The Perfect Bloody Mary Explained By Science

There is little better on a Sunday morning at brunch, or breakfast, or tea for that matter, than a Bloody Mary to open your eyes and get your day started right. The kick of spice, the tang of lemon, and the flavors of vodka and tomato all combine to make a world-class drink. That is, of cause, if it’s made properly.

The Bloody Mary has been called the Mount Everest of cocktail drinks.

“It’s a very complicated drink,” said Neil C. Da Costa, Ph.D., an expert on the chemical analysis of flavors at International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., Union Beach, N.J.

“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.”

Da Costa said those flavors originate in the basic ingredients in the traditional Bloody Mary, which by one account originated in a Paris bar in the 1930’s. Stories link the name to various historical figures, especially Queen Mary I of England, noted for her bloody repression of religious dissenters. The ingredients include tomato juice, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce, fresh lemon or lime juice, horseradish, black pepper, and celery salt. Shaken with ice or served over ice, it is often garnished with celery and a lemon wedge.

Some of the ingredients have been linked with beneficial health effects, Da Costa, noted, citing the rich source of lycopene, for instance, in the tomato juice; horseradish with its allyl isothiocyanate, which can be effective at lower concentrations; other phytochemicals in lemon; and even the alcohol in vodka, which some studies suggest can be beneficial when taken occasionally in small amounts.

Does Da Costa’s research provide any insights for making a good Bloody Mary? He cites several!


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