A couple months ago, Rosie at 18 Reasons pinged me, asking whether I'd be interested in teaching a Bloody Mary class, accompanying a display of local illustrator Kelly Lynn Waters' delightful illustrations of Bloody Marys (Maries?) from restaurants and bars around town. The teacher they had initially lined up couldn't make it, leaving a gap. I'd taught two infusions and liqueurs classes there already, with another on the books, and so I suppose I'd acquired the ad hoc mantle of Mr. Booze. Without putting much thought into it, I replied that I would.
Of course, there was one small wrinkle: I really don't like Bloody Marys.
I do, however, like to challenge my palate from time to time and try to conquer my culinary disinclinations. (Still haven't gotten over that orange thing yet. That's a stubborn one.) So I took this as an opportunity to explore what really makes a bloody mary, and what exactly I didn't like.
On the surface, I should love them. They're savory, spicy, full of umami, and heaven knows my tomato consumption can be nothing less than epic. But in fact, it's the tomatoes that were the issue. Or, rather, tomato juice. More specifically, the thick, mealy goo that tastes like the can it's purchased in. Yes, that was surely the root of the problem.
I decided that for the class, we would explore a little of its history starting with its invention at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in 1921, peppering it with three versions of the drink. First, would be a straight-up classic version, using predictable ingredients like the aforementioned dreaded canned tomato juice. For the second, we'd juice fresh tomatoes, give it a little more spice and spike it with clam juice to make a Caesar, the official drink of Canada. Finally, I would solve the problem of the cocktail, eschewing tomato juice altogether for a thinner essence of tomato and an infused vodka, served up in a cocktail glass. This, I dubbed the Plasma Mary, since it lacked the thick redness of tomato juice and instead is a cheery, clear yellow.