Bloody Mary Bar
When I said yesterday that formal sessions at this food and drink conference I attended broke for happy hour, I didn’t mean to give you the impression that that’s when we started drinking, just that that’s when we stopped listening to presentations. The drinking started (in sample sizes–we did want to speak and listen coherently) at 9am, with spirit tastings being an integral part of some sessions, and with other samples and cocktails available during breaks and passing periods throughout the day. Let me tell you, this conference was a real grind.
My favorite form of morning tippling was the Bloody Mary bar that Butcher and the Rye hosted before and after the first morning session of the day. It was beautiful, fun, abundant, simple, and above all delicious. Here’s how it worked: they offered three different spirits, two different bloody mixes, and a cornucopia of garnishes. You ordered your preferred mix of spirit and bloody mix, and while the bartender poured you skewered yourself a very hearty stick of garnish.
It was hard (one might say impossible) to resist coming back again and again to try out new combinations.
The spirits on offer were fascinating. There was Wigle’s tequila barrel ginever, a pickle juice infused ginever, and a beef fat infused vodka. Clearly all of these had to be tried.
Each of these could be paired with a red or green tomato mix.
The garnish spread included a staggering collection of things that were pickled, salty, or spicy, from wasabi peas to salami, with anchovies and pickled peppers in between.
My best tasting combination was the pickled ginever, with red tomato mix, and a stuffed grape leaf and pickled beet garnish. My best looking combination was vodka and red mix, with a prosciutto stuffed pepper and anchovy garnish; it tasted pretty good too, for the record.
While Butcher and the Rye clearly went all out, and that made it especially fun, I think you could get 80% of the way there at home. Maybe nix the green mix, the crab meat, the anchovies, and the infusions, but keep the multiple spirit options and the room for experimentation with interesting and good-looking garnishes.
Here’s what I think it would take.
- a bottle of gin
- a bottle of vodka
- a bottle of tequila
- Bloody Mary mix*
- a one ounce jigger or three, for the spirits
- a quarter cup, for the bloody mix
- small skewers
- an assortment of 8-10 garnishes, chosen for their taste, their color, their looks, and their ability to tempt people to test the bounds. Use your imagination, but here are some ideas (mostly taken directly from Butcher and the Rye’s table):
- green olives
- cornichon pickles
- pickled artichokes
- pickled hot peppers
- pickles of any kind really
- olives of any kind
- salami slices
- fresh green tomatoes
- why not hard boiled eggs?
- old fashioned glasses, or 9 oz plastic cups–you want to keep portions small since people will probably want to try out more than one.
- Spread out your garnishes, with the skewers nearby
- Keep the small jiggers close to the liquor, and the quarter cup close to the bloody mix, to aid in proper proportions. Printed instructions would hurt either.
- Go first, to break the ice.
- Let people at it.
Bloody Mary Mix
for twelve mini-Marys
- 3 cups tomato juice
- 3 oz lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp horseradish
- 3/4 tsp hot sauce
- 3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Mix all ingredients well, preferably by shaking in a sealed container.
- Chill until the party starts.
- Give it another vigorous shake or thorough stirring just before serving.