Depending on a drinker's bloody Mary preferences, the morning cocktail may or not be garnished with Old Bay, hot sauce, lemon juice, pickled okra, boiled shrimp, fried bacon or jerked beef. But the beverage's deep red color is a near-constant.

Charleston bartender John Aquino is now challenging the status quo with his Natural Blonde Bloody Mary Mix, made with Johns Island Valencia Gold tomatoes. Although Aquino has poured the sunset-hued mix locally - it's already on the menus at The Obstinate Daughter and Brasserie Gigi - beverage professionals from across the country had their first chance to taste the product at last week's Tales of the Cocktail bartending convention in New Orleans.

"Exceptional," one sampler ruled.

The sharp-tasting Natural Blonde is significantly lighter than most bloody Mary mixes: On the processed tomato spectrum, it's closer to water than paste. And because the component tomatoes are lower in acid than most red tomatoes, it's not slugged with too much obscuring sugar. Instead, the fresh flavors are teased out with vinegar, jalapenos and mustard seeds.

Aquino likes to point out relative healthfulness of his mix: A 5.5-ounce serving clocks in at 25 calories (not counting alcohol), and has 270 mg of sodium. By comparison, a same-sized serving of Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix has 1118 mg of sodium.

Although the mix isn't yet available for individual sale, Aquino anticipates retailing it soon. For more information, stay tuned to naturalblondebloodymary.com.