Hoping to supplement my monthly parental stipend, read allowance, I enrolled in a course at the Columbia Bartending Agency during my freshmen year of college. The dream was to whip up fantastic cocktails while lining my pockets with twenties. The course took place over several evenings culminating with a written test and an oral examination at which point you would have to mix a drink while telling a joke. As we waited for the tests to be handed out, my neighbor quietly asked if I had prepared any jokes. I mentioned I had two I was considering. She then offered to hear them and let me know which she thought was the better joke. Needless to say, when her name was called before mine for the oral examination she duly stole my joke, but then botched her drink. As my husband would say, “God punishes immediately.”
One of the must-learn drinks was the Bloody Mary; complicated only by it's litany of ingredients. Ironically, it is not one often asked for by the clients of the Columbia Bartending Agency since Americans consider the Bloody Mary a morning drink and most events were not in the morning. Be aware that while it is perfectly normal to order a Bloody Mary for brunch at 11am in the US, those in other countries, Switzerland for example, might think you are crazy.
My grandmother, however, did not consider the Bloody Mary a morning drink. It was actually the only drink I ever saw her order. When asked by the waiter, she would reply, “a Spicy Bloody Mary.” The waiter would then nod in acknowledgement at which point she would say, “Not too spicy,” the allow a brief pause and say “but spicy!” My grandmother passed away last week at the grand old age of 93 leaving us saddened but grateful. This was her drink and everyone should know how to make a good one.
For a classic version, you will need, vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, horseradish, black pepper, celery salt, lemon juice and a celery stalk.
You will need half as much vodka as tomato juice. So fill the glass up by just shy of a third. This drink should be cold so vodka from the freezer and tomato juice from the fridge is best. Served over ice.
As for the rest of the ingredients it’s really to taste, but roughly here is how it goes. A splash of Worcestershire sauce, a dash of Tabasco, a dab of horseradish, a pinch of black pepper, a pinch celery salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and garnished with a celery stalk. An old roommate of mine used to add a drop or two of maple syrup claiming it brought harmony to the drink. He is not wrong.
In loving memory of Dorothy Cooke Merchant.
NB When buying tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix check to make sure there is no high-fructose corn syrup. And if you are wondering what that weird root is in the picture, it’s horseradish. For some reason it doesn't come grated without added cream in the UK.