The Search for a Scottish Bloody Mary


Inspired by the creativity of bartenders throughout history with this classic ‘hair-of-the-dog’ cocktail I set myself the task of replicating the bloody mary using solely Scottish produce, with a focus on ingredients found during my foraging travels across Scotland, my back-garden herb picking and my local vegetable plot.

Despite a much-disputed history, what seems certain is that a recipe for the Bloody Mary in its current form first appeared in Crosby Gaige’s  “Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion” (1941), as a ‘Red Snapper’ – a name now synonymous with the gin-spiked variation of the cocktail:

Crosby Gaige’s classic ‘Red Snapper’ – Ingredients:

  • 2oz Tomato Juice
  • 2oz Vodka
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 pinch of Salt
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 dash of lemon juice
  • Salt/Pepper/Red Pepper to taste
  • Shake well with ice and serve in a Delmonico glass.

I see this recipe as the one which provides the basis of our modern variations, a striking and complex coverage of four of the five basic human tastes: sweet, sour, salty and umami. Bitterness crops up all too often in cocktail history, but not here. Sweet saltiness from the tomato juice and popular addition celery, umami from the Worcestershire sauce, acidity from the lemon juice and spice from the pepper – it’s rare now not to find a modern day recipe without Tabasco or hot-sauce variant for an extra bite.

As a member of my local community garden, these ingredients were not difficult to track down.

Now, to source each of these unique flavours from my landscape:

Tomato, Lovage and Lemon Balm Shrub.  First stop, the salty-yet-sweet flavour of the Bloody Mary gifted by the Tomato Juice (and now traditionally celery).

As a member of my local community garden, these ingredients were not difficult to track down. Our tomato growth this year wasn’t great, but I managed to harvest enough to play with for the drink. On harvest in June the tomatoes were small, but plump and flavourful, with excitingly sweet aromatics likely brought by the unexpectedly prolonged Glasgow summer. Perfect.

Unfortunately we haven’t been growing celery but the characteristic taste profile can be found intensified in the leaves of common garden plant Lovage. Brought to our shores by the Romans, who highly regarded this plant for both it’s culinary and medicinal uses, Lovage is a traditional aid to rheumatism.

Aesthetically similar to Angelica, the broad, coarse three-pronged leaflets are hard to pass by as a result of the intense celery aromatics. On tasting, the flavour is full and long lasting, like celery, but with added depth and pepper. When the flowers are out of season, check for the similarly potent seeds on the plant for your celery-like fix. My attention was then directed towards acidity, an essential component used here to balance and settle the numerous intense flavours that would otherwise be fighting within the libation.

Bartenders for too long have been clutching onto traditional citrus sources of acidity like a crutch – namely lemon, lime and grapefruit juices. Thankfully, the modern age of progressive bartending has discovered new techniques and resurrected old methods of preservation to add interesting and complex acidity to drinks. This is a major focus of our work at Hawthorn Drinks, and this Bloody Mary benefits from the colonial American technique of producing a ‘shrub’.

Porcini Mushroom Tincture.  The biggest challenge in creating this Bloody Mary was capturing the all-important taste of umami that lifts the classic drink through Worcestershire sauce. This fascinating ‘fifth taste’ is prominent in Japanese cuisine and I am yet to encounter anyone who doesn’t love it’s moreish savoury profile.  Here, the umami is provided by the Brown Birch Bolete – a readily available porcini mushroom.

The cocktail is now taking shape, but still needs an extra depth to challenge and match the incredibly complex Bloody Mary’s of modern bartending. Coastal foraging provided an exciting source of spice which was new to me.  Water Pepper infused Botanist.  Arsemart or Smartweed are alternative names for the Water Pepper which was introduced to my foraging repertoire by Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods.

With the cocktail now taking shape, an extra hit of umami is all that’s needed to complete it. For this, Scottish umami-rich seaweeds can take their role. A well-known staple in Japanese cuisine, a country with similar coastal goods to Scotland, delicacies such as Pepper Dulce and Kombu have been used in modern Scottish culinary cuisine in some of the countries top kitchens for it’s taste-bud stimulating qualities. After picking a range of fresh seaweeds on the coasts of west-coast Alloway and east-coast Portobello, I set on making a flavour-influencing salt rim:

Foraged Seaweed Salt

  • 100g Dehydrated Seaweed (Pepper Dolce preferred)
  • 100g Hebridean Sea Salt, or any good quality unrefined Salt

The four basic tastes prevalent in your modern day Bloody Mary are now covered. Salty sweetness, acidity and uplifting herbal complexity from the Tomato, Lovage & Lemon Balm Shrub, savoury umami richness from the wild mushrooms and seaweed salt rim, rounded and bolstered by the backbone of the chilli-like Water-Pepper infused Botanist Gin.

Coastal herb Sea Rocket can be served on the side, providing an optional hit of wasabi that many enjoy in their hangover cure.

This is a left-field take on the classic cocktail that breaks conventions, using accessible, modern techniques.  Here is the final ingredient list:

The Foraged Red Snapper – Ingredients:

  • 50ml Water-Pepper infused Botanist Gin
  • 30ml Tomato, Lovage & Lemon Balm Shrub
  • 5ml Porcini Mushroom Solution
  • Rim of Seaweed-Salt,

Thrown over ice & served in a martini glass.  Enjoy!

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