The Bloody Mary, that proud mix of tomato juice, vodka and a potential spice drawer's worth of ingredients, may be the most complex cocktail in the world — at least from a chemical standpoint. That's why, after tackling the chemistry of coffee, tea, fruit juices, soda pop, beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages, the tipplers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) took on the task of analyzing the Bloody Mary. Either that, or they wanted an excuse to start happy hour early. (It's the International Year of Chemistry. Bottoms up!)
“It's a very complicated drink,” said Neil C. Da Costa, Ph.D., presenting the results of the ACS' 241st National Meeting & Exposition. “The Bloody Mary has been called the world's most complex cocktail, and from the standpoint of flavor chemistry, you've got a blend of hundreds of flavor compounds that act on the taste senses. It covers almost the entire range of human taste sensations — sweet, salty, sour and umami or savory — but not bitter.”
What did their months of grueling research, conducted Mondays through Fridays between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m., reveal?
— Use cheap vodka. Intense spices mask the vodka's flavor, so using premium vodka makes little sense.
— Splurge on the juice. Use high quality tomato juice that has a deep, rich flavor. (That's what we love about the Bloody Mary at Vü.)
— Make it fresh. Chemically, the Bloody Mary is a “highly unstable” concoction, and the quality deteriorates quickly.
— Ice it up. Serving Bloody Marys on ice helps to slow down the chemical reactions involving acids in tomato juice and other ingredients that degrade the taste.
— Mind your mixes. If you use a cocktail mix, add fresh ingredients to enhance the flavor and aroma.
Remember, “chem is try” and, sometimes, you have to try (again and again and again). Or you can just follow Lou Amdur's Bloody Mary recipe.