"Try it, you'll like it, don't hide it, don't fight it, just let it out…"

by Katie Pizzuto on September 25, 2009

in cocktails

bloody-mary-sl-1704040-lDale Degroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail was the cause of one of my many gastronomic epiphanies years ago, particularly the one that had me tossing out plastic bottles of “sour mix” and “bloody mary mix” at 1:00am vowing to never again give them a home in my refrigerator door. No more, “just add alcohol” for me, I declared—and I swore it on my vinyl collection, so you know damned well I was serious. After all, I wouldn’t ever dream of tossing a can of sloppy joe mix into my ground beef, so what made me think mediocrity was acceptable in a drink?

Since then, I’ve spent many a lazy afternoon perfecting my bloody mary recipe, tweaking it until I got just the right balance of nuance and whoopass. And let’s face it, everybody thinks their bloody mary recipe is the best, whether it involves Old Bay seasoning, steak sauce, horseradish, celery salt or pickle juice. My adjustments began with tossing the use of vodka square out the window without looking back. Vodka brought nothing to the mix other than alcohol, and that could be found readily in other, more flavorful spirits, my favorite being an herbaceous gin. I’ve even tried infusing the gin with various hot peppers, and until recently I was a loud braggart about my bloody mary recipe…

Ladies and gentlemen, wenches and weasels, here are the Angels & Demons of Bloody Mary Mixes.

bloody_mary_2008I never, never, ever, never, ever, ever thought I would buy a commercially made bloody mary mix again in my whole disillusioned life. I poo-pooed them in all their synthetic heresy, claiming them to be fodder for the cocktail illiterate. Then came this angel, Oxford Falls, strolling into my world with its all-natural ingredient list and its amazing fresh flavors, and fucked my whole mojo up. All 4 of their mixes are made with tomato juice, not paste or powder, and with combinations like lobster & wasabi (York Harbor) curiosity was bound to get the better of me, so I bought some. Handcrafted in small batches, the list of ingredients included both lobster & lobster stock, celery, wasabi, lemon juice, horseradish, worcestershire, onion power, paprika, garlic, onion powder, and cayenne, and there were plenty of yummy little chunks of everything settled in the bottom of the bottle. One glorious, gin-infused glass later my disillusion had bit the dust. I actually grabbed the phone at that point, calling to invite loved ones over to try it, preaching about its salvation. Conversion, friends, is never out of reach, and it’s only 1 angel away.

Finding a bad bloody mary mix to pin against Oxford Falls is like shooting fish in a barrel, but finding the worst of them, well that was painful. The sixth-circle demon in this bloody battle is Mr. & Mrs. T. Not only is it made with tomato concentrate instead of fresh tomato juice, but the 3rd highest ingredient is high-friggin’-fructose corn syrup, followed shortly after by molasses! Molasses has no damned business being in a bloody mary, guys. Lemon juice? Sure, but that’s concentrate, too. All data aside, though, the stuff tastes miserably pitiful. It was watery-thin and sweet, with a weird vinegar aftertaste. No tooth, no body, no punch. The fact that this stuff dominates the market with 62% of total sales is baffling, but given the popularity of the Plain Jane of booze—vodka—I guess I’m not surpised.

Angel: Find Oxford Falls Bloody Mary Mixes at www.peppers.com

Demon: Find Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix at every damned store in the nation

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Wine Commonsewer September 25, 2009

I’m curious if lobster (stock) is ordinarily a component of a bloody mary.

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2 Katie Pizzuto September 25, 2009

I’d leave that answer to the experts, but normally, no Mike. That being said, it’s certainly not unusual to see a bloody mary garnished with some shrimp or such (imagine the flavors of shrimp cocktail), and like I said, some folks add Old Bay to their bloody mary, which is a popular seafood seasoning.

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3 Katie Pizzuto September 25, 2009

That being said, the lobster flavor is a fantastic addition.

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4 castello September 25, 2009

I don’t even like bloody marys but I may have to try that son of a, did you say herbaceous Gin? Which one do you like?

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5 Katie Pizzuto September 25, 2009

Others may wanna chime in here, but I keep both Plymouth and Bombay Sapphire around. There’s a relatively newcomer called Bulldog that I have been dying to try, though…have heard great things.

As for the bloody mary mix…it also serves as a great marinade for chicken 😉

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6 castello September 26, 2009

Love the blue bottle gin. I don’t think I’ve seen the Plymouth but will look for it.
Marinade? Could be awesome.

