I don’t drink cocktails very often, so when I do, I want them to be special (I sound like the most interesting man in the world, don’t I)? I love to make cocktails from scratch, with fresh herbs and fruits and vegetables. Once you imbibe, you will, too! These Smoky Bloody Marys are an original, and the magic starts with making tomato juice from scratch.
When the tomatoes are nice and clean, they are chopped up and simmered for awhile with celery and onion. I used about 5 pounds of tomatoes—a mix of ripe Better Boys and Black Krims that I had from my garden, along with some plum tomatoes from the market. Use any tomatoes you have! You will have extra juice to drink during the week, or to use for other recipes, like homemade sauce or soup.
Once the tomatoes are nice and soft, run an immersion blender through the mixture to help smooth it out. Then put it through a food mill to remove all the seeds and skins. Juice should be smooth and velvety in texture.
Of course, if you’re feeling lazy, you could skip the whole make-the-juice from scratch thing, and get yourself some V8 Juice and go from there. I hope you don’t, because homemade tomato juice is sublime! But what really makes this cocktail a standout is the smoked citrus. That’s right, people! Smoke your citrus. Simply throw a few lemons and limes on the grill while you’re making dinner (the night before you plan to serve the Smoky Bloody Marys). Grill them until they are soft and juicy. The citrus will absorb all the rich, smoky flavor from the grill. This is the key to Smoky Bloody Marys. Make sure you throw a couple of extra lemons and limes on the grill to use squeeze over fish or fresh vegetables, or to make a vinaigrette for a smoky tomato salad. Refrigerate the citrus until you’re ready to use it. Yum! Smoking on the grill over hickory or applewood adds depth and richness to almost anything. Depth and richness are good!
- 3 pounds very ripe garden tomatoes, cored, roughly chopped
- 3-4 stalks of chopped celery with the leaves (about 1¼ cups)
- ⅓ cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- A few grinds of fresh black pepper
- Note: Feel free to add chopped fresh herbs from the garden–parsley and basil would be nice additions. Just wait until the juice has finished simmering to add them.
- 1 smoked lemon, quartered
- 1 smoked lime, quartered
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
- Kosher salt to taste
- 3 cups tomato juice
- 2 cups premium vodka (I love Tito’s Handmade Vodka)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Put all ingredients into a large non-reactive pot (use stainless steel, not aluminum). Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until mixture is completely soupy, about 25 minutes. Give it a taste or two, and adjust the seasonings. Depending upon your tomatoes, you may want to add a little sugar. Let the juice cool.
- Carefully blend the juice with an immersion blender right in the pan, or blend in batches in a blender.
- Run the juice through a food mill. Chill.
- Store covered and chilled. Will last for about 1 week in the refrigerator. In addition to making a marvelous Smokey Bloody Marys, this juice makes an excellent cream of tomato soup. Just add a little half-and-half and season to taste with fresh herbs.
- In the bottom of a pitcher, muddle the lemon and lime quarters with the horseradish, jalapeno and a sprinkling of Kosher salt.
- Remove the lemon and lime wedges. Stir in the tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce.
- Pour over ice and garnish with leafy celery. I also like to add a Peppadaw pepper. Cheers!
Note: If you want to learn more about crafting cocktails, grab a copy of Amy Stewart’s new book, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks. It is a great read, and the book has inspired me to use herbs from the garden more–whether in cocktails or in cooking. Read this while sipping a Smoky Bloody Mary on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Perfection!