Or catsup, if you wanna play that way

By Stacey Ballis
Updated June 15, 2018
Credit: Photo by Stacey Ballis

On a Saturday or Sunday morning, the bloody mary calls to almost everyone. For people who might be a bit up under it, it is a spicy spiked umami bomb specifically designed to be at least part of the cure for what ails one. For people who did not have a rough night, and might have awakened fresh as a daisy, it is a punchy way to really kick off your weekend.

The bloody mary has, in recent years, become an Instagram star, due to many restaurants deciding to pile an entire Old Country Buffet on the top, precariously balancing brunch for four on the rim of a giant Ball jar. But at its inception, it was a basic combination of tomato juice and vodka, spiced with the “secret blend” of the host and garnished simply with a spear of celery and maybe a wedge of lemon.

While everyone has their personal recipe, and these can contain everything from pickle juice to barbecue spice rub, there are many flavors that seem to pop up again and again in published recipes. Worcestershire sauce, lemon, celery salt, hot sauce and horseradish are all very common additions to this cocktail, and all for good reason. You want a great bloody mary to be umami forward, almost meaty, and many use V8 vegetable juice instead of just straight tomato to help this cause.

Credit: Photo by Stacey Ballis

You want it spicy, both in the front of the palate where it opens the sinuses, and then back of the throat heat which lingers a bit and enhances appetite, hence the combo of horseradish and hot sauce. It needs acid for brightness. Hello, lemon! All of these, often in combination with many other flavors, make for a cocktail that pretty much punches you in the mouth with flavor. It keeps you on your toes. Which is why you rarely see them at the evening cocktail hour, their flavors just scream day-drinking.

So, of course, it is the single most popular brunch cocktail out there, regardless of whether there is a slider and a bacon maple doughnut lingering on top. Whether your at-home host has set up a massive bloody bar on the sideboard for self-serve or the local diner is shaking up some Mrs. T’s mix with bottom shelf vodka, the brunch bloody is here to stay.

Which made me wonder, what if one loves those flavor combinations, but you aren’t so much a bloody mary drinker? And by one, I mean me, because I am neither a fan of tomato/vegetable juice nor vodka, so I’m much more likely to negroni or bourbon sour with my brunching. But I do love ketchup. And there are times, brunch included, when I feel like ketchup could use a bit of oomphing up.

Hence bloody mary ketchup. I pretty much stole my husband’s secret bloody mary recipe and converted it into the perfect foil for hashed browns, fries and tots. It will make your burgers sing, and your onion rings dance, and if you are a fan of a chicken tender, they are inclined in that direction as well. Mix it into some mayo and you have a “special sauce” that everyone will love, and slide a dollop into some sour cream and you have a dip worthy of your baby carrots and broccoli florets. Smear a thick layer on your next meatloaf before baking for a glaze that is at once familiar and totally new.

It won’t cure a hangover, but it won’t cause one either. And whichever kind of morning you are having, bloody mary ketchup will improve it dramatically.

Bloody Mary Ketchup

Makes 1½ cups

This recipe, like bloody marys themselves, is what we like at our house, use it as a guide to create a version that best fits your personal flavor needs. Want it spicier or more lemony less horseradishy? It’s all up to you. But this is a good place to start.


1 12-ounce. bottle chili sauce, I use Heinz
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon prepared grated white horseradish (or fresh if you have it on hand)
¾ teaspoon celery seed
1½ teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Frank’s, but use what you have)
1 teaspoon beef bouillon paste (or one beef bouillon cube mashed into paste in one teaspoon of water)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper


Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk until well combined. Taste for seasoning, and if needed, add more of any of the seasoning ingredients to your personal taste.