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7 castello September 26, 2009

Ok I found the Plymouth at the local bar and had it with tonic… mmm very good. Then the bartender breaks out the latest stuff. 209 Gin. Wow what a fancy bottle, and it’s a Napa thing. Great story to go with the bottle.
For a real taste test we probly need some Martinis UP. I had it with a little tonic and it was yumbo tooo.
http://www.209gin.com/history.chtml

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8 Linsey September 27, 2009

I have nothing to say on this coz I’m not a drinker – so just adds … I have discovered fondant potatoes and they are bloody lovely.

sorry Katie – lets the thread get back to the topic 🙂

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9 Katie Pizzuto September 28, 2009

Cool, will check out the link…and yes, to determine how much you really enjoy a gin, drinking it with tonic won’t really do it justice.

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10 Sasha September 29, 2009

Is there no one else that will stand up and defend vodka? fine. I will. Maybe it’s the Russian blood in me, and maybe it’s that you have never had good vodka (there is plenty of rubbing alcohol out there), but a well made and well distilled vodka can be very pleasant. Now granted, I don’t sip it as I would a good whiskey or gin, a shot of good vodka accompanied with the right bite of food afterwords can be quite good. Furthermore, maybe in the case of other mixed drinks, vodka can go, but bloody marys and vodka are inseparable. Its like taking the bubbles out of champagne and still calling it champagne. If you take out the vodka, time to think of a new name. Call it the “Plain Jane of booze,” but as is frequently the case with food, it doesn’t have to be complex or intricate to be good. Sometimes simplicity of flavor (and ingredients), if done right, delivers the best result.

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11 Katie Pizzuto September 29, 2009

LOL, got the claws out, Sasha! I guess the thing is, while a well distilled vodka can be very pleasant, I want MORE than pleasant. If the gin complicated the drink too much in any way, and masked the flavors of the bloody mary mix, I’d have tossed it aside, but the fact of the matter is that it ADDS to it. A drink made with vodka might be good, but if made with something else it might be better….why not strive for better? Stella Artois might be a good beer, but if I can drink better, why wouldn’t I, know what I mean? And as far as the champagne comparison, I disagree….if I take vodka out of a bloody mary and add another spirit, chances are most drinkers couldn’t tell (unless you use something crazy like bourbon), as opposed to taking the bubbles out of Champagne. I dunno, I just feel like vodka brings nothing to the table when it comes to cocktails. Put it this way, if you had a herb in your spice rack that was flavorless, wouldn’t it beg the question “why add it to your meal”!?!?

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12 Sasha September 29, 2009

ok, point taken. I guess we view the creation of a bloody marry in slightly different terms. I do not use the liquor (in the case of the bloody mary) as “the herb,” to use your comparison. It is the base, the staple. The gastronomical parallel that comes to mind is, say rice…or pasta. I don’t need any of those to be super flavorful themselves, because it is the sauce, or the curry that adds the flavor. And sure, I could use a rich 4 cheese ravioli and add a duck ragu on top, but at that point you have two separate dishes. Don’t get me wrong, it will still probably be delicious, but it seems like overkill because each already has enough flavor and intensity to make quite a meal on its own. Now bring this back to the bloody marry. If you mix a nice gin in there, it might slightly enhance the flavor, but I love a spicy bloody mary, and the more delicate herbal notes of the gin, even if they are not overpowered by the rest of the drink, are unnecessary and a waste of good gin. Now add the plain vodka, and instead of seeking out subtle notes of juniper and coriander, you allow the simple, spicy, and powerful drink to rid you of your hangover. 🙂 and ok, maybe the champagne comparison was not the most accurate.

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13 Linsey September 29, 2009

because bubbles have been mentioned above – there was a news story today that i thought all the posters might like – so rather than send it to just katie

here you go

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/sci/tech/8279073.stm

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14 castello September 29, 2009

Great article Linsey. We always knew it wasn’t the size of the bubbles, but what’s inside.

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15 Katie Pizzuto September 30, 2009

@Linsey….the sad truth is that many sparkling wines are so poorly made that if you let them go flat and THEN taste them, you wouldn’t want to go near them as “still white wines”…they’re inferior. I’ve always said that the mark of a really good sparkler is that it tastes good even without the bubbles 🙂

@Sasha…understand your point as well!

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16 Brad October 3, 2009

Did you know in certain parts of China (including Hong Kong) “Live Drunken Shrimp” is a delicacy?

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17 Katie Pizzuto October 5, 2009

Really, Brad? So I assume they get eaten with the shells, then? That sounds intriguing!

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