EatDrinkShopCook / A 'Bloody' great way to toast Mom
Updated 5:59 am, Monday, May 9, 2011
For some reason, Mother's Day has become synonymous with brunch. I mean, who doesn't love a combination of sweet (pastries and waffles) with savory (eggs and meat) together in one meal, especially when it's topped off with a cocktail?
There are, of course, only three cocktails that pair perfectly with brunch: the Screwdriver, Mimosa and Bloody Mary.
Of the three, the Bloody Mary is the most interesting, so much so that it was the topic of a meeting held in March of the American Chemical Society in California. Foodie geeks everywhere toasted the exciting news that the Bloody Mary very well may be the world's most chemically complex cocktail in the world. "It's a very complicated drink," said Neil C. Da Costa, Ph.D., an expert on the chemical analysis of flavors at International Flavors & Fragrances in Union Beach, N.J. "From the standpoint of flavor chemistry, you've got a blend of hundreds of flavor compounds that act on the taste senses. It covers almost the entire range of human taste sensations -- sweet, salty, sour and umami or savory-- but not bitter."
Of course, that all depends on what goes in it. For my own questionably-scientific study, I grabbed a few self-proclaimed Bloody Mary experts and we set out to see what we could find. Our first stop was the Gray Goose, 246 Old Post Road in Southport. It was busy, and the bartender wasn't a chatty sort, so when I asked him what makes for a good Bloody Mary, he simply said, "the horseradish." He explained they use a mix, Stirrings, which contains tomato juice, horseradish, sugar, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, lime juice, tumeric and garlic. The drink was garnished with a slice of lime and the ubiquitous celery stalk.
My friend Heidi, a long-time Bloody Mary expert, was impressed. "It's good," she said. "It would be better with pickled okra, but it's good."
My sister also liked it, but claimed that the Horseshoe, the longtime neighborhood tavern just around the corner at 355 Pequot Ave. could offer some competition. I've had Bloody Marys at the 'Shoe, and was always impressed when asked if I wanted it spicy or extra-spicy. On this night, however, I wasn't asked about my preference. I watched as the bartender poured a big -- I mean, big -- glass of vodka, topped it with tomato juice and garnished it with a lemon slice and celery stalk. This Bloody Mary was very different.
More InformationTHE SCOOP To make the perfect Bloody Mary, Neil C. Da Costa, Ph.D., an expert on the chemical analysis of flavors at International Flavors & Fragrances, has these tips: • Make it fresh. Chemically, the Bloody Mary is a "highly unstable" concoction, and the quality tends to deteriorate quickly. • Ice it up. Serving Bloody Marys on ice helps to slow down the chemical reactions involving acids in tomato juice and other ingredients that degrade the taste. • Mind your mixes. If you use a cocktail mix, add some fresh ingredients to enhance the flavor and aroma. • Splurge on the juice. Tomato juice makes up most of the Bloody Mary's volume, so use high-quality juice that has a deep, rich flavor. • Economize on the vodka. The intense, spicy flavor of a Bloody Mary masks the vodka, and using premium vodka makes little sense.
The Gray Goose Bloody Mary was so thick it was practically an appetizer, whereas the Horseshoe version was much thinner. I actually preferred it, but my panel of experts disagreed.
"I liked the Gray Goose one, but it was too filling for a whole drink," said my friend Susan. "They should make Bloody Mary shots."
Little did we know that such a thing exists. At the Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, 89 Rowayton Ave., Rowayton, you can order a Bluepoint Bloody Mary Shooter for $3. If you're looking for an award-winning cocktail, Georgetown Saloon has won numerous awards for its Bloody Marys. (On Saturdays and Sundays, they offer a Bloody Mary and Mimosa Brunch for $19.95 per person.)
According to Da Costa, the best Bloody Mary is one that is made fresh, but I checked out some bottles of pre-made mix at Stop & Shop to see if I could dig up any secrets. All of the mixes contained horseradish, but then, depending upon the degree of spiciness, they had other additions: Worcestershire sauce, tamarind, vinegar, raisin paste, sugar and an array of peppers, from cayenne to jalapeno.
The type of vodka used in a Bloody Mary almost seems pointless. With all those other flavors going on, you really can't taste the alcohol. In fact, Da Costa says it doesn't make sense to use premium vodka. The garnishes, however, are a sticking point with many people. At the very least, there's got to be a celery stalk and some sort of citrus slice. Beyond that, you can get as wild as you like. Olives, pickled onions, pickled green beans (pickled anything, really), cherry tomatoes, shrimp ... the cocktail is your oyster.
So this Mother's Day, while you're digging into eggs Benedict and chocolate mousse, set aside a special moment to really savor your complimentary Bloody Mary and all of the tastes that go with it. Because remember, it is, after all, the world's most complex cocktail.
Email Patti Woods at email@example.com.
To make the perfect Bloody Mary, Neil C. Da Costa, Ph.D., an expert on the chemical analysis of flavors at International Flavors & Fragrances, has these tips:
- Make it fresh. Chemically, the Bloody Mary is a "highly unstable" concoction, and the quality tends to deteriorate quickly.
- Ice it up. Serving Bloody Marys on ice helps to slow down the chemical reactions involving acids in tomato juice and other ingredients that degrade the taste.
- Mind your mixes. If you use a cocktail mix, add some fresh ingredients to enhance the flavor and aroma.
- Splurge on the juice. Tomato juice makes up most of the Bloody Mary's volume, so use high-quality juice that has a deep, rich flavor.
- Economize on the vodka. The intense, spicy flavor of a Bloody Mary masks the vodka, and using premium vodka makes little sense.