Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Versatile Bloody Mary

There may be as many stories of how the Bloody Mary came into being as there are recipes for this must-have mid-morning drink. Bloody May fan and expert creator Patrick Laguens, former food and beverage director at Telluride’s Hotel Madeline and now director of the Telluride Wine Festival, subscribes to this one: Comedian George Jessel was the first to order tomato juice with vodka as a regular pick-me-up at the 21 Club bar in New York. But in 1934, bartender Fernand Petiot of the St. Regis Hotel spiced up the combo with Worcestershire Sauce, lemon, salt and pepper, dubbing it the  “Red Snapper,” -- “Bloody Mary” being too course for the sophisticated King Cole Bar.

Laguens believes the Bloody Mary endures because “it screams for innovation. After the vodka and tomato juice, you need to get your Fernand on and get creative. Every bartender I know has their own secret recipe,” he says. And there are countless regional recipes that take their cues from local flavors, ingredients and traditions.

The West: The SMAK Mary
Laguens created the SMAK Mary at the Hotel Madeline in 2012 (“smak” is Swedish for flavor). His Colorado Rocky-Mountain-style Bloody highlights the state’s lauded beef and lamb:  A 16-ounce curvaceous glass rimmed in smoked celery salt and filled with housemade tomato juice based on beef stock, topped with a skewer holding three stuffed olives (jalapeno, blue cheese, and pimento), pickled okra, a baby corn cob, pickled green beans, pickled asparagus, celery, pearl onions, lemons, limes, pepperoncinis, and two strips of bacon. Topping it off are two sliders, a cheeseburger and a lamb burger.  And no, there isn’t a vegetarian version.

The Southwest Bloody Mary
Prepared with tableside theatrics and made-to-taste at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in the  Ironwood American Kitchen, the resort’s main dining room. This regional version uses handcrafted Tito’s vodka from Texas, raw horseradish, fresh vegetables, Worcestershire, tomato juice, and a “secret” blend of southwest spices, including crushed green peppers, garlic, dried horseradish, pepper, and onion.  Each guest who orders it is given a packet of the secret spices wrapped in red satin to prepare the cocktail at home.

The South: West Paces Mary
Since the New York St. Regis launched the Bloody Mary, it has become a practice of its properties around the world to infuse the original recipe with local flavors, transforming the drink into a reflection of different cultures. The West Paces Mary, served at the Atlanta St. Regis, adds spices and a Southern twist: the pungent and briney pickling liquid from a jar of okra and a garnish of tomolives, a pickled green tomato that looks like a green olive.

New Orleans: the Gumbo Mary
Good times are sure to roll from another of Laguens’ creations: the Gumbo Mary. He starts with a Bouillabaisse and adds his basic Bloody spices. “I put the holy trinity of New Orleans cooking in (celery, green pepper, and onion), a skewer of shrimp, crawfish tails, an Andouille sausage stuck between bay leaves and a piece of okra, then I drop in an oyster and sprinkle with Choctaw Indian File powder to honor the native people of Louisiana.”

The Mid-West: Classic Wisconsin Bloody Mary
At Will’s Northwoods Inn in Chicago, the classic Wisconsin Bloody Mary is only part of the regional experience patrons take in. With taxidermy from Wisconsin and zeal for the state’s professional sports teams, this is the largest “Wisconsin bar” in Chicago. The spicy Bloody Mary here comes with generous amounts of vodka, a sidecar of Leinenkugel, a Wisconsin beer, and a submerged dill pickle.

The Northeast
As every New Yorker knows, everything is bigger and better in their hometown: at midtown eatery Prune, there is a Bloody Mary menu with a dozen different renditions of the drink, many of them regional, including a Southwest (with tequila, chipotle peppers and lime), a Green Lake (with vodka, Wasabi and a beef jerky swizzler) and Chicago Matchbox (with pickled Brussel Spoouts, baby white turnips and caperberries).