Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Drinker's Notebook No. 1: Looking for a Euro Bloody

Last week, I was sitting in the bar of Le Parc des Marechaux, a delightful small hotel in Auxerre, a French town known to many American winos because of its proximity to Chablis. A small group of writers was going to be having dinner later that evening with Chablis producer Jean-Francois Bordet at Eric Gallet's Le Bourgogne - which would turn out to be a great mix of wine, food and conversation - but I was in need of a tomato fix. If I had to give up either alcoholic drinks or all things tomato, it would be my gustatory Sophie's Choice. Fortunately, a Bloody Mary has both, and I saw my favorite savory concoction, which helps me hold on during these Euro reporting excursions, listed on the cocktail menu. I asked the young lady tending bar (I think she would be horrified if I referred to her as a "mixologist") if she knew how to make one. "Certainement," she replied and went behind the bar and immediately reached for her cocktail handbook - a bad sign. The drink came - minus ice and about as meager as the portions of milk that mothers feed their screaming babies sitting next to me on transatlantic flights. As I had expected, it was overdosed with lemon juice and Tabasco. Still, when you need a tomato fix, it wasn't too bad. But it does bring up a point - Europeans as a culture have never gotten the hang of a Bloody Mary, largely because they don't understand the psyche of a Bloody and, apparently, want to spare themselves of this rude intimacy. If you want to make a decent Bloody Mary, you have to understand that it's 90 percent about the tomato juice, which, in Europe, is often oxidized before you open the container. The spices are supposed to tease out the best in tomato juice, whereas the Euros seem to think you should overdose it with seasonings. Tomato juice, ice, vodka and salt and pepper alone can make a passable Bloody, so they should start there and gradually tinker with the amount of Tabasco, Worcestershire and citrus, if any, to add. I shudder to think what would happen if they got their hands on horseradish. So here's what I propose. One of those bartending societies or vodka producers should fund a charitable rescue organization - call it Mixologists without Borders (MWB) - and hold emergency Bloody Mary seminars in all European cities with more than 43 bars. BTW, I'm going the Beaune in a couple of weeks, so I would appreciate it if MWB would begin its humanitarian work in Burgundy.

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