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For Mother’s Day, give Mom a Bloody Mary and leave her alone

The classic brunch cocktail is best enjoyed on its own, with lots of pickled garnishes to snack on while you drink.
The classic brunch cocktail is best enjoyed on its own, with lots of pickled garnishes to snack on while you drink the spicy, tangy and potent cocktail.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

Pancakes and eggs benedict may seem like the type of pampering that moms want for Mother’s Day. Even though I’m not a mother or parent, I’ve been around enough to know that those “let’s treat Mom!” plans often end up being more of a headache for mothers to clean up rather than the relaxing experience that was intended.

I’m willing to bet what mom really wants is a stiff drink and peace and quiet to enjoy it, rather than a few minutes pushing pancakes around on a plate under the gaze of an eager child whose hopes, dreams and self-esteem hang in the balance.

Because Mother’s Day rituals tend to take place in the morning (and because my mother loved them), make that stiff drink a Bloody Mary. This stalwart of brunches and hangover cures is divisive — is it a drink or is it gazpacho? — but it’s much better than a mimosa or bellini, both of which kick your hangover while it’s down with even more sugar. Bloody Marys, on the other hand, snap you back to consciousness quickly with plenty of heat and acid and cures whatever ails you at the moment. (Not that I’m suggesting mom is hungover on Mother’s Day, but who doesn’t need a little extra get-up-and-go on any morning?)

I make mine similar to my mother’s recipe, which starts with V8 juice. Don’t try to go fancy by making your own — you need that classic combination of vague “vegetable” juices to give the cocktail savoriness and its tell-tale salinity. You’ll be embellishing it, of course, but it’s best to start with the definitive base.

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As for the vodka you use, I’ll say this: Growing up, when we used bottom-shelf vodka in this recipe, it was noticeable. Though you might think the ingredients in a Bloody Mary exist to mask the taste of vodka, I promise you, they only amplify it. So, because it’s mom’s day, how about you spring for the good stuff?

After the core elements are established, the rest of the players can dive in. Plenty of fresh lemon juice helps cut through the murkiness of the tomato juice so you don’t feel like you’re drinking soup. And Worcestershire sauce, typically thought of as savory and spiced, comes off as sweeter here, balancing the vegetables and helping to harmoniously tie the flavors together.

A good Bloody Mary should be as spicy as its cousin, the michelada. I use several hearty dashes of Tabasco sauce for that vinegary punch at the beginning, a generous amount of prepared horseradish to clear your sinuses with its stinging heat, then finish with lots of freshly cracked black pepper, which grounds the drink in toasty, floral warmth. To bring the michelada comparison full-circle, I like to rim the glass in Tajin, which adds another layer of heat with its characteristic dried chile-and-lime essence.

Just as important as the Bloody Mary mix, though, are the garnishes. A lone celery stick is appropriate for a holiday morning, but we need more for mom’s first meal of the day. Inspired by bars in New Orleans like Shimmy Shack, Cafe Lafitte in Exile and Atchafalaya — places that take Bloody Mary garnishes to new heights by piling on everything in sight — I arrange every pickled thing I can on a skewer next to that celery stick: pearl onions, pimiento-stuffed green olives, pepperoncini, asparagus, green beans, cornichons and a dill pickle spear. If you live in the South or come across them in your store, whole pickled okra are particularly wonderful here, too.

The final flourish comes in the form of poached and chilled shrimp, dangling their tails over the edge of the glass like a classic shrimp cocktail, my other favorite dish that uses spiced-tomato condiments. Pile on half a dozen or leave them off, but that extra step will earn points with mom, I promise you.

You can also nix the alcohol, swap the booze and even use different spices and seasonings to customize the drink to her tastes because this holiday is about doing whatever mom wants. Deliver it to her in a tall, ice-cold glass, preferably with some flowers (no roses, please) and a card, and then don’t bother her again until she comes looking for you.

Get the recipe:

Mother's Day Bloody Mary

Time 10 minutes
Yields Serves 4

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