The best Bloody Mary mixes
With a cartoonish bottle and ridiculous name, we'd normally leave this bottle right on the shelf. But we learned to not judge a Bloody Mary mix by its label, since this one has it all—just the right amount of heat, a meaty backbone (there's beef broth in here), plus horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, all of which adds up to a well-balanced mix, which one tester notes has the "perfect Bloody Mary consistency." $5.49 at Total Wine
The best of the cheap options, Loaded is $6.99 for a 1.75L bottle, so you get the most mix for your money. And this is a good mix—celery and cucumber are also blended with tomatoes, and it tastes like fresh vegetables. One tester compares it to a Chicago-style hot dog, which is a spot on comparison. Grab this if you're making Bloody Marys for a crowd. $3.99/1L at Binny's.
McClure's is best known for its pickles, and its spicy pickle brine forms the base of this mix. Tomato paste and cucumber juice also appear, but the brine definitely takes over, so if you love pickles, this is your mix. Tip: The heavy pickle juice reminded one tester of picklebacks, so we tried it with rye instead of vodka. The rye helped tone down the brine and added some spice, making for an excellent, balanced Bloody Mary. $9.49/32oz at Binny's.
We expected Stu's, as the most expensive mix, to dominate this taste test, but it was merely fine. There's a ton of black pepper and vinegar, with heat on the back end and too much salt overall. The bottle is $8.99 at Binny's and only includes pickle brine and spices, so you also need to buy tomato juice.
The grab-them-in-a-pinch Bloody Mary mixes
From the same makers of the excellent Loaded mix comes this perfectly fine mix incorporating five kinds of peppers, including chipotle. There's a lingering heat that one tester found overpowering, but on the whole, this is a decent mix. $6.99/1.75L
This mix gets an A+ for ease of pouring from its plastic spout, something you shouldn't discount if you're in a hungover state. But the mix itself is just like straight tomato juice, so you'll need to doctor it up to it to make a good Bloody. $4.99.
An early favorite for many testers, it slipped down to this category after we tried all the mixes. It's well-balanced but mild, with a hit of worcestershire sauce up front. One tester, who tried the mix without vodka, notes that it would work well for virgin Bloody Marys, which wasn't true for many other bottles that relied on the dilution. $6.99.
Thicker than the traditional Hoosier, this mix has some nice heat throughout, with a good balance of spice and sweetness. Overall, this was the hottest mix we tried, so spice lovers should pick up a bottle. It's very thick though, so make sure it's diluted with enough ice and vodka (though that probably won't be a problem). $6.99.
This used to be called Ditka's Kick Ass Bloody Mike Mix, but for whatever reason, now it's just Kick Ass. The Ditka-less mix is a solid Bloody Mary base, with lots of bright tomato and balanced sweetness. It's thick, but that's nothing a little vodka can't fix. $3.99.
Also a former Ditka mix, this one is not too spicy, but instead it has a peppery flavor with mild heat. It's a little thick, so make sure to mix it up well. $3.99.
We expected Stu's, as the most expensive mix, to dominate this taste test, but it was merely fine. There's a ton of black pepper and vinegar, with heat on the back end and too much salt overall. The bottle is $8.99 and only includes pickle brine and spices, so you also need to buy tomato juice.
There's a lot of smoke in both Whiteford's mixes, so if that's not appealing, steer clear. Otherwise, this is a balanced mix, which we'd totally grab in a pinch. $4.99.
Also pretty smoky, this mix is basically the same as the mild, with just a tiny touch of heat. $4.99.
Numerous people we know, including two staffers, say that this is their go-to home mix, but it didn't fare well in our taste test. Some testers found it too sweet, others flat in flavor and one noted it has a "chemical aftertaste." Maybe it makes a good base to add things to? $4.99.
Avoid these Bloody Mary mixes
Neither bold nor spicy, most testers were turned off by the watery, thin consistency of the mix. $4.99.
Horseradish dominates the flavor profile, which is a good thing since the tomato juice is pretty bland in the other Mr. and Mrs. T's mixes. But it's too strong to really recommend this bottle. $4.99.
None of the Mr. and Mrs. T's mixes are worth it, since this basic version is, in the words of one tester, "Heinz 57 water." $4.99.
We thought that this bottle would be a promising contender, given the sriracha and the price, but alas, it's so thick it tastes like drinking pasta sauce. Plus the heat barely came through. $8.95.
This was a weird one. There's a whole mess of spices, including turmeric, and it's too sweet and garlicky and tastes more like curry sauce than Bloody Mary mix. $4.99.
This super sweet mix is designed for a tequila-based Bloody Maria, as well as for a vodka Bloody Mary. While the lime comes through nicely, the overall sweetness dooms this bottle. $7.99.