Mr. Tomato Head

Bloody Muddle

Tomato Juice
Lemon Juice (and zest if you want)
Black Pepper
Worcestershire Sauce
Smoked Paprika
Hot Sauce
Fish Sauce
Celery Bitters
2-3 oz (give or take) Chesuncook Botanical Spirit

Combine ingredients in a pitcher, adjusting flavors as necessary. Add liquor to pint glass filled with ice, top with Bloody Muddle. Garnish with celery stalk and pickle spear or whatever.  Top with a few dashes of celery bitters. If you don’t have Chesuncook, use vodka, gin, tequila, mezcal… you get the idea

I’ve had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with tomatoes.  Growing up, I would only eat them in sauce form, whether it be pizza or pasta.  The thought of a slice of tomato on a burger or sandwich made me shudder.  Luckily, a trip to Italy in college finally opened my eyes to their deliciousness.  After that, they slowly worked their way onto my subs and even into salads.  There was one hurdle I still couldn’t get over…the Bloody Mary.  

Once I began consuming tomatoes in (almost) all their forms, the Bloody Mary remained a tremendously unpleasant offering, from taste to texture.  In concept, however, it should have been something I enjoyed.  I loved breakfast.  I loved day drinking.  Where was the disconnect?

The big breakthrough came on a car ferry from Cape May to Dewey Beach, Delaware.  The trip lasted over an hour, so naturally there was a bar on board to pass the time.  Some guys we met were clearly veterans of this journey, and lauded the ferry’s Bloody Marys.  This was quite an odd statement to make, but I figured it most be true if they went out of their way to say it.  Plus, the sun on my face and sea air in my lungs made for a pretty perfect setting.  So I took the plunge, and I’m a changed man ever since.

Spicy, savory, salty…flavors up until that point I rarely encountered in a glass.  On top of that, you can always adjust it to your liking.  A bland Mary can be saved with a few shakes of hot sauce or Worcestershire sauce.  And the customizations! Oh the endless possibilities!  Spicey or mild.  Salty or vegetable-y.  With or without horseradish.  Funk it up with clam juice.  It’s like playing with Mr. Potato Head, except you get to drink it. And we haven’t even gotten to the base spirit.

Traditionally they are made with vodka, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Soon I found myself exploring other options.  How bout gin to bring some more botanicals to the party (a Gin Mary).  Or tequila to add even more punch (a Bloody Maria).  Using mezcal is like drinking a tray of oven roasted tomatoes, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Best of all, you don’t need a recipe.  Just grab whatever ingredients you’re into at the moment, and throw them in.  The basics are lemon juice, salt, black pepper, Worcester Sauce and hot sauce.  I personally think horseradish is a requirement too.  My own twists over the years include smoked paprika (for extra smokiness, obviously), celery bitters, chipotle powder, and even fish sauce for a little umami punch. Mix it all up with some tomato juice and adjust until your desired flavor is reached.  Fill a pint glass with ice, add whatever base you want and top off with the Bloody Mix.  Stick a celery stalk and/or pickle spear in there garnish and enjoy.

Most recently I made  a batch using Maine Craft Distillery’s Chesuncook Botanical Spirit.  I wrote about this odd bottle before with the Man of A Thousand Voices.  It seemed only natural to try a veggie based booze in an already veggie forward drink.  And man it did not disappoint.  The carrots actually brought out little more sweetness from everything, while also making it more tomato-y at the same time.  The flavors of the booze really shined through.  And doubling down on the veggie thing bumped it up to legit meal-in-a-glass status.

So this Father’s Day, if you’re doing a brunch thing, whip up a batch of Bloody’s.  No need to buy the premixed stuff.  Open up your cabinets (both kitchen and liquor) and see what inspires you.  And if you want to grab a slice of bacon of the plate and use that as the garnish, no one will fault you for that.

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