You may wonder why I might talk about Bloody Marys on a whsky blog, so let me begin by pointing out that this post is relevant. I’ve discussed in a previous piece my relatively new-found love for the cocktail but the Bloody Mary has long been my cocktail of choice; I love the savoury aspect of the drink, and how much it reminds me of pizza sauce. However, I have been known to take offence at the inclusion of vodka in such a strong-flavoured drink. The same applies to other vodka-based drinks and while I understand the theory that the neutral flavour of vodka allows other elements to shine, I generally feel that there are far better options in the ‘grain spirit’ spectrum… such as – you guessed it! – WHSKY!
But before I get ahead of myself, let me talk a bit more about Bloody Marys. I’ve been a bit spoiled in that respect of late in that I have been working in a bar that serves one of the very best BM’s I’ve ever tasted. The bar in question is Porters’ Pub in Easton and they have won awards for their Smoked Garlic Bloody Mary, such is its brilliance. There are a number of reasons why it’s so good, including the fact that it utilises vegetable juice rather than simply tomato juice. The clincher, though, is the smoked garlic ‘mash’ that is added to each glass, which adds a lovely spicy kick as well as, yes, delicious smoky garlickyness. Yum.
Added to this is the inclusion of slightly-better-than-boring citrus vodka and a secret ingredient– so secret that I probably shouldn’t be telling you about it… but I will any way: Schrenkerla Rauchbier. On its own this a dark, tasty smoked beer from Germany that is something of a love-it-or-hate-it drink. I fall into the former category, but I certainly couldn’t imagine drinking more than two bottles in a single session, such is the intensity of the flavour that is reminiscent of Austrian smoked cheese or German sausage. In the Bloody Mary it adds some of its intense flavour to the overall concoction, resulting in a cocktail that is smoky and spicy, but very, very drinkable. On Sundays there’s also the addition of the garnish: garlic-grilled shrimp; a garlic-stuffed olive; smoked Mozzarella; and the ubiquitous piece of celery. Truly a meal in a glass! Add a few dashes of Easton Salsa Company hot sauce and you have one tasty beverage.
The relevance of all this lies in the fact that my wife and I threw a Halloween-themed house- (well, apartment-) warming party a couple of weekends ago. Cue lengthy discussions on fun Halloween-centric food and drink ideas, resulting in the decision to include the ultimate spooky drink. As soon as the plan was laid I started working on a BM recipe, feeling very much inspired by the smoked garlic. The one thing I knew for certain, though, was that there would be no bloody vodka in my Bloody Mary! Due to, er, budgetary constraints I opted for a decidedly bottom-shelf Bourbon – Evan Williams; a whsky that, at $16.99 for 1.75 litres, is very cheap but not lacking in character. Indeed, it is one of my favourite bottom-shelf options and a whsky that I will happily sip away at (although most of the remains of the bottle were used for Old Fashioneds).
With the most important decision out of the way (YEAH, WHSKY!) all that remained was to work on my very own mash that would be added to pitchers of Evan W & tomato juice (yep, simple mundance tomato juice for us). Sadly I was unable to locate any smoked garlic in the local area, but that didn’t stop me getting all experimental. I decided to tackle the vegetable option and started with a purée of raw vegetables (carrot, celery, brocolli, onion, & spinach) to which I added mashed roasted red pepper, paprika, Cayenne pepper, a few healthy dashes of Worcestershire Sauce and, naturally, garlic. Lots of garlic. My initial taste-test saw around 2/3 of a teaspoon of this mash added to 2oz of Bourbon and about 5oz of tomato juice, along with some freshly squeezed lemon juice. The resulting drink was overwhelmingly vegetal, with the raw greens being too present.
Attempt 2 was more successful with ½ the amount of mash added to the same proportions of other ingredients. In the end I made up the BMs in litre pitchers, using 1tbsp of mash with 12oz Bourbon, the juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime, and topping up with juice (no ice). The combination was perfect, with the influence of the greens diminished but the garlic and pepper coming through enough for it to taste delicious. A few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce (to which I had added some Dave’s Insanity Hot Sauce to make it a REALLY hot sauce) completed the drink perfectly. Mission accomplished!