Dispatch from the Bloody Mary Mix Down

bloody mary 3 derrick soto
bloody mary 3 derrick soto

All photos by Derrick Soto. Over the weekend of April 25th and 26th The 3rd Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo invaded the Brooklyn Expo Center. Insanely hot sauces, peppers, Buffalo Wings and their willing fans engulfed the spacious exhibition center. Food items ranging anywhere from 100 to 450,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) were tasted, tested and enjoyed by the crowds each day.

bloody mary 4 derrick soto
bloody mary 4 derrick soto

The Hot Sauce Expo also played host to finals of the Bloody Mary Mix down (sponsored by Stolichnaya VodkaMurph's Bloody Mary Mix and High River Sauces). From early March to mid April, Lisa Seabury - Co Producer of Hot Sauce Expo and competition creator - and the team from Stoli hosted Bloody Mary cocktail competitions in various bars throughout the five boroughs of New York City and Long Island. On Sunday April 26th, the top finalist from each competition went head to head in a live mix off using Stoli, Murph's Bloody Mary Mix and a wild assortment of fresh ingredients and garnishes. Each cocktail was judged on creativity, time (90 seconds) and taste. It was a chance to show off their skill sets and allow the crowd to get a better understanding of how all the components work in a cocktail as simplistically complicated as The Bloody Mary.

bloody mary derrick soto
bloody mary derrick soto

Born in Paris, in Harry's New York Bar, with an origin date as murky as the drink itself, the basic Bloody Mary strikes a moderate balance based on heat, acid and alcohol. Too much lemon juice and the cocktail is soured. Overdo it on the Tabasco sauce and you'll need a Buttermilk chaser to quell the fire within. Everything within works to not only compliment but to quench - leaving the drinker thirsty for only one thing...another Bloody Mary.

Here's the drink in its simplest form as conveyed by Dale DeGroff from The Craft of the Cocktail:

  • 1.5 oz/44 ml Vodka
  • 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • A pinch of Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 4 oz. Tomato juice

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail mixer full of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into the glass. Garnish with a stalk of celery.

At its core this competition was about expanding the boundaries of the cocktail's basic elements and a winner taking home the grand prize - a check for $1000 and their recipe printed in the Stoli cocktail book. Out of the 12 professionals and amateurs that mixed it up on stage only one was deemed worthy of the grand prize - Mr. James Kepple from The Park 112 located on Restaurant Row in Harlem (Frederick Douglass Boulevard). Mr. Kepple's winning Bloody Mary mixture consisted of the following ingredients:

  • Fresh Horseradish
  • Ground Black Peppercorns
  • Celery Salt
  • Pickle Salt
  • Lime Salt
  • Fresh Diced Jalapeños
  • Fresh Diced Red Onions
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Hearty Garlic Pickle Juice
  • Freshly squeeze Lime Juice
  • Freshly squeeze Lemon Juice
  • Valentina's Mexican Hot Sauce
  • Valentina's Mexican Hot Sauce Extra Hot Spicy
  • Clamato Juice
  • Original V8
  • Stoli Vodka
  • Love!
(L-R) Lisa Seabury, 2nd place winner Robin Lakritz, 1st place winner James Kepple, Lindsay Eschelman- co-host and key accounts manager, 3rd place winner Jennifer Padilla
(L-R) Lisa Seabury, 2nd place winner Robin Lakritz, 1st place winner James Kepple, Lindsay Eschelman- co-host and key accounts manager, 3rd place winner Jennifer Padilla

When I asked Mr. Kepple about the inspiration for his Bloody Mary Cocktail he said " Well I've worked at some pretty swanky landmark bars over the years here in NYC including Keens Steakhouse, Bar and Books, and The Grand Central Oyster Bar. I've always loved a good Bloody Mary, and have taken elements of house bloody Marys from different bars and infused it with my own enduring love for fresh ingredients, imported pickle juice and Mexican hot sauce."

Much like a well-made cocktail - a cocktail competition is only as good as its ingredients. Thankfully, the talent pool of the New York City Hot Sauce Expo and the versatile vodka portfolio of Stoli teamed up for this event. They reminded us how important the Bloody Mary cocktail is. Originally the Bloody Mary was one of the four cocktail pillars used to sell vodka. The Mix Down gave a group of up and coming bartenders a solid opportunity to spotlight their talent and show the world at large that the Bloody Mary is more than a selling point for an all you can drink brunch.