by Greg Tooke of My Big Fat Bloody Mary December 26th, 2014
Look around the internet, watch cable TV, or stop into your favorite restaurant or bar. There are bloody Mary’s all over the place. Books have been written, contests have been waged, and bartenders from around the country seem to be competing to create the most impressive bloody Mary cocktail.
A drink that started as a simple combination of gin and tomato juice has seemingly grown into a national pastime. Let’s take a look at why this drink has enjoyed such attention.
Why the Bloody Mary is the Queen of Cocktails
Complexity – The American Chemistry Society, (ACS), recently studied the chemical properties of many of America’s most popular drinks- everything from juice to soda pop to highballs. They found the bloody Mary to be the most complex of all.
“It’s a very complicated drink,” said Neil C. Da Costa, Ph.D., presenting the results of the ACS’ 241st National Meeting & Exposition. “The Bloody Mary has been called the world’s most complex cocktail, and from the standpoint of flavor chemistry, you’ve got a blend of hundreds of flavor compounds that act on the taste senses. It covers almost the entire range of human taste sensations – sweet, salty, sour and umami or savory – but not bitter.”
This level of complexity affords great latitude in the preparation of the drink, as well as the enjoyment of it. This leads to the next reason that bloody Mary’s are such a big fat deal:
Self Expressionism – Order a screw driver, or a gin and tonic. As long as the booze is good, and it’s properly chilled, it’s likely going to be right. The complexity of a bloody Mary drink affords a high degree of personalization. Levels of heat can be customized. Hundreds of spice combinations can be used. Additional flavors can be introduced through infusing vodkas. From homemade tomato juice to Clamato, there is a plethora of textures and flavors available to personalize the drink. This personalization does not stop at the top of the glass. Special rim salts add additional taste sensation to the drink, and the garnishes that adorn them can rival an all you can eat buffet.
Beauty and Social Media – A really good bloody doesn’t just taste great. It’s got to look great. Because of the infinite possible garnish combinations, many have raised the drink to the level of art. Wisconsinite Sarah Jayne Pickart has created monstrous drinks with specialized emphasis and grabbed national attention for her wild and crazy gourmet bloody mary’s. (see photo) But one needn’t take to the skies with their garnish to create something truly unique and beautiful. You can take a photo of your Jack and Coke, but don’t expect it to go viral on Instagram. Smart restaurateurs and pub owners know that a remarkable bloody Mary will get photographed and shared on social media. I suspect this has driven the recent surge in bloody Mary photos throughout social media channels. (*that and the hard work of the staff of My Big Fat Bloody Mary.)
Chronic Alcoholism – Let’s be honest. This drink was created to hide the morning consumption of alcohol. A glass of tomato juice looks just fine next to a plate of bacon and eggs. Drop a celery stalk in and you can literally hide behind the drink.
Lycopene – Yeah, whatever.
And so it would seem the perfect storm. Start with a need – the age old need for a drink. Create something remarkably complex in flavor. Add your own personal touch. Pimp that thing out with all that is edible with form and style. Share it with your friends.
It’s the century’s favorite epidemic – a real big fat bloody deal!