Hydrating tomato juice. Nose-clearing horseradish that wakes you out of your booze-breath stupor. A hefty dose of black pepper so you can at least start to perspire out (some of) the night before’s booze. And, of course, vodka to get the sweet, sweet alcohol flowing through your veins again. Those are only a few of the reasons why the bloody mary is the ultimate hair of the dog, and a brunch essential. It’s somewhat perplexing, though, why people choose to buy pre-made bloody mary mix when they’re serving the drink at home. Sure, there are some decent bottled bloody mary mixes out there, but as with any balanced cocktail, you want to maintain as much control over the ingredients as you can to make sure they all line up. IT’S ALL ABOUT CONTROL, PEOPLE. (Takes breath, goes back to organizing books on bookshelf by spine color.) 

So the next time you’re about to serve guests a bloody mary (or my personal favorite, create a bloody mary bar with mix-and-match spirits and garnishes), it doesn’t hurt to whip up a base of your own.

Here’s what you’ll need for a standard bloody mary mix (you may already have some of this in your pantry and fridge):

Tomato juice
Grated horseradish (not the creamed stuff—gross)
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco
Fresh lemon juice
Black pepper
Salt
Celery salt*

*This oft-overlooked ingredient is a non-negotiable. It’s what gives the bloody that vegetal nose and a depth of flavor that you just won’t get without it. Go directly to the spice aisle in your local supermarket, suck it up and shell out the $5 for a plastic container.

Once you’ve got all your ingredients, the best part about making bloodies is that it’s all to taste: Use whatever tomato juice you’d like (canned is totally A-OK). Add a couple of tablespoons of horseradish, a few dashes of Worcestershire and Tabasco, a squeeze of lemon juice, a LOT of cracked black pepper, a pinch of salt and a pinch of celery salt, taste, and add more of whatever’s missing. Like it extra-nostril clearing? Dollop in some more horseradish. Just make sure you mix it together the night before you’re planning to serve it, so that you can chill it overnight and let all those flavors meld together.

There’s something about those marys.

Then, once you’ve got your #basicmix down, you can really start to play: If you like briny stuff, glug in some olive or pickle juice. Add fresh lime juice if you’ve got it handy. Swap out the Tabasco for out other hot sauces, like Sriracha or Cholula. And if you want to be Instaclam famous (and aren’t planning on serving the drink to vegetarians), use crisp, ocean-y Clamato instead of tomato juice. It’s my secret weapon at the bloody mary bar I set up every year at my holiday brunch. Guests can’t place their fingers on why the bloodies are so good, but they can’t put ‘em down.

“There’s something about those marys,” they say. (That’s actually an alternative fact—but that’s what they should be saying.) Happy mixing.