8 Experts Answer - What Makes a Great Bloody Mary?

On January 14-15, 2018, an elite panel of bloody mary royalty will convene to determine once and for all who has the best bloody mary mix in the world. But what are these experts really looking for at the 2018 Drunken Tomato Awards? What does it take to sway these experienced judges opinion? We asked each judge, "What makes a great bloody mary?" Here's what they told us. 

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Greg Tooke

Founder, My Big Fat Bloody Mary


Me. I do.
— Greg Tooke

>>> (To which I responded, "LOL!!! Best. Answer. Ever.")

On a more serious note, I’d say balance. Whether making an umami laden savory drink, or a light refreshing citrus forward bloody, the flavors should be a good balance of ingredients that compliment each other.
— Greg Tooke

Renee Belanger

Founder, Bloody Good Bloodys


My answer to what makes a great Bloody Mary has definitely changed over the years! I used to love the spicier, the better. Now, I still need a good flavor with a little dash of spice, but it’s more important to give me a bloody that tastes FRESH!

If a bloody has a good, fresh/quality tasting tomato juice base, then I don’t think you have to add a lot beyond the traditional spices to make it a great bloody. A nice quality vodka doesn’t hurt either!
— Renee Belanger

Jessica Hatz

Founder, Bloody Mary Tour


The right amount of spice, a dash of pickle juice, and some fresh herbs. And you can’t forget extra celery seed!
— Jessica Hatz



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Susan Fiebig

Author, The Bloody Trail


I created a 50-point scoring system that I use whenever I order a Bloody Mary. My books, ‘The Bloody Trail’ and ‘Adventures On The Bloody Trail’ explain in detail this criteria.

I look for a Bloody that’s been shaken and poured into a pint glass with salt on the rim, a generous amount of garnishes (but not too crazy) adorning the cocktail, a cold beer set alongside it, all giving it a nice presentation because first impressions are very important. What the eye sees, the tastebuds want!

But, most importantly, that Bloody Mary better taste great! It should have lots of spices, dark with texture and loaded with bits of horseradish. Nothing says delicious more than a Bloody Mary with ‘some meat to it’!
— Susan Fiebig

What makes a great bloody mary?

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Dr. Brian King

Founder, Bloody America
Author, The Laughing Cure


A great bloody mary is a labor of love; carefully chosen fresh ingredients, paired with just the right vodka and garnished to compliment the beverage, not overshadow it. Yeah love...  that, or barbecue sauce.
— Dr. Brian King
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Evan & Yunna Weiss

Founders, The Bloody Mary Festival


The key ingredients and flavors should be balanced. A few ingredients that will always win my heart are: pickle brine, mustard seed and cilantro.
— Evan Weiss
I am definitely an ‘innovative ingredient’ type of person. Whether it’s beet juice or kimchi, I love when an extra kick of creativity is put into making the bloody mary. I also love my garnishes.
— Yunna Weiss
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Shelley Buchanan

Founder, Author - The Drunken Tomato


Balance. You can switch out every single ingredient of a traditional bloody mary... the tomato juice, the vodka, the spices... but a great bloody mary will always achieve balance. The better question is, what is a bloody mary?
— Shelley Buchanan