Mixologist Simon Ford’s Secrets to Cocktails and the Perfect Bloody Mary with a Sherry Floater

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Walk into almost any bar and ask the bartender to tell you about Simon Ford. Chances are she/he will have a lively story about an English fellow who has a true passion for liquor. So much so, in fact, he launched his own liquor company, The 86 Co., in 2012. Through a great deal of hard work–because analyzing the complexities of cocktails is no easy task–he and his co-founders developed four different and unique spirits ideal for mixing drinks: Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Cana Brava Rum, Ford’s Gin (named after the man himself), and Tequila Cabeza.

As a major player in the industry with more 20 years experience, including acting as chairman and co-host of the renowned cocktail event Tales of the Cocktails (happening right now in New Orleans), Simon is the man to ask about cocktails. Luckily, he loves the subject and was all too happy to talk to us about an all-time favorite, the Bloody Mary. Not only did he share his own recipe for one, but he also gave us details on how to create your own Bloody Mary Bar for the ultimate party. Cheers!  -Kate

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Q: Why do you make your own liquor? What makes you get up early or stay up late to do what is generally considered to be some of the hardest work out there?

A: My job is a labor of love. Being a part of the ‘drinks’ industry is all I have done since leaving school and I really love it. It’s the culture of service and hospitality which is ultimately the art of making people happy. I love giving someone a drink that they will cherish every sip of.

Throughout my career, I have been a bartender, educated people on the history and culture of drinks, and now I make my own spirits. One of the things I observed in this industry was high-end spirits being made to sip neat, yet more often than not they would end up being mixed. I wanted to make high quality spirits for mixing to give bartenders better tools when making cocktails.

We tested each spirit in classic cocktails through development and made notes on what we would need to change to make them better for mixing. The result is four unique spirits that were created with the sole intention of aiding professional bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts.

There is never a dull moment. One minute I can be blending rum in Panama or making gin in London and the next moment I’m standing in a suburban supermarket introducing my spirit to potential customers. If I had to pick one thing that motivates me the most, it would be the look on someone’s face when they try one of our spirits and really enjoy it. I equate that feeling to cooking dinner for someone you love and watching them devour it. It’s those split-second moments that make it all worthwhile.

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Q: Share a few tips to inspire a home mixologist. 

A: Stir spirits: Drinks made with spirits (such as the Martini, Negroni, and Manhattan) should always be stirred with ice and not shaken. You’ll find the stirred drinks finish silkier on the palate when stirred. You only need to shake drinks that have fruit, juice, citrus, egg, sugar, and cream in them.

Use good ice: The clearer the ice, the purer the ice which means you won’t pass on impurities and flavor from the ice into your drink.

Master the Classics: … before you start concocting your own creations. As soon as you have mastered a few classic cocktail recipes, you can then apply those principles to your own creations.

MORE: Want to make your own martini at home? We’ve got this Extra-Dirty Martini recipe for you.

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Q: What are the key ingredients for a Bloody Mary Bar?

A: Building a Bloody Mary Bar is a little bit like building a breakfast buffet (and you could argue that a good Bloody Mary is also a good breakfast). You can be lavish or you can keep it simple, depending on how much space you have and what’s in your pantry. One should organize it so that guests move from stations and gradually build their Bloody Mary concoction as they move along.

1. Glassware and Salt

First, start with glassware: hi-balls and goblets are all you need. Before you start filling your glass with liquids, however, have some bowls with salt and pepper for anyone wanting a salt-and-pepper rim on their glass.

2. The Booze

The first station should be filled with all the base spirits. Traditionally, the Bloody Mary is made with vodka but these days you can make a variation with almost any spirit. The key ones to have other than vodka are Gin (Red Snapper), Tequila (Bloody Maria), and Aquavit (Bloody Viking/Danish Mary). I recommend having a Mezcal in there, as well.

3. Juice

Your next stop is for your juices. Traditionally all you need is tomato juice and perhaps Clamato juice for Bloody Caesars (The Bloody Caesar is Canada’s answer to The Bloody Mary), but adding other vegetable juices and even some orange juice can add variety.

