These days, I find myself dreaming of family trips to New Orleans, “NOLA”. I haven’t been home to America in over two years, and usually, such a reunion trip would mean not only heading to my home state of Virginia but also visiting my grandparents with an extra trip over to NOLA for a few days.
I grew up heading to “The Big Easy” about once a year and after all my traveling abroad it is still one of my favorite cities on the planet. The music. The atmosphere. The food.
And what is my favorite thing to do there? Brunch, of course!
Brunch in New Orleans revolves around two things: Bloody Marys and Eggs Benedict.
There’s no brunch I’d rather be
Brunch is my favorite food experience, my most beloved meal in any country that takes part.
Living as an expat, I am thankful to experience the full breakfast spreads of Turkish “Kahvaltı”, drinking tea and eating for hours. However, sometimes I miss my American brunch traditions that take me “home”. It’s not always easy (or affordable) to replicate these food experiences, and although it can be done, is something reserved once in a year for a special occasion.
When I close my eyes and think of my favorite brunch, I am transported to New Orleans with the spiciest Bloody Mary you can imagine.
The spicy breakfast cocktail stuffed full of various sea creatures and topped with pickled okra or green beans is so synonymous in my mind with the colorful city of New Orleans that I actually didn’t know that NOLA is NOT the birthplace of this cocktail.
Where was Bloody Mary actually born?
Legend has it that the Bloody Mary was invented in Paris at Harry’s Bar, although New Yorkers claim this recipe was stolen from a hotel in NYC.
Like many food origins, the history of this cocktail is hard to uncover and is still quite controversial.
However, the trail of this legend also makes its way to New Orleans, supposedly being given a “twist” at the famed Brennan’s restaurant with the addition of “creole spices” and “beef broth”.
Whoever created it, this brunch cocktail is the star of the southern region of the United States. There are even restaurants throughout the area offering “Bloody Mary Bars” where you are given a glass and lead to a counter of pickled everything with all hot sauces known to man where you then make it yourself!
New Orleans may not be the true birthplace of this cocktail, but the New Orleans Bloody Mary variation is the one with the cult following throughout this part of America.
Drinking a New Orleans Bloody Mary out of the US…or maybe not
Unfortunately, I am a terrible snob when it comes to this cocktail. A few years ago traveling in Athens, a friend wanted to check out a local bar that had been written up for amazing Bloody Marys. I was wary of this and upfront about my particularity over this drink.
We were served chunky tomato puree topped with vodka and a singular green olive. I caused a scene. I refused to drink it, went to the (very unamused) bartender, requested Worcestershire sauce, and demanded hot sauce… specifically Tabasco.
I then destroyed his creation in front of his eyes (much to the horror of my friend).
My tips for an authentical Bloody Mary
What can I say? This is a drink that I strongly feel should be spicy (yes, it should burn), tangy, yet refreshing… and preferably have jumbo shrimp stuffed down inside the glass.
The possibilities are endless and open to interpretation as long as you stick to the basic ratio of what is in the drink.
Do you have a jar of spicy pickles? Pour some of that juice down in there!
Make it extra spicy, add even more vodka, swirl the glass in seasoned salt… and it is the best drink in the world to have with eggs. If those eggs can be a huge plate of runny Eggs Benedict you will really be in for a treat… just make sure to have tabasco ready at hand!
My summer NOLA dreams may in fact just be dreams this year, but here’s a recipe so that we can all have a sip of “The Big Easy” together. Be warned: this recipe makes a giant pitcher … so get ready to “Laissez les bons temps rouler” as they say in NOLA.
THE NEW ORLEANS STYLE BLOODY MARY RECIPE
Makes 1 large pitcher (about 1.5 liters)
**The ratio is 4 to 1 tomato juice to alcohol, if you want to double or halve this recipe, keep that ratio in mind!
- 4 cups (1 liter) tomato juice
- 1 cup (236 ml) vodka (more or less for preference)
- juice of 2 limes
- 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins suggested)
- 1 Tbsp. hot sauce (Tabasco suggested)
- 1 tsp. Creole of Cajun spice mix, plus more for serving
- ½ tsp. salt
Optional: garnishes like pickled green beans, pickled okra, olives, spicy pickled peppers, boiled shrimp, crab legs
Mix all ingredients together in a large pitcher and let it chill in the fridge. When ready to serve, rub the rim of tall “tumbler” glasses with a lime wedge then dip the glass to coat the rim in the creole/Cajun spice blend. Fill the glass with ice. Pour in the cocktail mixture. Stuff the garnishes onto skewers and stick them into the glass. Add more vodka and more hot sauce if wanted!