Give Your Summer a Bloody Mary Infusion
With tomatoes back in season, my thoughts and thirst are limping towards a good, old fashioned Bloody Mary.
The exact origins of the Bloody Mary are surprisingly subject to some debate. “The good news is, the Bloody Mary was invented,” notes bartender turned author Brian Bartels in his recent book, The Bloody Mary, “The answer to the question of how it originated, however, is a murky one.”
I had always thought that the drink was created by Fernand “Pete” Petiot in the 1920s while he was working at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Bartels argues that Petiot may have been responsible for “an early version of it,” but he maintains there is plenty of reason to doubt Petiot created it first. Apparently, the cocktail might just as easily have been created by Comedian George Jessel in 1927. Though Bartels views this claim “with some skepticism.”
Exactly how, when, and where the Bloody Mary entered the cocktail scene, is ultimately not important—provided it is made correctly.
A seemingly simple concoction of iced tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and then something spicy like horseradish or Tabasco, a well-made Bloody Mary is refreshingly tangy, rich, and earthy.
Try to get too fancy with additional vegetables, and you wind up with gazpacho—not a terrible outcome, perhaps, but not a Bloody Mary. Too much Tabasco or horseradish, throws it out of whack, resulting in an unpleasant fiery spiciness. Too much tomato juice or too much ice, and you wind up with a thin, limp, and watery mess. Too much Worcestershire or lemon juice will likewise ruin it.
As a famous hair-of-the-dog cure, a great many Bloody Marys are made badly if for no other reason than that so many are made at home by one who is too hung-over to concentrate and get the right balance. There are also plenty of bartenders who are simply lazy, figuring their hungover clientele will be in too bad a shape to make a fuss. The single biggest Bloody Mary travesty is to use cheap canned tomato juice.
In any event, the key is to achieve balance with whatever ingredients you opt for. If, for whatever reason, you have to use canned tomato juice, get the best that you can—just taste it before using, so that you can adjust accordingly to strike the right balance.
Into a mixing glass combine:
2 ounces of vodka
4 ounces of tomato juice (purée in a blender and then strain over a cheesecloth lined sieve; or, if you must, use quality canned juice),
½ an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 dashes of Tabasco
2 dashes of Worcestershire
A pinch of both salt and freshly ground pepper (careful with the salt if using canned juice).
Add ice and stir to mix.
Strain into an iced goblet or highball glass.
Oh and, if you like, garnish with a stick of celery.
For a “Virgin Mary,” leave out the vodka – it’ll taste the same, but loses its “curative” powers, and so much of its charm.