Two summers ago it was a bar on Columbia St., at the “edge of Cobble Hill,” called the B61 that I went to every spare happy hour I had and ordered a tall pint glass of bartender Jamie’s magnificent Bloody Marys. Two parts homemade Bloody Mary mix heavy on the horseradish, one part vodka, a splash of Guinness straight from the tap, spice seasoning on the rim of the glass, cracked black pepper at the bottom, three olives speared with a toothpick, a lemon, a lime, and a stalk of celery. It was a meal made in hell. Or Brooklyn. (And one that still doesn’t count as eating out.)
Nowadays I head to other bars, usually in my neck of the woods, but still can’t resist this dense concoction of salty, spicy, sour and refreshing. Neither, it seems, can the bartenders stop making them — and for the most part, just like this. Works great for me. I have to say, though, that my favorite Bloody Mary at the moment is from Superfine in DUMBO, where a decidedly smaller glass is individually filled with the bartender’s discretionary combination of tomato juice, vodka, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper, lemons and olives. So you see what I’m driving at, don’t you? It’s better when you mix it up fresh — and who knows how to personalize that better than yourself?
a bloody barbecue
I can be a bit peevish about the level of saltiness in my Bloody Mary, and that all begins with what kind of tomato juice is used. Lately, I’ve been getting low-sodium tomato juice and adding a splash of McClure’s Spicy Garlic Pickle brine, which gives it some vinegariness and a little more spice. But if the only thing I can get my hands on is a bottle or can of regular tomato juice or V8, there’s plenty of sodium in it to go around, and I would forego the dash of salt in the recipe below. Incidentally, if you order a bloody mary at the Bushwick Country Club in Williamsburg, it’ll also be spiked with some of McClure’s leftover brine, gratis of the neighborhood chef.
Yeah, I know — it’s not exactly a fresh-blended tomato and celery smoothie with only the finest and most absent touch of alcohol. I say that because I think I once had one of these at Balthazar when I was taken there by my internship bosses one summer before I was old enough to drink. You know what I say to that? Hooey pooey ratatouille. This one’s got the kick of a rusty bike seat while treading on beaten-up cobblestone and the spice of a Sunday Prospect Park chicken cook-out. Which is to say, heavy, bold, and bloody strong.
Brooklyn Bloody Mary (with all the works)
(makes 1 drink)
1 part vodka (not that it matters, but the experts and my wallet agree it’s Smirnoff)
2 parts tomato juice or V8
1 tsp prepared horseradish
3 dashes Worcestershire
3 dashes Tabasco or other hot sauce
splash of Guinness (get a can from the bodega and use it up on a bunch of these)
twist of lime or lemon
splash spicy pickle brine (optional)
1/4 tsp coarse ground pepper
dash of salt
cocktail olives, celery stalk and lemon wedge for serving (and optional pickled pepper or small spicy gherkin — get creative)
Old Bay seasoning for rimming
Stir and serve on the rocks. If you want to be really fancy (un-Brooklyn style), garnish with cilantro, or better yet, muddle some into the mixture.
(for 1 drink)
1/2 can of V8: $0.50
1/8 can Guinness: $0.38
1 part vodka: $0.50
1 tsp horseradish: $0.15
dashes of Worcester and Tabasco: $0.10
twist of lime, lemon wedge: $0.20
salt, pepper: $0.02
celery stalk: $0.30
3 cocktail olives: $0.15
optional Old Bay rimming: $0.10
I’d never thought I’d be saying this for an alcoholic beverage, but it’s got a decent share of vitamins to keep it real on the health scale. Six brownie points reflect this drink’s rocky relationship with Vitamin C, fresh celery and lycopene, but its ultimate favor of the bottle (and salt).