Okay, children, close your books. Place your phones in Airplane Mode. And no cheating. It’s Pop Quiz Time.  I only do these because I know how much you enjoy these little surprises. Sort of like Christmas morning but without the joy.

One of the most popular cocktails in America, just a step or two behind the margarita, is the Bloody Mary. How much do you know about this ubiquitous and macabre-named drink?

 

  • Bloody Mary’s are always made with vodka. True or False
  • Blood Mary’s are spicy. True or False
  • Bloody Mary’ are a “morning after” drink. True or False
  • Bloody Mary’s often use rimming spices. True or False
  • Bloody Mary’s are of English origin. True or False

 

Pass your papers to the aisle.

 

And I can tell you without even looking at your answers that all of you got every answer right. Yes, there are no wrong answers.

 

For a drink to be as popular as the Bloody Mary, and undergoing amazing transformations, it’s a pretty broad spectrum of acceptable outcomes, mostly determined by personal tastes.

Just a quick rundown, Bloody Marys are not always made with vodka. Many are made with mixes, some pre-packaged or home-made. Many folks like V-8 as a base, and there is a sizeable contingent of aficionados who enjoy a large component of beef bouillon, maybe to the exclusion of tomato juice.  This is known as a Bloody Bull. 

As for the vodka, just about any spirit makes for a good player in the drink. Rum is popular, as are bourbon, tequila and gin. The South American darlings Pisco and Cachaça are also fun.

You are no doubt aware that there is a huge range of spices in a Bloody Mary – from very mild to blow the top of your head into the next Parish. Usually fresh horseradish is involved, as well as Louisiana Hot Sauce and since the horseradish can vary vastly in heat levels, and people seldom measure the addition of hot sauce – oh, what the heck, one more shake – even in the same bar, a second Bloody Mary can vary from the first.

As for being a morning-after panacea – maybe, maybe not. No doubt the chemical components of the tomato don’t hurt in your return from a bad place in your own head. Then again, despite the popular desire to believe, fighting residual alcohol effects with more alcohol is not the best way to go. It certainly makes the situation seem more palatable and we really want it to work, but it does fly in the face of good sense. Water and fruit juices are better after a rowdy night out with a joyous crowd, just not as much fun as a Bloody Mary.

As for rimming spices, there are plenty of these on the market. My preference is for Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. Mostly salt and peppers, this local concoction of Louisiana flavor really sets off the Bloody Mary for me. If you do this route, to rim your glass with the seasoning, you may want to back off a bit on the salt and pepper you add into your Bloody Mary. This stuff will fill in any gaps in your cocktail seasoning regimen.

The final question, about the origin of the Bloody Mary, is (like so many cocktail recipes) shrouded in mystery and question. Take your pick. Queen Mary of England who helped establish the Church of England and dealt harshly with those who did not embrace her version of the True Faith. Then there’s movie starlet, Mary Pickford, who evidently liked the drink very much. Don’t forget a waitress named Mary who worked in a famous Chicago nightclub/bar/speakeasy, the Bucket of Blood.

I think the most credible story, however, is the failure of English-speaking patrons to properly pronounce the first name of a patron of Harry’s American Bar in Paris, Vladimir Smirnov – yes of the legendary vodka producing family, Smirnoff – for whom bartender Fernand Petiot prepared this drink in 1920.   

What has become really interesting/outrageous of late is the inclusion of large amounts of protein in Bloody Mary preparations. Bacon is pretty common and I’ve even enjoyed a Bloody Mary with pieces of fried chicken or a turkey leg attached to the drink.

No matter what, the drink is here to stay and refresh.

 

Next week at Happy Hour: Bloody Mary recipes sure to impress.

 

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Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com.