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The morning after 

Bloody Mary saves the day

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The new year is upon us, so it's time to have a frank discussion about a serious matter: drinking -- in the morning. What's the problem with drinking in the morning? We don't do enough of it. And we're paying the price. Every dry morning is an opportunity lost and it has to stop.

Versatile and tasty, the Bloody Mary is an unrivaled accompaniment to your morning paper. A classy addition to weekend breakfast or brunch, the Bloody Mary also is restorative after a night of heavy drinking. Really.

In addition to dehydration, the body suffers from withdrawal the day after a bender, resulting in the hangover you so loathe: headache, dry mouth, restless stomach and a touch of the twitches. A Bloody Mary can help on two physiological fronts: The juice supplies vitamins, calcium and potassium, while the booze (in moderation) relaxes the nerves and lets the body down slowly.

Greatness in a Bloody Mary boils down to personal taste, even more than in other foods. Unlike something simpler -- a steak, for example -- the variety of ingredients and optional admixtures have the potential to produce an extremely complex flavor matrix. That's why making them at home, and tinkering with different recipes, can be so exciting and rewarding.

Vodka and tomato juice form the foundation, with pepper, citrus and heat making the magic. The drink's creator, Fernand "Pete" Petiot, added black pepper and cayenne powder, lemon, Tabasco, horseradish and Worcestershire in the 1930s. These ingredients have endured as the nucleus of the modern Mary, but the variety of juices, hot sauces, flavored vodkas and other embellishments now available offer limitless opportunities for innovation.

The recipes below only scratch the surface of possibility and have three things in common.

First, they're my favorite custom blends -- the best I've ever had. Second, they both call for a small amount of Guinness beer. Yes, Guinness. It adds body, richness and a great texture. Accept no substitutes; other stouts simply won't do. Third, in an effort to promote moderation, each recipe makes two servings in a cocktail shaker.

If you prefer a stiffer drink, add more vodka, and feel free to multiply and make a pitcher.

Kristi's Best Bloody Mary

(nothing beats it)

4 oz. Colorado Premium Vodka

1 cup V8

2/3 cup Guinness

Juice of half a lime

4 tsp. pepperoncini juice (straight from the jar)

8 dashes hot sauce (Kristi prefers Crystal, but any one will do)

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish

2 pinches salt

fresh ground pepper (20-25 turns or 1/2 tsp.)

Combine with ice in shaker, toss, serve in a tall glass over ice, and garnish with whole pepperoncini.

David's Spicy Bloody Mary

(your forehead will tingle)

4 oz. Smirnoff Vodka

1 1/2 cups R.W. Knudsen Spicy "Very Veggie" juice

1/8 cup Guinness

juice of half a lime

juice of half a lemon

5 dashes hot sauce (David prefers Tapatio, but any one will do)

1/2 tsp. horseradish

2 dashes Chinese five-spice powder (optional)

2 pinches salt

fresh ground pepper (20-25 turns or 1/2 tsp.)

Combine with ice and shaker, toss, and serve in a tall glass over ice. Garnish as you like.

-- David Torres-Rouff

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