Last week was the home opener for my beloved NY Mets. As is a tradition around these parts, I took the day off to attend the only sold out game the Metsies are likely to play this season. How better to start the day than with a bloody mary? I stepped up to the bar and shouted “Barkeep! Mix me one of your finest Bloody marys”. His response was somewhere between a grunt and a “sure, Mac”. It arrived and I took a sip. The drink was a lifeless blend of pre-mixed bloody mary and some cheap vodka. Now, since I’m not one to trash a local watering hole, I will not go in to details about where I purchased said drink, but I will say that I was a complete idiot for thinking that it would be anything better, I mean I did order it at a bar that had drunken meat-heads 5 deep fighting for their Bud Lights.
This tremendous sin of cocktails did get me thinking, and reminiscing about one of my favorite refreshments.
I’m a big fan of the Bloody Mary. It’s origins are highly contested, but I like to believe the story that it was invented at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris and that Ernest Hemingway drank them on many occasions while brawling with hangovers (and other demons in his head). The spice, combined with the vitamins from the tomato juice, and the alcohol make the perfect remedy for such battles. The toppings are usually enough sustenance to get you to start thinking about a real meal. In my younger days I was known to frequent a local Lower East Side bar on Saturday and Sunday mornings / afternoons with my NY Times to consume a few of these potions. I was also known for bringing my bottle of Bahamian Goat Pepper sauce, smuggled in to the US from a bachelor party I attended in the Caribbean, to spice up the cocktail. No matter where I went, I could never find a Bloody Mary that was better than the ones I made at home (or the “enhanced” ones at my local bar). I sort of resolved myself to the fact that if I wanted a good “bloody”, I’d have to hoard my precious goat pepper sauce and make it myself.
Then I went to Austin, TX.
Casino el Camino is the bar that most perfectly recreated my old Lower East Side local. Dark leather chairs that may be half ripped, punk rock waitresses, and one of the finest jukeboxes that I have ever had the fortune of coming accross. I am a huge believer that the jukebox MAKES the bar. That is why in this age of jukeboxes that have downloadable songs, it’s hard to find a bar with real character. Any fool with an extra $2.00 can download Chumba Wumba (non ironically) and single-handedly ruin a perfectly good bar. One of the touches I respect most about a drinking establishment is a perfectly curated jukebox. Casino el Camino’s even has its own real estate on their website. Perfect.
I wandered up to the bar and asked if they would make me a “bloody”. Honestly, it looked like a “beer and shot” kinda joint, so I wasn’t expecting them to comply. I had no idea that I was about to fall ass-backward in to the greatest Bloody Mary that I have ever had. I mean, I don’t know what to say about it except that the mixture was perfect. The spiciness was just right. It makes you sweat at first. You hear Tyler Durden yelling at you: “Stay with the pain, don’t shut this out!”. Then the burn gives way to feelings of euphoria. To really do this justice I need to simply shut up and post a picture of what the toppings were:
Sweet pickled pepper
Yes, that’s right. If you enlarge this picture, you might find a strip of smokey fried pig belly hanging out next to the celery.
All of this was served in a pint glass that had a seasoned salt that tasted like BBQ rub stuck to the rim of the glass.
So, now I know. If I want a great Bloody Mary, I either have to make it myself with my ever dwindling supply of secret hot pepper sauce, or I need to fly to Austin. I can live with those choices.