Redless Snapper

bloodless.jbmProposed By: Jonathan

Reviewed By: David

It may be more common to say there are two camps on any subject, yet when it comes to the Bloody Mary there seems to be three. Of course there are those who love them and those that do not, but there is also a third group that wants to love them.

The lovers have many reasons. They are one of the few cocktails that are associated with breakfast or brunch, mixing and matching ingredients makes them adaptable and customizable, and switching the liquor not only changes the taste but changes the name. Finally, how many drinks include the juicy rationalization that you are actually drinking something healthy? Okay, maybe I am the only one who claims that.

The detractors have their points too. Tomato juice is the main ingredient and it dominates the drink. Don’t like tomato and you won’t like the drink. The thickness, spiciness, acidity and garnishes are all cited by those who much prefer a Screwdriver as a spirited part of their breakfast or brunch.

That final group is the one this week’s cocktail may attract. I have a friend, we’ll just call him “Willard” to guard his anonymity, who wants to like the Bloody Mary but can’t get past all of the negatives listed above. It is the thickness of the tomato juice based mix that really holds him back, and he challenged me to try and find an alternative. Clam juice, water and even orange juice (yes, there is a version of the Mary with orange juice) couldn’t cut the thickness to move him from one group to the other. So it was with some interest that I read about the Redless Snapper.

This cocktail is the creation of Kevin Barrett at Foundation Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was one of the drinks featured in an article in the February/March 2014 edition of Garden and Gun about spirits distilled in the south. It uses Cardinal Gin made in Kings Mountain, North Carolina and is technically a Red Snapper because of the gin substitution for vodka. The key to the cocktail, though, is that it uses tomato water made with fresh tomatoes instead of the standard mix.

The recipe for the tomato water is as follows:

6 large tomatoes, peeled and cut up
3 tsp. lime juice
½ green or red pepper
½ small clove of garlic
1 -2 tsp. fresh horseradish
1 jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper

Blend all ingredients except salt and pepper until smooth. Heat in a saucepan until it turns from the pink color to a deep red. Let it cool and strain through a fine strainer and then cheese cloth until it reaches the clarity you want. Add salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate. It reads harder than it really is.

The drink doesn’t specify the amount of tomato water to use but here’s the way I made it:
Moisten the rim of a highball glass with lime and roll in Old Bay seasoning

2 ounces gin
3 ounces tomato water
2 dashes celery salt
Ground black pepper
2 dashes hot sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Serve in the highball glass with ice and garnish with the usual suspects – lime, olive, cornichon, celery, pickled okra – your choice.

Obviously you could use vodka to make a standard Blood Mary but either way it makes a much lighter cocktail that takes advantage of fresh tomatoes and the desire for a softer drink more appropriate for summer. Maybe even a drink that Willard would like.

Here’s David’s Review:

IMG_1043Looking at this recipe for the first time, I recognized it immediately as a sneaky version of a Bloody Mary. The name strays from the usual witty word-play—“Redless Snapper” makes no use of “Mary” as most varieties do—but maybe “Bloodless Mary” was just too much.

Like “Willard,” the part of a Bloody Mary that always gives me the most trouble is the tomato. Gazpacho, I love—it takes advantage of perfect tomatoes in their juiciest peak along with a number of complementary fresh and—this is key for me—uncooked ingredients.

Despite approximately 258,000 repetitions by advertisers, I’ve never wished I could have had a V-8 (what never?… no never) because tomato juice tastes cooked to me, like tepid pasta sauce, too dense to be a satisfactory beverage.

Thus, the notion of “tomato water” in the Redless Snapper appealed to me, as it promised the taste of tomatoes without the usual gravity of tomato juice. Plus, this Bloody Mary used gin (increasingly my favorite spirit) and perhaps enough citrus to leaven the heaviness of the cocktail. The preparation of the tomato water was arduous to me—maybe I’m just developing an antipathy for straining—but I had very high hopes for this drink.

My wife liked the Redless Snapper quite a bit, but I’m still convinced tomato cocktails are just not for me and maybe I should figure out how to spike gazpacho. This drink was much lighter and much more refreshing, its savory elements weren’t overwhelmed by the tomato taste, and it accommodated the gin well. I still consider myself a member of Jonathan’s third group. It’s my problem, must be a former life thing or some scarring event from my childhood I can’t remember.

But we still have plenty of tomato water remaining, and I may try it again some Sunday when a get a hankering for a brunch-style drink. Next time around, however, I may try changing the proportions, with more citrus and more gin to diminish the tomato that, even as water, still seems too much for me.

Jonathan’s Take: I have always been in the lover of Bloody Mary camp but this is good. Still need a side of Tums to go with it too.

David’s Take: Foiled once again by another attempt to rehabilitate the Bloody Mary, alas.

Next Week (Proposed by David):

Summer seems the perfect time for beer, and I’m proposing we try a variety of Shandy—beer with citrus, usually lemonade. Next week’s version is called the Orange Wheat Shandy. Americans have taken to adding a slice of orange to Blue Moon beer (brewed by Miller-Coors), and that’s the idea… yet, beer-snob that I am, next week’s “beertail” ventures further than average, substituting the more hearty, and older, German Hefeweizen (a cloudy brew with substantial body and a yeasty taste redolent of cloves and bananas) for the imitation Belgian Wit-bier and trading fresh orange juice for the one measly orange slice.

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Bloody Mary

bloodyProposed 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.