other Garnishes

Pickled Vegetables.  You can find so many varieties of these.  The green beans and asparagus are perfect to put into the glass and the smaller things work great on the skewers

o  green beans

o  asparagus

o  pepperoncini

o  okra

o  olives – Spanish, Picholine or Tunisian

o  Mini Corn

o  Cornichon

o  Peppadew

Celery Stalk

Fennel Stalk

Green Onion

Miscellaneous Additions


Tabasco or Frank’s Hot Sauce


Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

And, these are just suggestions.  The possibilities are endless.  Don’t forget the shot glasses and the stirrers!

And all the best to you and yours for a fabulous and Happy New Year!

P.S.  Don’t eat all the bacon before it makes it to the table.

Buon Appetito!

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