This week we decided to experiment with tomato juice. It’s a common ingredient in Bloody Marys, but you rarely see it combined with anything but vodka. So we decided to see what else we could mix it with. We also wanted to see if tomato juice paired with aged spirits, as you never see that. Read on to find out what we discovered.
First up we wanted to try one of the new shrubs we had gotten. It’s an interesting combination of bay and quince that we quite like and we’ve been looking for an excuse to try it out. It seemed like it might pair nicely with the tomato juice and we were right. 😉 Balanced carefully, it brought a hint of tangy fruit and some light sweetness. But what spirit to pair it with? We tried gin and that did not pair well with the tomato juice. We then tried mezcal, thinking the smoke and vegetal flavors would pair quite nicely, which it did. But we also wanted to try some fresh, grassy blanco tequila, and that worked well too. When we tried to build a drink based on that though, adding other ingredients made the tequila flavors get lost in the mix. So we went back to mezcal, whose bolder flavors stood up better.
- 2 oz tomato juice*
- 1 1/2 oz mezcal
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz Quince Bay Laurel shrub (We used the one from The Shubbery, which we got as a sample. See our samples policy to understand what that means.)
- 3 dashes chipotle tincture (We used the Drink Addition)
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
*We followed the Cooks Illustrated recommendation and used Campbell’s. Bright, clean, not too salty, good tomato flavor.
- Nose: Lime, tomato, bay, vegetal funkiness and smoke from the mezcal. Little bit of tangy fruitiness, unexpected but very pleasant. Hint of charred chipotle. Fresher smelling than expected, like fresh tomatoes.
- Palate: Tangy tomato and bay to start, with a light fruitiness. Petrol and vegetal funk from the mezcal on the mid-palate. Lime acid and chipotle heat on the finish. Aftertaste is faintly tart and mineral-y.
Next up, we decided to see if tomato juice paired with aged spirits. For the most part, no, no it does not. A lightly smokey scotch just plain tasted gross with the tomato juice, kind of sour and medicinal. The irish whiskey brought some milk chocolate notes which was quite weird with the tomato. Jamaican rum introduced chemical, plastic notes. Hopped whiskey was unpleasantly bitter. Reposado tequila wasn’t horrible at least, but neither was it good. Finally we tried the old stand by of bourbon. It’s not offensive but it’s also not delicious, with the cherry/oaky flavors clashing with the faintly salty tomato. So word of advice, don’t mix tomato juice and aged spirits. 🙂 Though if you think you’ve found a winning combo, let us know!
Not wanting to just leave it at that, we decided to go back to the clear spirits. On a whim Christa tried it with aquavit. It was surprisingly pleasant. We did not expect the strong anise to play well with the tomato but it did. So we noodled around with that to see if we could come up with a cocktail around that base.
- 2 oz tomato juice
- 3/4 oz aquavit
- 1/2 oz Lillet blanc
- 8 drops to a dash of celery bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a celery stick.
- Nose: Tomato, caraway, anise, celery
- Palate: Pretty much the same as the nose. Tomato and toasted caraway to start, sweet anise and tomato on the mid-palate with a hint of wine notes, celery and a hint of anise on the finish. A very light shim that would go well with food at breakfast, brunch or whenever.
Paired correctly, tomato juice makes for some excellent cocktails that aren’t just Bloody Marys. Though clearly some flavors from the Bloody Mary always play well with tomato juice – spice, peppers, smoke, celery. Not bad places to start if you are looking to make something a little different. We hope this post inspires you to experiment with tomato juice and step outside of the Bloody Mary box.