There comes a time in every Bloody Mary obsessive’s life when the mix of tomato juice, vodka and spices just doesn’t cut it anymore—the umami flavor just isn’t umami enough. That’s the moment you know it’s time to go on a Bloody Mary hiatus, and start drinking Bullshots instead.
Created at Detroit’s Caucus Club in the early 1950s, the lowball mix of vodka, beef broth, lemon juice and traditional Bloody Mary seasonings such as Worcestershire, Tabasco, cayenne and celery salt, was all the rage for about two decades. It was particularly popular amongst celebrities and society types who had a lot of “meetings” at steakhouses. It was odd, it was eye-catching, it was the Frosé of its day. And then the ‘70s hit and people forgot the Bullshot in favor of tall, brightly colored, fruity drinks like the Harvey Wallbanger and the Midori Sour. It maintained a place on a few steakhouse menus and at old school Hollywood haunts, but it wasn’t until just a few years ago that it started cropping up on the occasional craft cocktail brunch menu. It still isn’t as ubiquitous as it once was, but now that some bartenders are keeping broth behind the bar again, it’s about time you tired Bloody Mary lovers gave the Bullshot a try.
The savory cocktail is a current all-day staple on the menu at The Campbell, the recently opened reincarnation of Grand Central Terminal’s Campbell Apartment in New York City. Gerber Group head bartender Franz Kosmicki included the drink because a very loyal Campbell Apartment customer, “an old timer New Yorker” as Kosmicki says, requested it. Kosmicki agreed to include the drink, and went to work creating iteration after iteration—both hot and cold, some with ginger, others with vinegar, one way too fatty variation with bone broth—before deciding on the bar’s official Bullshot recipe. It’s essentially a traditional Bullshot made with vodka (Absolut Elyx), Worcestershire, celery salt, lemon juice and beef broth, with the addition of horseradish, which helps cut through the rich beef broth and gives Bloody Mary drinkers a familiar flavor to hold onto.
It was over the course of those many, many trials that Kosmicki discovered his love for the cocktail. Until then, he had only had it once before when he was young—and he was not a fan. “I thought they were repulsive,” he says. But now the cocktail is one of his go-tos—especially after a long night. “I think it’s a superior hangover drink,” he says, citing the collagen, protein and sodium in the beef broth as the reason why. “It gets your body back into normal operation.” Kosmicki equates the cocktail to menudo, the Mexican tripe stew traditionally served on Sunday mornings that is much-lauded for its curative powers. In that sense, it’s also like a liquid version of the blood sausage in an English fry-up or Korean haejangguk, a hangover-curing ox blood and cow bone soup—albeit a lot more approachable with the added benefit of booze.
While even Kosmicki admits it’s still hard to find a bar that will serve you a Bullshot, making one at home is easy—especially since the drink is best when made with store-bought beef broth. Over the counter organic beef broth—the stuff you can buy by the box—was the winner when Kosmicki was conducting his tests. You can spice the cocktail as you like, but be sure to keep the Worcestershire, lemon juice and hot sauce. And definitely opt for a big, giant ice cube over a handful of smaller ones. “You don’t want watery broth,” Kosmicki says. For him, a true Bullshot should taste like a “beefy, briney Bloody Mary.” It’s the umami hit your body craves. “It’s something you can tell came from a thoughtful grandmother making you something to save your life on a Sunday morning,” he says. And if you’re still hurting, it’s time to try a Prairie Oyster.