Nothing says love like a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
Really? You were thinking champagne and chocolates deserve all the attention on Valentine’s Day?
Well, Fayetteville food blogger Katie Crenshaw and Fayetteville designer Cynthia Ross are here to show you how you can take the makings of a Bloody Mary and a few simple decorations and turn them into a colorful display that looks as fancy as the jewelry counter at Tiffany’s.
And if your Valentine is like many of us and has a penchant for the iconic spicy cocktail that was first concocted nearly 100 years ago, you’ll find the addition of flavored vodkas, tomato-based mixes and a variety of toppings is the perfect foundation for brunch, lunch or a party for two or 200. In fact, the toppings themselves can be enough to make a meal.
Vodka, which serves as the traditional base for the Bloody Mary, comes in about as many flavors these days as do the scoops at an ice cream shop. Crenshaw often includes a variety of vodkas flavored with everything from dill pickles to jalapeno peppers and even to bacon.
But when she really wants to make a special Bloody Mary, she adds her homemade concoction to the table. On her “A Fork’s Tale” blog, she relates the story of visiting family in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and trying the outstanding Blood Marys served up at Mahoney’s Restaurant & Bar. The restaurant made the drink special with their own vegetable-infused vodka.
“They had this huge glass jar on their bar filled with vodka and fresh vegetables,” she said. “I knew I had to go home and recreate it for myself.”
She found that the process was easy, but it does take three days for the vegetables and herbs to infuse basic vodka. But it’s worth the wait.
“It really makes your Bloody Mary pop,” Crenshaw said. “It has so much more flavor than regular vodka. It takes a regular Bloody Mary and turns it into an amazing Bloody Mary.”
On a recent afternoon, a steady stream of visitors popped in to concoct individual Bloody Mary creations that all looked pretty amazing. Ross started by setting the stage for a festive table with a centerpiece fashioned from a branch snipped from one of the dogwood trees in her yard. She added greenery to a decorative container, then hung heart-shaped ornaments. Cute napkins and inexpensive stemmed glasses made the table ready for Crenshaw to set out a variety of vodkas and toppings, flavored salts for the glass rims, and a few of everyone’s favorite tomato-based mixes.
Crenshaw, who says she learned to cook only after she and her husband Paul were married 18 years ago, loves to discover unique items whenever she travels, but the makings for an impressive Blood Mary are readily available locally. Crenshaw often makes her own flavored salts, but lots of commercial varieties are available as well.
So, do Blood Mary cocktails really say Valentine’s Day?
“I like them anytime,” Crenshaw said. “If you do a bar like this, people just seem to love it.”
“If you want to have a different type of Valentine’s Day party,” Ross added, “You could always invite friends for a Blood Mary, and then they could still go out to dinner after.”
The Best Bloody Mary Vodka Infusion
(From Katie Crenshaw’s “A Fork’s Tale blog)
1 sliced tomato
1/4 sliced onion
2 celery stalks chopped
1/4 cup baby carrots or 2 chopped carrots
1/2 cucumber sliced
1 sliced lemon
3 to 4 sprigs of dill or more if you like a strong dill flavor
2 garlic cloves
750 ML Vodka
In large container, combine all ingredients.
Refrigerate three days. If you want to make it spicy, on the last two hours, add a sliced jalapeño. (You don’t want to add it too long because it will become too hot very quickly.)
Remove all the vegetables and strain clean.
Mix with your favorite Bloody Mary mix or store in refrigerator until ready to use.
Suggested condiments for a Bloody Mary bar
pickles, and/or a variety of pickled vegetables including green beans, cocktail onions, asparagus, beets, okra, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms
mini biscuits with fried chicken nuggets, mini hamburgers, or grilled cheese sandwiches
beef sticks or beef jerky
thick slices of bacon
cheese sticks, blue cheese cubes, or mozzarella balls
hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, cracked pepper
flavored salt for rims of glasses