4. Spice it Up

This next station is where you really start to have some fun – add your spices. The original Bloody Mary called for Tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce, which you should have as bare minimum but after that, the world is your oyster … horseradish, Sriracha, soy sauce, celery salt, mustard, wasabi, etc.

5. Top it off

Next you have your finishing station. This should have all your citruses to liven up your recipe (lemon, lime, Yuzu); some fortified wines that you can float on top of the drink such as Port, Madeira, and Sherry; and your garnishes, which is another area (like the spices) where you get to go as crazy as you would like. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: celery, radishes, lemon wedges, lime wedges, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and pickled vegetables (green beans, cornichons, pickles, olives, onions).

6. Something extra

Finally, if you really want to impress, have a mix of fresh herbs (basil, dill, oregano, etc.) and a giant seafood platter filled with shellfish such as shrimp, clams, and oysters.

MORE: Want to add a kick to your finishing station? Our Craic & Blonde Haitian Relish Hot Sauce is just the ticket.

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Q: Why is a Bloody Mary bar such a great idea for parties?

A: DIY cocktail stations are always fun for guests and can be a great conversation piece. Guests are empowered to make the drink they want and the Bloody Mary is the most well-known cocktail in the world, making it a likely crowd pleaser. And if your party goes on all night, the Bloody Mary is one of only a few cocktails that tastes great in the morning and appears to be acceptable to drink at that time.

Q: Three tips to improve a Bloody Mary….

A: 1. The biggest mistake I think people make when mixing a Bloody Mary is forgetting the citrus. Add a 1/4 ounce of lemon or lime juice and it will brighten your drink right up.

2. If you drink your Bloody Mary quickly, make your own fresh tomato juice. The reason you have to drink them quickly is the water content of the tomato starts to separate from the juice. The brightness and freshness of freshly pressed tomato juice is divine.

3. Instead of shaking, try using the technique of rolling to chill and mix your Bloody Mary (see recipe below). The technique of rolling is the simple motion of pouring your mix from one glass to another. This way, you keep your tomato juice thick and full.

MORE: Add a little pizazz to a Bloody Mary Bar by decorating with the Flair Exchange Rose Paper Tassel Kit.

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Q: If you could choose, what would be your last cocktail?

A: It would be a classic Martini. It would have to be a well-made one, of course; stirred and extremely chilled, made with one of my favorite gins at a ratio of 3-parts gin to 1-part dry vermouth with a splash of orange bitters, and served with a large lemon twist. That’s very specific, right? Ordering a Martini is like ordering a coffee, everyone has their preferred specifications.

Q: What is the best food gift, including cocktail-related, you’ve ever received? 

A: A good friend gave me a first edition copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book signed by its author, Harry Craddock. Written in 1930, it is often referred to as the bible of mixology and is filled with great recipes, not to mention its beautiful art deco design.

MORE: Are you also a fan of bitters? Try Urban Moonshine Bitters in your next cocktail.

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Simon's Ultimate Bloody Mary

Editor’s Note: We love the addition of sherry fino to Simon’s classic take on a Bloody Mary. Feel free, however, to play with the seasoning (double the Worcestershire, add more hot sauce, squeeze lime/lemon juice directly into the glass, etc.) to give it the right amount of zip for your morning cocktail. The sherry fino would also be amazing on almost any Bloody Mary recipe, so don’t be afraid to try it on your favorite mix.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces Aylesbury Duck Vodka
  • 3 to 4 ounces tomato juice
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 dashes hot sauce, like Tabasco
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Fino Sherry, to float
  • Lemon or lime slices, to garnish
  • Celery stick, to garnish

Directions:

  1. Pour vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and hot sauce over ice. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Roll the mixture between two glasses to chill. Strain into a goblet or hi-ball. Top with a splash of fino sherry and garnish with a slice of lemon or lime and a celery stick.
Photos styled and taken by Heidi White

Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic StudioFollow Maggie Battista on Instagram.

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