Proposed by: Jonathan
Reviewed by: David
The senator from North Carolina was grateful to be ceded the floor to make this week’s selection and chose the Campari Mary.
No, I’m not serious and, as David suggested last week, I proposed the Bloody Mary and its many variations.
The story of the Bloody Mary and its history is clouded by the many folks who want to take credit. What cannot be doubted is that any number of people probably came to the conclusion that vodka and tomato juice would go well together (Penne alla Vodka anyone?) and that this concoction would somehow be best served for breakfast. What is intriguing to me is that this drink became associated as a hangover cure and be referred to as “the hair of the dog.” Just as I cannot relate to someone who thinks “I believe that gin would be a lovely substitute for club soda,” I can’t imagine thinking that tomato juice and vodka mixed with any number of spices would be a cure for a sour stomach (unless that cure involved projectile spewing). Just as an aside, I would also not be inclined to think that the best cure for a dog bite would be to put the hair from that same dog in the wound… yet that is apparently the origin of the saying.
The Bloody Mary is another classic that lends itself to numerous variations. Some of the better known and more interesting are the Bloody Maria (tequila), Red Snapper (gin), Bloody Scotsman or Smoky (add scotch along with the vodka) and of course the Bloody Shame (no alcohol). There are also numerous additives. Most basic recipes include tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, celery salt, black pepper and hot sauce. From there savvyones have added horseradish, peppers, olives, dill pickle spears, pickled okra and a long list of spices.
I created my own Bloody bar like the ones that have been popular with brunch spots. I threw in a few surprises but included the liquors mentioned above, low salt tomato juice (there’s enough salt in the remainder of the ingredients) and the other basics listed earlier. This was a drink to share. That means a bunch of friends on a golf trip were my willing taste testers, especially if I made the drinks. Between us we tried the traditional Bloody Mary, a Bloody Maria, Red Snapper, Bloody Smoky, Bloody Caesar (clamato juice) and Screw Mary (orange juice). The latter was awful but the rest were nice. I must admit a preference for the tequila version as it adds more taste than vodka.
We also varied garnishes. Those included traditional celery as well as olives and cornichons.
Though maybe I should have added some antacids so there’s no need to look for dog hair.
Here’s David’s Review
Bloody Marys are unusual drinks. For one thing, they have nutritional value. After two different types, I felt full and (relatively) virtuous that I’d consumed vitamins with my vodka. Though I was drinking these Bloody Marys in the p.m. instead of in the a.m., I understand why they are the beverage most likely to accompany breakfast or brunch. A close friend of waffles and eggs, Bloody Marys suggest something solid and reliable, respectable even.
From my perspective, too many variables surround creating a Bloody Mary to review it accurately. I found a recipe for a Bloody Mary mix that included Dijon mustard and green olive brine that seemed pretty distinctive and tried two variations on top of that—a Bloody Smoky (with Scotch) and a Bloody Bishop (with Sherry). Who am I to pass judgment on a class of drinks when I experienced just a taste and still have a lot of the homemade mix in my refrigerator?
I confess, I don’t drink tomato juice. Never have I slapped myself on the forehead and uttered, “I could of have a V8!”—perhaps if I accidentally drank a cup of hemlock I would, but, otherwise, no. Though I used V8 as the base for my Bloody Mary, tomato juice is dense and intense—a taste I associate with substantial bag lunches and health kicks. So spiciness and other flavors are everything. Without the proper bite of Tabasco (I used both regular and chipotle) and pepper, a Bloody anything won’t work. That, and the spirit. With the gift of vodka, gazpacho might make a tasty drink.
As a 54 year-old who’s never purchased Scotch, I particularly enjoyed the Bloody Smoky, which balanced the sweetness of tomato with an subtle peatiness. I cut down on the vodka to compensate for adding an Islay variety of Scotch (1 ounce vodka, one-half Scotch) and the effect was wonderful, particularly when I added a few more drops of the chipotle Tabasco, which is similarly smoky. The Bloody Bishop was also good and for some of the same reasons. Vodka seems such a neutral spirit to me—perhaps I haven’t learned to taste it yet—so the character of the second spirit appears important even in combination with substantial and spicy tomato juice. The sherry I used was not the dry sort and, though there was just a taste of it in the drink, it steered the Bloody Mary in a sweeter and nuttier direction.
Bloody Marys are idiosyncratic drinks, particular to a specific circumstance. Yet, with such broad variations in ingredients they’re hardly one drink at all. As an aperitif, they don’t work well—My wife and I didn’t feel much like dinner after our experimentation. And, sadly, I don’t have the sort of life where I can sabotage the cold judgment and absolute sobriety of the rest of the day for a morning Bloody Mary. As a very occasional excuse to start the day happy, I’m sure they’re wonderful.
David’s take: The genre of Bloody Marys is too vast to judge so summarily. More sampling seems called for.
Jonathan’s take: the versions are endless and while one is plenty, no single one needs to be like the other. My only must is horseradish as without it all versions are a little flat.
Next Week’s Drink (proposed by David):
After some bitter and/or elaborate weeks, I propose taking a sweet and simple turn while reusing our supplies in a Fall Gimlet. As a proper Gimlet should, it contains gin and fresh lime juice—no Rose’s Lime Juice for this cocktailian!—plus an unconventional sweetener to be revealed next week.