For me, nearly every fall Saturday in college was spent the exact same way: cheering on the Wisconsin Badgers. I’ll confess that I still can’t exactly distinguish between a runningback and a wide receiver (one runs and one… receives?), but I’ve always made a point to cheer as though I did. I figure that it’s the spirit of the whole thing that really matters, right? Right.
Regardless, anyone from a Big Ten school will tell you that supporting your team doesn’t stop after graduation. But when I moved to California after college, I had no idea that I was leaving behind one of my favorite football morning traditions. Enter the Midwestern Bloody Mary.Bloody Marys might exist everywhere, but only the Midwest knows how to do them right. A true Midwestern Bloody Mary has a few things that set it apart from the watered down, non-garnished pack:
- Piled high with garnishes, ideally including at least two types of meat. If you have to finish a meal before you can start your drink, you’ve probably found yourself a Midwestern Bloody Mary.
- Always, always delivered with a “beer back” – a small glass of a light beer like a pilsner or pale ale to ease the spiciness.
- Served zesty, with a kick from pickle juice and tabasco.
With football season on my mind, I set out to build the ultimate Midwestern Bloody Mary… all the way from San Francisco.I knew in advance that I would have to make a few sacrifices. Despite my best attempts, I still can’t find a place that will make me fried cheese curds, and pepperjack cheese is surprisingly difficult to track down. Despite that, the final result was worth every step (and spare condiment) along the way.
I always begin with Absolut Peppar, as it is hands down my favorite base for Bloody Marys. It gives a little extra zing that you won’t find in normal vodkas.You should adjust drink recipes according to your personal preference, but I’ve found that roughly 1.5oz is usually about the right amount for my taste.
Warning: Your bloody mary will look suspiciously like brown goo at this point. You will start to question everything. Just keep going. Don’t forget to add your pickle juice.
After you’ve added all of the spice ingredients, go ahead and fill it to the brim with V8. I recently discovered V8 Spicy Hot and loved using that for my Bloodys, but you might prefer the original if you want something a bit more mild. Another alternative to my recipe is to swap the Original Tabasco for the Chipotle version – again, this is all about your preference. You do you, just as long as ‘you’ involves pickle juice and bacon.
Add another ice cube or two, and stir everything up!
Now comes the fun part: go ahead and taste it. Too spicy? Add original V8, or just pour yourself a bigger beer back. Not spicy enough? Try adding in 1/2 tsp of chili powder or a bit more Tabasco. Not enough zest? I douse mine liberally with extra Worcestershire when I want more zing.
When you’ve gotten the drink to your liking, it’s time to pile it high with garnishes. Start with… everything.A stalk of celery, a lemon wedge, a cheese stick, and some type of meat (usually sausage) are traditional, but why stop there? Pile on every savory topping you can find. A few of my personal favorites include bacon, olives, asparagus, and a pickle, but I’ve also seen bloody marys served with a full-on mini cheeseburger, complete with bun. Again, do whatever makes you happy.No matter what, don’t forget your beer back! No one can decide exactly why Wisconsin started serving a small glass of beer with their bloodys, but now it is a respected (and expected) tradition. So go ahead and pour a little glass – this is game day, after all.
And if it’s actually just a random Sunday brunch in April, you should still pour it. It’s tradition!
I used Goose Island’s Matilda when I was making these bloodys, but I’d recommend something even milder than that. I love Matilda as an everyday beer, but a cheap pilsner (read: every other beer you’re probably drinking on game day) would probably work even better. And if you happen to get your hands on a case of Spotted Cow, well… I’ll be over here if you happen to feel generous.
When you have the toppings you’d like, get to work on assembling the bloody mary of your dreams.
To get the bacon to swirl on the stick, I used extra thick slices and didn’t fry them all the way to a crisp. You’ll have to move quickly to get the ingredients skewered before the bacon cools, but try to avoid burning yourself. For the less creatively inclined, putting a piece of bacon straight into the Bloody as a stir stick works just as well.
Ingredients (Makes 1)
For the bloody
- 1.5oz Absolut Peppar (Note: This is hands down my favorite base for bloody marys. It might be a bit tougher to find than a standard bottle, but it’s worth the search!)
- Pale Ale/Pilsner of choice (I used Goose Island Matilda, but something milder in taste would probably be more complimentary)
- V8 Spicy Hot juice (to fill)
- 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (~4-6 shakes)
- 1/2 tsp Original Tabasco sauce (~6-8 shakes)
- 1 1/2 tsp A1 Steak sauce
- 1 tbl dill pickle brine
- 1/2 tsp celery salt
- Salt + Pepper to taste
- Ice, to serve
For the garnishes (Add in as many as possible, starting with celery, lemon, sausage, and cheese stick)
- Bacon and/or sausage stick
- Cheese sticks/cubes (ideally pepperjack)
- Asparagus stalk
- Pearl onions
- Skewers, to assemble
- Start by pouring in your 1.5oz (that’s 1 1/2 shots for those of you at home) Absolut Peppar into your glass.
- Add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, A1 steak sauce, pickle brine, celery salt, and a few ice cubes in to the vodka. Mix well.
- Add a few additional ice cubes, and then fill to the brim with V8 Spicy Hot juice.
- To serve, pour the “beer back” into a smaller sized glass and top your bloody with any assortment of garnishes available to you! A celery stalk, lemon wedge, cheese stick, and sausage stick are traditional, but why stop there? There is no such thing as “too many garnishes” when it comes to Midwestern bloody marys, so feel free to throw on everything that you have available.
While you’re waiting for your bacon to fry, check out one of my favorite things on the internet, The Lunch Read. It was started by a group of friends (many of whom are Big Ten alums), who round up the best of the internet’s articles, songs, and recipes and deliver them to your inbox weekly, just in time for Wednesday lunch. You might spy a familiar recipe in this week’s Lunch!