I’ve always been a fan of Bloody Marys, which is odd, since plain tomato juice creeps me out (too thick? too bland?). Really, alcohol is optional; on flights, these days, I tend to just drink Bloody Mary Mix (partly because it may actually be the most filling thing they serve in ‘economy’ now). But a Bloody Mary, as a drink, poses some problems. It’s weirdly thick, not at all refreshing, and, shallow as I am, is really ugly. Also, it fails one of the most important rules in Dave Wondrich’s Esquire Drinks: since you can’t really taste the alcohol, how are you going to respect it? And packaged Bloody Mary Mix, although like manna from the heavens in the desolate airline environment, is full of everything the food industry (technically signing my paycheck, more or less) loves, and everything I hate: HFCS, “natural flavorings”, sodium benzoate, etc. Too many ingredients for me to be comfortable with, but not good enough for me to want to replicate on my own.
Which brings me to the second of two drinks I want to mention today: Sangrita. Although I know less than nothing about Mexican (Oaxacan?) culture, I do know that Sangrita is, basically, a spiced tomato-citrus mixture, and that it is delicious. While not alcoholic per se, it could definitely stand in for Bloody Mary Mix (incidentally, Bloody Marys in general are always better made with tequila or gin, anyway). It also makes a great chaser for sipping straight mezcal. If the idea of a “chaser” is too declasse for you, just call it a “deconstructed cocktail” in your head. Make some jalapeno foam and put it in a third glass, and you’ll be just fine, I promise. My personal recipe is highly inauthentic, as well as approximate, but generally runs something like:
- 4-6 oz tomato juice (fresh is best, of course, but canned is fine)
- 4-6 oz grapefruit juice (definitely gotta be fresh)
- 2 oz lime juice (again, fresh)
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of chilli powder
- Pinch of cayenne
Put it all in a tumbler. Stir it up. Drop some ice in.
This is pretty rough, obviously, and I think pretty much anything could go in. Orange juice? Sounds good. Tabasco? Definitely. Minced garlic? Sounds tasty. Onion puree? Well, that sounds like a lot of work, but I’m sure it’ll taste good. I tend to have one whenever I want something that is interesting tasting but nonalcoholic. To go with my straight mezcal.
Anyway, the other way you can go, if you want something that is more composed, is the Bloody Mary Cocktail, the concept for which made the rounds a couple years ago. Although it sounds fussy, the basic concept is simple. Muddled cherry tomatoes, citrus, fresh herbs, and liquor. Horeseradish-infused vodka is nice (and easy to make), but, if you don’t have it, do yourself a favor and use gin. Or tequila. Citrus vodka is a crutch for the simple-minded.
Bloody Mary Cocktail
- 2 oz gin, tequila, or horseradish-infused vodka
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
- 2 dashes Tabasco (or a pinch of cayenne)
- Pinch of salt
- 4-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 sprigs some kind of fresh herb (cilantro, lemon basil, or watercress come to mind)
In a mixing glass, muddle the cherry tomatoes, simple syrup, salt, and 1 sprig of the fresh herb. Add the lemon juice, liquor, and hot sauce. Shake well with ice, then strain (fine strain if you want a more refined cocktail) into a cocktail glass. Float the remaining sprig of fresh herb as a garnish.
This is definitely a seasonal cocktail, and also more trouble than I normally go to for a pick-me-up, but I think it’s worth making at least once in your life. It tastes just enough like a Bloody Mary to make you realize that what you’ve been drinking is crap. And if I can’t ruin your enjoyment of something forever, what good am I?