It is not common to associate “working hard” with the endlessly pleasurable endeavour of drinking your favourite cocktails, but in the world of wine and roses fate sometimes decides to throw you a bone and your life goes from desktops and spreadsheets to champagne and cocktails.
Whenever my dear friend James comes into town, I am relieved from the troubles of everyday work and am able to indulge in the finer things in life. This liberty is intrinsically part of a sudden willingness to happily dispense with all of your earthly possessions for the chance to sip the finest drinks this world has to offer. You see, my friend James is the sommelier at Ockenden Manor, a Michelin-starred restaurant situated in Sussex. So when he gave me a ring a few weeks back, wanting to know if I had a free weekend to spend together to “help him with work”, I naturally said yes.
Arriving, as I incredulously asked what I’d been roped into, he produced a bottle of Chase Oak Smoked Vodka. On the request of his head chef, he was tasked with the design of a new Bloody Mary to throw into a competition being held by Chase with the stipulation that this specific vodka must be used. The most immediate challenge was thus attempting to make alterations to the already-perfect midday cocktail.
The origins of the Bloody Mary are somewhat unclear. My personal choice story is its creation in 1921 by Ferdinand Petiot at the New York Bar (later the famous Harry’s New York Bar) in Paris, a haunt often visited by Hemingway and various other Americans abroad. Unsurprisingly this is a favourite spot of mine in grab a drink while in Paris (when in doubt, ask the Taxi driver for “SANK ROO DOE NOO”). They serve an appropriately alcohol-heavy Bloody Mary, easily earning its €14 price; a cocktail at my other favorite, Le Meurice, costs €25, so this is a steal.
Variations on the Bloody Mary are often focused on figuring out how many courses you can pile on as a garnish (it’s a lot). James and I wanted to focus on what was in the glass, not on top of it.
We realized that this endeavour would be no small task, so we popped out to Waitrose and grabbed a plethora of ingredients aimed at creating a truly unique experience. For those of you who enjoy detailed lists, this included, without mentioning the traditional Bloody Mary components: Tio Pepe; Harvey’s Bristol Cream; salt; garlic salt; ground black pepper; grated horseradish; harissa; sardines in tomato sauce; two bags of lemons; three bags of limes; organic celery.
First things first. We created two classic versions of the cocktail as a “control”. As we were less than positive about the outcome of our efforts taste-wise, we opted to at least have something on hand we wanted to imbibe. The main approach we took was to have some kind of sherry (in the case of the originals) in each mixture. Two parts vodka to one part sherry (or 50ml/25ml). From there, we began experimenting with the ingredients, with the only certainty being that we were going to be drunk by the end of the afternoon.
It became quickly apparent that some ingredients don’t work as well as intended. The horseradish (which was finely grated) became stringy and overbearing on top of the fact that it refused to cooperate with the taste of the Tio Pepe. Worse yet was the tomato sauce from the sardines (the fish were kept quite a distance from the drink). What was at first very much a Bloody Mary with a “hint of the sea” became an alcoholic pizza romano. It would have been perfect if we had thrown it on a piece of bread and added cheese.
Like most scientific experiments, our successful result came completely by accident and after significant trial and error. The odd man out in this process, to me anyway, was the cream sherry. James had read in one of his Michelin star secret magazines about trying a Bloody Mary with it; I was sceptical at first but willing to go along with it. Then, it happened.
The version we finally chose as a success was a distinctly unique creation which replaced the Tabasco with harissa, and added a measure of cream sherry (including all the classic ingredients as well as plenty of lemon and lime juice). This particular version was surprisingly tasty and superbly rich. The spiciness added by harissa has a distinct flavour to it, adding a sort of depth that Tabasco does not. What’s more surprising was how well the cream sherry integrated with the other flavours to create a much more complex version of this famous cocktail than I had ever tasted before.
Own its own, Chase Oak Smoked Vodka is a very good drink – realistically, it’s just proto-whiskey – which I think they aimed almost exclusively at being used in cocktails. It certainly works wonders in Bloody Marys, and I would highly recommend you give this version a try.
- 50ml Chase Smoked Vodka
- 25ml cream sherry
- 150ml tomato juice
- 25ml Worcestershire Sauce (or to taste)
- Juice of half a lemon (or to taste)
- Juice of half a lime (or to taste)
- 1 tsp harissa paste
- Fresh horseradish
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- Celery Salt
Why Not Stock Up Your Own Bloody Mary Bar?
Source: Fix.com Blog