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In Bartending, what is a Virgin Mary?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2016
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A Virgin Mary is a non-alcoholic drink made with tomato juice and an assortment of spices, and garnished with vegetables. Many bartenders have their own unique versions of the Virgin Mary, running the gamut from mildly spiced versions which contain little more than tomato juice and celery salt to more elaborate concoctions with ingredients like chilies and horseradish. By convention, Virgin Marys are served until around 6:00 PM; they are not considered appropriate nighttime cocktails in most parts of the world.

The alcoholic version of a Virgin Mary is a Bloody Mary, made with the addition of vodka. There are numerous versions of the Bloody Mary, made with an assortment of different alcohols, including gin, rum, and sherry. The Bloody Mary appears to have emerged around the 1930s or 1940s, and it has become a popular cult icon in some parts of the world. The drink is certainly easy to spot, since it has a distinctive red color and thick texture which sets it apart. For people who prefer non-alcoholic drinks but don't want to make a fuss about it, a Virgin Mary can be handy because it looks like a Bloody Mary at first glance, allowing the consumer to blend in with people who are drinking alcohol.

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Like a Bloody Mary, a Virgin Mary is usually prepared in a highball glass. The bartender first puts in a layer of ice, and then adds seasoning. Some common seasonings include: grated horseradish, lime juice, pepper, celery salt, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, chilies, clam juice, and lemon juice, though not necessarily all together. Tomato juice is poured on top and the drink is stirred before being garnished.

The traditional garnish for a Virgin Mary is a celery stalk, but some bartenders veer into the realm of the fantastic when they garnish their Virgin Marys. Assortments of vegetables such as carrots, pickles, radishes, and cucumbers, may be used, and sometimes bartenders add ingredients like cheese as well. It is also not unusual to see carved garnishes, or garnishes which are arranged like miniature sculptures on a cocktail pick.

For people who are not interested in mixing their own drinks, it is possible to purchase pre-seasoned Bloody Mary mix which can be served over ice as a Virgin Mary. Bloody Mary mix may be perfectly acceptable as-is, or one can add some spices to adjust the flavor as desired. Remember to keep tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix chilled after it has been opened, to ensure that it stays safe to consume.

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Denha
Post 5

I don't drink, although the idea of a Bloody Mary always sounded interesting, and kind of healthy too, at least for a cocktail. I didn't know about Virgin Mary drinks; maybe I'll try one the next time I go out, if I don't just want to stick to soda.

As for the comments about blending in, I never worry about that, though thankfully most of my friends are totally accepting of non drinkers and several don't drink much themselves; I try to avoid peer pressure drinkers, I got enough of that in college.

Azuza
Post 4

@strawCake - I'm not a big drinker either, so I'm pretty familiar with those pushy people who get upset when you aren't drinking!

I actually like to make Virgin Mary's at home though! Tomato juice is pretty good for you, but I don't think it tastes that great plain. However, with some spices it tastes great! One of my favorite things to do is use Italian spices that are usually used in spaghetti sauce!

Usually I do it with garlic salt, basil, pepper, and some thyme. I've served it to other people with pretty good results too!

strawCake
Post 3

I'm glad I stumbled across this article. I do drink alcohol on occasion, but I'm not really a big drinker. Normally when I go out I drink about one alcoholic drink and then stop and switch to a virgin drink.

Most people don't give me any trouble about it, but some people just get really pushy about drinking. I really think some people aren't comfortable about their own drinking habits, so they feel bad if anyone around them isn't drinking.

Anyway, it's pretty much impossible to argue with these people, so drinks that look like they are alcoholic but not are great. Also, I do like Bloody Mary's, so it would be totally convincing for me to just drink a Virgin Mary instead. I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner!

Kat919
Post 2

@MrsWinslow - Yeah, I've been there. One thing that works nicely is club soda with a twist. If helps if you get there a little early, drink that one for a long time, then "switch to water," and no one knows what you ordered!

If you have a signature drink, you can ask the bartender to make you something that looks like that - s/he might have ideas. My favorite drink is rum, sprite, and cranberry juice, so I would just get sprite and cranberry juice with a twist of lime. (Don't knock it unless you've tried it!) The twist goes a long way to making it look like a "real" drink.

Then, if anyone asked me what I was having, I would say, "I like to order rum, sprite, and cranberry juice." Which is true, even if it's not what was in my glass!

MrsWinslow
Post 1

I just can't stand tomato juice. What are some other ideas for non-alcoholic drinks that look like real ones? I don't want to drink much while I'm trying to get pregnant, but I also don't want people to ask me why I'm not drinking!

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