The Chemistry of a Perfect Bloody Mary
A perfect Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning could be the best thing that ever happened to the human race. It's tangy, it's sweet, it's spicy...and there's alcohol. Need I say more? Flavor chemist Neil C. Da Costa's latest project is to investigate the taste sensations created by Bloody Mary ingredients and create tips for making the best Bloody Mary humanly possible.
At an American Chemical Society meeting, Da Costa described the drink:"The Bloody Mary has been called the world's most complex cocktail, and from the standpoint of flavor chemistry, you've got a blend of hundreds of flavor compounds that act on the taste senses. It covers almost the entire range of human taste sensations—sweet, salty, sour and umami or savory—but not bitter."
The flavors come from the ingredients, of course:
- tomato juice
- Worcestershire and Tabasco
- lemon or lime juice
- black pepper
- celery salt
- garnish: celery and lemon wedge
Most ingredient have both a key flavor volatile, an aroma chemical that evaporates out from the drink, and a a key flavor non-volatile, a specific taste. Aroma chemicals and taste work together to produce the divine experience of drinking a Bloody Mary. So without further adieu, a chemist's tips for producing the the best Bloody Mary on the planet:
Step 1 Use fresh ingredients.
Fresh cut lemon, fresh shaved horseradish, and fresh blended tomatoes...what's better? According to chemists, fresh ingredients produce the strongest and most true possible aroma and taste.
Step 2 Drink it quickly.
The blend of ingredients in a Bloody Mary is 'highly unstable' chemically, and will start to taste different 30 minutes after its blended. So, make small drinks or drink it quick for best flavor.
Step 3 Supplement your mixes.
If you have to use a mix, throw fresh ingredients in to enhance flavor and aroma. Always use fresh cut lemon/lime, at least.
Step 4 Use quality tomato juice.
A Bloody Mary is mostly tomato juice, so go premium to get the rich flavor you're looking for. Campbell's, Knudson, or Welch's are rumored to be among the best.
Step 5 Use cheap vodka.
The intense, spicy, tangy flavor of a Bloody Mary chemically overpowers the flavor of the vodka, so don't waste your money on premium vodka.