Bloody marys line the tables at Charleston’s annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival. After all, what better to sip with oysters at brunch-time than a tangy-briny beverage rimmed with a generous amount of florida bay seasoning and garnished with pickled bits? The bloody mary has long served as the signature drink at the oyster festival, however, 2022 marks the first of thirty-eight years that event goers will enjoy bloody marys made with vodka. Before acquiring a liquor license this year, past years’ festivals featured bloody marys mixed with low-ABV options, such as rice wine.
Before you call cocktail blasphemy, this bloody mary has been winning crowd approval “as long as I can remember,” says Jonathan Kish, president of the Charleston Restaurant Foundation. Despite experimenting with various boozes over the years, the festival's bloody mary's flavor profile remained consistent. The credit goes to Mr. Jimmie, or rather, his heat-kissed Pick-Me-Up Bloody Mary mix from Food for the Southern Soul.
Jimmy Hagood, Southern food gourmand and creator of Food for the Southern Soul, has been involved with the Lowcountry Oyster Festival for years. As one of the first vendors of Carolina Gold rice, Hagood loves using food to inspire stories of Southern culture. Mr. Jimmie’s Pick-Me-Up Bloody Mary Mix, for example, is equal parts history and convenient cocktail making. The eponymous Mr. Jimmie helped popularize the bloody mary in Charleston during Prohibition. A renowned conversationalist, golfer, and tennis player, he was known for loving bloody marys that carried some heat. He made his with a seasoned, fire-roasted tomato mixture, and his story inspired Hagood to come up with a similar product.
“We want to keep as much local as possible [at the festival],” Kish says in regards to the vendors they work with and charities they support. Thus, the Charleston-made product infused with Holy City history arose as the obvious choice. Hagood, one of the event’s sponsors, eagerly offered up his signature mix to craft the event’s central cocktail. “He makes a wonderful product,” Kish says of Hagood’s Food for the Southern Soul line. Kish even partners with Hagood to sell mix for she crab soup from his downtown restaurant 82 Queen.
For a brunch-time beverage or festive sipper for oysters, do as they do in Charleston, and mix yourself a tall bloody mary. Kish recommends garnishing it with pickles, okra, or jalapeños if you’re feeling adventurous.
Oyster Festival Bloody Mary Recipe
- 2 ounces vodka
- 8 ounces Mr. Jimmie’s Pick-Me-Up Fire-Roasted Bloody Mary Mix
- Garnish: Lemon wedge, celery stick, dill pickle, pickled okra, or jalapeños
Rim a pint or collins glass with florida bay seasoning and fill with ice. Combine vodka and bloody mary mix in glass and stir to combine.