Bite by bite
Conquering My Culinary Bucket List One Dish at a Time
By Emily Banks Wooten
I remember many years ago, as a child, watching my grandfather and father make Bloody Marys at my grandparents’ house. I can remember thinking that it seemed like such a process – the Worcestershire, the celery, the ground black pepper. They all seemed like such disparate ingredients. How could they result in anything cohesive? But more than anything, I can remember thinking why in the world would anybody willingly drink tomato juice. My childhood palate just didn’t care for the acrid, bitter taste of it.
Add numerous decades of living and learning and suffice it to say, I get it now. Over time I developed the taste for tomato juice and through trial and error, refined what I consider to be my perfect Bloody Mary. It’s not something that I drink all the time. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever followed one with another. But if done right, in the right time and place, a good Bloody Mary can be a thing of beauty. And one thing I was right about as a child? It is definitely a process.
For the uninitiated, a Bloody Mary, according to Wikipedia, is a cocktail containing vodka, tomato juice and other spices and flavorings including Worcestershire sauce, hot sauces, garlic, herbs, horseradish, celery, olives, pickled vegetables, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, lime juice and celery salt. Some versions of the drink, such as the “surf ‘n turf” Bloody Mary, include shrimp and bacon as garnishes. In the U.S. it is usually consumed in the morning or early afternoon and is popular as a hangover cure. The Bloody Mary was invented in the 1920s or 1930s and there are various theories as to the origin of the drink and its name.
I start with a tall glass filled with ice, then add vodka, several shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a little juice from either the olive jar or the jalapeno jar, a good squirt of Sriracha, several shakes of Tabasco and a little lime juice. I then add tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix to the top of the glass, top with a few shakes of celery salt and a few grinds of black pepper and then stir well. Of course, you can fix one any way you like it.
Over the course of our travels this past year, we discovered a terrific restaurant in Georgetown (2020 Market Scratch Kitchen & Bar) that I’ve already written about on this page (Sept. 4, 2022) but what I didn’t share at the time, however, was the incredible “Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar” in the center of the restaurant. For the Bloody Mary enthusiasts, this may as well be the Holy Grail. The menu refers to the Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar as “featuring a variety of Texas vodkas, mixes and garnishes.” However, that description simply does not do it justice. It was a dizzying, yet enticing, beautiful array of anything you could ever want in a Bloody Mary. There were probably two dozen different types of hot sauces, several different salsas, numerous types of stuffed olives, pickles, carrots and celery (both raw and pickled), lemon wedges, lime wedges, jalapenos (both fresh and pickled), a bowl of skewers with cherry tomatoes and cold boiled shrimp and – drumroll, please – a bucket of bacon. You read that right – a bucket of bacon. I mean, come on. How can it get any better than that? How, you ask? Six bucks. Yes. All of that goodness for a mere $6.
It’s probably a good thing we don’t live near Georgetown. I fear we might become Saturday morning regulars. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!