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Building a Better Bloody Mary

Posted in Booze News and Events, Classic Cocktails with tags , , , on October 21, 2011 by cocktailvultures

One of our mottos here at the Lab is, “Question everything.” (It comes right after “Is there anything left in that shaker?”) In the case of cocktails, this translates to putting every ingredient in a classic recipe under a microscope and deciding if it’s something that belongs there or could be made a lot better. So we’ve come to the Bloody Mary.

Probably no other drink discussion brings out the amateur mixologist more than that of the Bloody Mary. Everyone knows the best way to make them. Everyone tries to claim their personal recipe is hotter, spicier, or contains a “secret ingredient” (horseradish or Worcestershire sauce or Clamato or pepper vodka). We’re not here to tutor you in that area because we firmly believe that people should drink what they like. However, there is a commercial product we enthusiastically endorse: Demitri’s Bloody Mary Mix. This is just a concentrated spice mixture in a bottle and you use a small amount. The flavor profile is excellent and they make several kinds with different peppers and other ingredients. http://www.demitris.com

So why are we here? Because another thing people tend to agree upon is that commercially-prepared tomato and vegetable juices are only okay at best and often quite loathsome. If they’re not overly salty, they’re flavor-free or they taste like the can they came in. The Cocktail Vultures used to enjoy a refrigerated vegetable juice medley made by the quality-driven folks at Bolthouse Farms but they have dropped this product, leaving us bereft on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

One of the things we don’t like about commercial tomato juice is that “cooked” flavor, and also the sort of sticky-puree consistency that reminds us of a glass of marinara sauce. What could we do to get that wonderful fresh tomato taste? The farmstands of the Hudson Valley were beckoning so we grabbed a couple of sacks of tomatoes that still smelled like hot summer sun and moist garden loam. The electric juicer failed to deliver – it ripped through the tomatoes too quickly and just produced a lot of water with the palest tinge of tomato. Joe braced himself for a safari through his vintage kitchen utensils and found an old Italian food mill. He cut the tomatoes up, sprinkled them with a little salt, and set them over a strainer to weep for awhile. When he put the tomatoes through the food mill, it pressed the juice out more slowly and allowed him to re-squeeze some of the pulp. The result was a juice popping with garden flavor but with none of the thick stickiness of commercial tomato juices.

Joe moved on to the spice ingredients. Using the top of his woodstove, he fire-roasted some Italian cubanelle peppers and sent them through the food mill as well. They produced a spicy puree with a lovely green color.

Shaking up these two fresh ingredients with a jot of the Demitri’s Classic, some cold vodka and lemon juice, we poured it all into tall, ice-filled glasses and garnished with celery stalks, lemon wedges and skewered olives.

I fear we have been spoiled for all future sub-par Bloody Marys. And that’s a shame because I don’t know anything that gets me through a boring plane trip better. All kneel to Bloody Mary, and watch this space for some twists on the recipe that will have you drooling for more…

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