We’ve reached that awful point of the NFL season where there is an incredible imbalance on the Sunday schedule, a bunch of early games and then only two or three games with a 4 ET/1 PT kickoffs. This inequity drags on until after Thanksgiving, giving us plenty of weeks like this week where we only get Jets-Pats and Jaguars-Raiders with the late start, which means you need to be ready for brunch drinking to handle the massive onslaught of early games. (And by onslaught, I mean the Texans-Ravens matchup gets my vote for Sunday morning, but I wouldn’t object to watching Washington-Giants or Browns-Colts.)

Earlier this season I had a chance to talk with Holly Anderson over at SI’s Campus Union about tailgating and she asked what were my favorite football snack and drink to have during a game. My answer was that they’re the same thing, a Bloody Mary. I’ve written many times about how I love watching football on the West Coast because you wake up and it’s game time and brunch time, which makes the Bloody Mary a perfect match for the early games. It’s restorative and energizing, the perfect mix of booze and savory juice to perk you up. Add a large enough garnish and you’ve pretty much got a meal in a glass. What could make your liquid meal even better? Have it be inspired by one of the greatest football snacks of all time, pizza.

Pizza Bloody Mary

Long time readers of the Football Foodie series know that the recipes posted are testing over a period of time. Some come easy, some take several attempts to get just right, some just never work. This one, this one took some love. Many pitchers of Pizza Bloody Mary mix were made. And frustratingly enough, the easy way of making it actually turned out to be just as good as doing it the hard way. Which way you want to make it depends on how prominent you want the taste of tomatoes in your drink.

The easy method of making a pizza inspired Bloody Mary gives you just that, pizza in a glass without all the cheese and crust nonsense. The slightly harder version of boiling down tomatoes like you were making a pizza sauce from scratch gives you a brighter, more tomato-y drink. I won’t think less of you if you only try the easy way, nor will I think you’re crazy for making it the more difficult way. Your kitchen, your taste, your rules.

Except for one rule; you’re going to need to make your Pizza Bloody Mary mix ahead of time so it has time to properly chill and let the flavors even out, preferably the night before and no longer than three days before serving. And use fresh basil over dried in both recipes, dried basil is pretty worthless. Okay, so two rules.

Easy method:

48 ounces of tomato juice, preferably low-sodium
2-3 tablespoons minced basil, about six good-sized basil leaves
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

NO SALT. You’ll notice this method does use any salt. Processed tomato juice already contains a fair amount of salt, even the reduced sodium juices have more than enough salt for your Bloody Mary base.

In a large covered sauce pan, bring all the ingredients to a gentle boil over medium heat and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, transfer to a large pitcher or other container and chill overnight in the refrigerator.

Follow Bloody Mary drink mixing directions below.

Slightly more difficult method:

(2) 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes or 3-3 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, stems removed
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons minced basil, about six good-sized basil leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Combine everything in a large covered stock pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes if using crushed tomatoes and 30-40 minutes if using ripe tomatoes, enough time for the tomatoes to boil down and the onions to soften. After cooking down the tomatoes, remove from heat and allow to cool.

After your tomato base has cooled, transfer to a blender and liquify in batches or puree the whole thing in the pot with an immersion blender.

Using either a food mill, a fine mesh sieve or a cheesecloth, force through the mix to remove the solids. Transfer to a large pitcher or other container and chill overnight in the refrigerator. Don’t worry if this yields a rather thick Bloody Mary mix, you’ll be thinning it out with ice and vodka soon enough.

Embellishments: Rim the glass with a mix of kosher salt and crushed dried oregano, garnish with thinly sliced pepperoni, fresh mozzarella balls, green pepper and black olives. (If you get about 1/4 pound of pepperoni from the deli, you can make more than enough garnishes for your Bloody Marys and have snacks for the next game.)

When ready to make your pizza Bloody Mary, fill a pint glass halfway to 3/4 full with ice. Measure in 1 1/2 ounces of vodka and top with bloody mary mix. Transfer to a cocktail shaker and give a vigorous mixing, like it’s Jim Harbaugh’s neck and you either lost in fantasy because it wasn’t Frank Gore getting the ball at the goal line or because the declined safety cost you your parlay.

Pour back into a oregano and kosher salt rimmed pint glass and garnish.

This drink get a decent amount of heat from the red pepper flakes in the Pizza Bloody Mary mix, but if you prefer a spicier drink, use a pepper or jalapeno infused vodka in your cocktail. Either at a morning tailgate or when you roll out of bed at ten (or noon) just in time for kickoff, a the little extra kick of heat in your Pizza Bloody Mary gets you going just a little faster.

Yields approximately 6 drinks.

Need more football watching-centric recipe ideas? Find the complete archive of Football Foodie recipes here, or for more football brunch recipes go here. You should also really follow that link to Campus Union, there is a recipe for a whole roasted pig there.