Tomato paste is a kitchen staple that adds incidentally vegan umami and depth to sauces, rice dishes, braises, and any condiment or dressing you happen to stir it into. And, whether you buy your paste in a can or a tube, there is always that little last annoying bit of paste that isn’t quite enough for use in a full recipe, but just enough to do something with. That something should be Bloody Marys.
A tomato-based cocktail should be a super savory umami bomb. Tomato juice is fairly umami-forward (and clam juice and fish sauce can help), but tomato paste’s concentrated nature lets you amp up the savoriness without shellfish or fermented anchovies, which may be off-limits due to dietary restrictions or allergies.
Tomato paste brings the focus back around to what the Bloody is supposed to be about: How well tomatoes pair with vodka (or tequila, or gin). It contributes deeper, richer flavors and less water than juice, keeping your booze-to-not-booze ratios where they should be (heavy on the booze).
It is not hard to add tomato paste to a cocktail. Squeeze or dollop it directly into the shaker, or use it to make a batch of mix. I never make my Bloodies the same way twice, and I almost always make them to taste, but a tablespoon of paste per drink should be plenty. Pair it with horseradish vodka for a sinus-clearing brunch beverage, or with a splash of adobo sauce for something spicy and smoky. Shake it with a lot of ice, then strain through a sieve to catch any pasty clumps and bits. We are, after all, making cocktails, not soup. (The only things you should be chewing are pickles, vegetable sticks, and various other snacks that come with the drink, not the drink itself.)