How to make a cocktail at home: Bloody Mary and Tom Collins

Mixologist Greg Miller at Bermondsey Street bar The Hide tells us how to mix two perfect classics

Photo: Stephen Emms / London Belongs To Me
Photo: Stephen Emms / London Belongs To Me

Following relaxed stints at beach bars in Spain, Greg Miller trained at Bermondsey Street’s The Hide Bar for two years, and then returned this month as general manager, after gaining further experience in bars across town. “Without a shadow of a doubt, London is the cocktail capital of the world,” he states simply. “We’re taking it to a new level.” Here are two simple, easy-to-make classics from his repertoire.

The best bloody mary

“The key ingredient in this drink is fresh tomato juice. There are a lot of companies out there selling really fresh stuff these days, but I’d suggest making your own (see tip below).

I use two parts (50ml) Ketel One vodka to four of tomato juice (100ml), to a half part of lemon juice (25ml).

Next, depending on your own preference, add spices. I’m a big fan of things like smoked paprika to give more depth, and a couple of bitters to carry the flavour further.

Chucking in Tabasco goes without saying – four large dashes – as does a slug of Lea & Perrins, four twists of pepper and just a nib of salt. Here at The Hide we make our own hibiscus salts and there are loads of others on the market.

Throwing a Bloody Mary. Photo: Stephen Emms / London Belongs To Me
Throwing a bloody mary. Photo: SE/LBTM

Consider Sichuan pepper – it’s phenomenal – or use citrus vodkas and throw a little wasabi in there. A lot of people like to add horseradish at home, but I prefer a little more Tabasco as it’s more of that sharper kick than the length that horseradish delivers.

With all cocktail recipes, technique is so important. Key point here is don’t ever shake your tomato juice. It bruises, and becomes bitter. Bartenders ‘throw’ the drink (see pic above): basically that means passing it one shaker to the other, aerating it, bringing the drink to life and chilling it at the same time.

It should chill within six to seven throws but there’s no set rule. It depends on how much dilution you’d like in the drink and the ingredients you place in there. Remember, horseradish will take an extra throw to mix in, but always be aware of your dilution.

The finished drink
Garnished: the finished drink. Photo: SE/LBTM

Garnish is imperative in a bloody mary. For me personally it’s all about celery, and making it look as appealing as possible for – well – breakfast, if that’s an option. Here we finish the drink with strips of dehydrated carrot and beetroot, plus, as I said earlier, I add smoked paprika for the nose. I don’t just want this for the garnish, I want people to actually taste this with the drink as well and enjoy it. And again, I can’t stress how much you need to use fresh ice.

Lastly, the whole idea of drinking cocktails is to have fun with the creation process. You shouldn’t just stick to one rule or set idea – everyone’s palate is different and you should just go with what feels right at the time.

Tip: If you can press your own juice at home, do so. Literally just press it, the bigger tomatoes the better. But remember, the majority of flavour is near the skin; a lot of the water inside isn’t the best to use. You need to get a balance also if you’re storing it for a few days, so add a bit of vodka to get things going. It also keeps it for a little bit longer and balances out – everything with these drinks is about balance and working in parts.

…and a simple Tom Collins

Tom Collins at The Hide. Photo: SE/LBTM
Tom Collins at The Hide. Photo: SE/LBTM
“I’m using export strength Tanqueray for this today as it’s better for mixing. I prefer a simple sugar syrup (one part sugar to one part water) rather than the sweeter gomme (two sugar to one of water): this way you get a balance between the sweet and the sour.

As with our Bloody Mary (above), it’s vital to use fresh ingredients. You can buy bottles of lemon juice in the supermarket but there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t make it fresh at home.

Use one part (25ml) of whole fresh lemon juice, one of our simple syrup (25ml) and two parts (50ml) of gin to find the perfect balance that lets the taste of the gin to come through in the drink.

A lot of people are quite happy to build this drink in the glass, but I like to give it a short, sharp shake, just to combine all those ingredients and bring the drink to life. To finish? You simply top it off with a splash of soda.

Enjoyed trying that? Find out how to make a two classic whisky cocktails courtesy Tufnell Park’s Aces and Eights bar here, or a classic mojito and espresso martini Somerstown speakeasy the Cosy Kettle here.

For loads more classic cocktail recipes, visit

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