Infographic: The Chemistry of a Bloody Mary

Chemists unearth some surprising health benefits in your iconic morning cocktail.

Scientists meeting at the American Chemical Society this week raised a glass (or maybe a Pyrex glass beaker?) to the Bloody Mary. According to Neil Da Costa, a chemist working for International Flavors and Fragrances, the tomato, citrus, horseradish, black pepper, and celery salt blend activates a wide range of our taste receptors, making it one of the world's most chemically complex cocktails.

Da Costa told the the ACS:

Some of the ingredients have been linked with beneficial health effects, citing the rich source of lycopene, for instance, in the tomato juice; horseradish with its allyl isothiocyanate, which can be effective at lower concentrations; other phytochemicals in lemon; and even the alcohol in vodka, which some studies suggest can be beneficial when taken occasionally in small amounts.


Which may go to show that the quality of a Bloody Mary may have a lot to do with its color since lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, appears to be the drink's predominant flavor. Da Costa also suggests making it cold with fresh tomato juice, and economizing on the vodka since its flavor tends to get lost in the mix.

Check out the larger infographic of the drink's chemistry from Shots—NPR's excellent and, in this case, aptly named—health blog here.