This year for Valentine’s Day, my gift to Matt was really a gift to both of us: a bottle of Aquavit and homemade Bloody Marys. A bottle of booze is the perfect Valentine’s gift for a guy, right? Well it went over pretty well here!
What is Aquavit you ask? Well, neither Matt nor I had ever heard of it until reading The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo, which is based in Norway (awesome books by the way, and the movie was really great too!). Aquavit is literally named the “water of life”; it’s a Scandinavian liquor made with any combination of flavors, most often caraway, fennel and anise. Given the flavors, I’d heard it makes a mean Bloody Mary. So, I thought I’d try it! I used Krogstad brand Aquavit (which is made in Oregon, not Scandanavia, but it’s still good), and the bottle was ~$30. I found it at a local artisan wine and liquor store, but I have a feeling that you would be able to find it in any large liquor store.
Matt and I both became kind of obsessed with Bloody Marys after having the amazing BBQ sauce- infused ones at VooDoo BBQ in New Orleans. It was pretty much life-changing. As you can see in the recipe below, I added a little bit of BBQ sauce to my mix, which was inspired by the one at VooDoo. It might sound crazy, but it’s crazy delicious. Just go light on the BBQ sauce to start, since it has a way of taking over the whole flavor.
Most of the ingredients in my recipe are pretty traditional in a Bloody Mary: vegetable juice (instead of tomato, because it has a little more depth of flavor), celery salt (always a must for me), Worcestershire (very classic), Tabasco (gotta have it), and black pepper. Some of the others are a little more unusual: lemon and lime juice (they add a nice freshness and acidity), BBQ sauce (as discussed above) and steak sauce (if you have it, adds just a bit more of that savory Worcestershire/BBQ flavor). And the real unusual ones are probably the horseradish and pickle juice. I’ve seen horseradish in other recipes, and in this one it’s particularly good, since I am so partial to the combination of horseradish and caraway (which is the dominant Aquavit flavor), because I am from Buffalo, home of beef on weck. The pickle juice might sound weird, but again, I kind of feel that anything pickled and salty will work well in a Bloody Mary. It’s also a secret ingredient I like to use in things like cold tuna noodle pasta salad. Mmm pickles.
With any of the included ingredients, it’s up to you what to include. Above all, use this recipe as a guideline and adjust everything to your own taste. Don’t go out and buy an entire bottle of steak sauce for just 1 tablespoon – make due with other things you have on hand.
Other things: Aquavit has a very strong flavor. If you are not into a super strong anise/caraway flavor, then use half Aquavit and half vodka. Or, use all vodka (the pepper flavored vodkas that are in stores now would be awesome in this recipe). Adjust the amount of liquor in each glass to your tasting – I recommend about a shot in each glass, but feel free to increase or decrease that amount. And finally, if you can make it ahead, let the mix marinate in the fridge for a few hours to really let the flavors mingle and develop.
Aquavit Bloody Marys
Time: 20 min. Yield: ~Eight 8-ounce servings
- 46 ounces (1 bottle) low sodium V-8 vegetable juice
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon steak sauce
- 1 scant tablespoon BBQ sauce
- 4 tablespoons pickle juice (from a jar of dill pickles)
- 1-2 teaspoons Tabasco (depending how spicy you like it)
- 3 tablespoons each fresh lemon and lime juice (for me this was half a lemon and half a lime)
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or more, to your liking)
- Olives and celery stalks for garnish
- 8 ounces Aquavit, or a mix of Aquavit and vodka
Combine all ingredients (except for alcohol) in a large pitcher, stirring to ensure everything is adequately dissolved, adjusting all ingredients to your own taste. If desired, the mix can be made in advance (up to 24 hours) and stored in the refrigerator.
To serve, pour ~7 ounces of mix into a glass, add a 1-ounce shot of Aquavit to each, and stir with celery stalk to combine.