When did the Bloody Mary get so out of hand? It seems as if, in some corners of the world, this wonderful brunch treat has turned into a buffet. We’ve enjoyed Bloody Mary’s with shrimp, and we’ve seen pictures of Bloody Mary’s garnished with everything from hamburgers to fried chicken. No doubt, some of these concoctions are stunts, and we genuinely love a Bloody Mary with some shrimp in it, like a shrimp cocktail you can drink, but, really? Chicken?
Let’s take a step back and take a look at this bucket of goodies. The Bloody Mary is a heavy drink, and is really more of a meal. The vegetable base makes it not only filling, but nutritious, and, given enough spice, can open your eyes on even the groggiest of mornings. How it came to be is subject of much debate, but we can agree that, while already known, it got it’s attention in the 1940s. At that time, as published in Life magazine, the Bloody Mary, or Red Hammer, as it was called in the article, was tomato juice, vodka, and lemon juice. Pretty simple, right? Well, not so fast.
Not long after the recipe was published in Life, advertisements for French’s Worcestershire Sauce began appearing with the suggestion of adding the product to the drink. Oh, and then another magazine suggested adding salt and pepper. It seemed as if the game was on to add more and more to this liquid salad, and at some point someone thought it a good idea to add Tabasco sauce and make it spicy. Whomever that person may be, we approve. Horseradish, olive brine, bitters, and clam juice all made their appearance over time. Celery seed? Sure, why not. It’s not too far out of the norm, in fact, we favor ours with Old Bay Seasoning.
Then there’s the matter of garnish. Celery, or pickle spear, cherry tomatoes and olives, and that’s enough. Unless you want a lemon slice, too. Or some gherkins, or maybe a jalapeno pepper. How about some kale? Or a nice rasher of bacon? But why stop there, if you already have the bacon, and the tomato is in the glass, along with all the seasoning, well, then I guess you just have to add a cheeseburger on top.
It can be a bit much, no? While we applaud the creativity, and encourage you to embellish to your heart’s desire, we’d like to keep it simple, taking it back from the purveyors of the ridiculous, and seeing if we can find something a little more basic we can make for ourselves. In our minds, the Bloody Mary still has a whiff of the 1970s to it, or maybe those dimly lit steak houses we love so much, where you can get a 2” cut of dry aged meat, cooked to perfection, for just over a prince's ransom. No, the Bloody Mary is less about brunch for us than it is a preface to a feast, and we like it that way. Skip the salad, and give us a Bloody Mary, and make it barren of snacks.
We start with the vodka, and we favor potato vodka, so Portland Potato Vodka it is. We also like vegetable juice cocktail, and while it’s perfectly fine with tomato juice, we reach for V8. In either case, reach for the can. Fresh tomato juice is watery, raw, and isn't what you want here. After that comes a whole bunch of seasoning. For that, we like it spicy, but this is where you can really express yourself, and satisfy your own taste. What about clam juice? OK, Clamato is a guilty pleasure for us, but not in this drink. Unless that’s what you like. In the end, we think of this more as food, so go nuts. Everyone has their own recipe, just like everyone has their own recipe for spaghetti sauce, barbecue rub, and chicken soup. Here’s ours.
1 1/2 oz Portland Potato Vodka
4 oz Tomato juice (or vegetable juice cocktail)
1/4 oz Lemon juice
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce
Old Bay Seasoning.
Rim a pint glass with salt and Old Bay Seasoning
Fill glass with ice
Add vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco.
Stir, the top with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with a celery stalk, cherry tomatoes, and olives.
Sprinkle some Old Bay over top to finish.
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