I will be the first to admit that Bloody Marys have always been a bit of a mystery to me. Is it soup? Is it breakfast? Is it a non-pharmaceutical hangover cure? Aside from the Bloody Mary that one of my favorite restaurants in town makes (they serve them up spicy with a big piece of peppered bacon as a garnish), I’ve never really enjoyed them. If I’m really honest, that big piece of bacon is a major reason why I like that one! Until now, I was prepared to accept the fact that like the Negroni, the Bloody Mary would forever be a mystery to me.
So, when I saw a recipe for a Tomato Water Bloody Mary in the pages of Food and Wine Magazine this month, first, I was intrigued and then a lightbulb went off in my head! Since I’m already a chronic over-purchaser of certain items (in-season tomatoes, limes, and lemons, for example) and after last weekend’s baby shower, I ended up with an insane amount of leftover cocktail tomatoes! Added to that, we harvested what was left of our sad tomato crop from the garden. A word about that. This has been the most disappointing growing season ever! We planted more tomato plants this year than any other year and yet we harvested the least amount of tomatoes! Between an early heat wave, a bunch of crazy windstorms, and a healthy dose of user error, our tomato plants looked like hell and they had to go. So, we ripped out most of them and harvested what we managed to wrangle from the beaks of some very aggressive pigeons. What we had left were some of the gnarliest, ugliest tomatoes I’d ever seen. Scarred, sun-scalded, split, unevenly red, you wouldn’t have wanted to run into these tomatoes in a dark alley; yet in a twist of irony, they were some of the juiciest and sweetest tomatoes I’d ever tasted!
So, while I pondered a way to use all these juicy and awesomely ugly tomatoes, I had another Eureka moment. Remember that hot pepper infused vodka that I made a while back? Well, silly me left that hot pepper vodka to infuse for far too long and it was fire-breathing dragon hot! It was so hot that the heat overpowered just about everything I tried it in. I had a hunch that a Bloody Mary, with all its crazy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list of ingredients, would be the perfect vehicle to showcase such an in-your-face ingredient! So, with my armload of tomatoes, a bit of salt and a little patience, I whipped up this Bloody Mary and I’m proud to say that it’s the first one I’ve truly enjoyed! It was bright; it was refreshing! It didn’t taste like soup in a cup. It had the perfect amount of lip-tingling heat, but it was balanced by that fresh, sweet, tomato water. I had to dilute my hot pepper vodka with plain vodka, but if your infusion isn’t too spicy, feel free to use all hot pepper vodka!
As I mentioned, it does take a little patience to wait for all of those tomatoes to release enough water for the drink, but it is well worth it! This is truly a great way to enjoy fresh, summer tomatoes, whether they are picture-perfect, or downright homely! And fear not, those tomatoes did not go to waste! I threw them into the food processor with some onion, garlic and jalapeño peppers and made a mean bowl of salsa!
Tomato Water Bloody Marys
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, August 2014, Chef Gavin Kaysen
- 1 pound fresh, ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup tomato juice
- 3 tablespoons Hot Pepper Infused Vodka
- 1/4 cup plain Vodka
- 1 teaspoon grated horseradish (I used jarred, prepared horseradish because fresh horseradish was difficult to find)
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
- 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dashes Tabasco Sauce
- fresh ground black pepper
- Place the fresh, sliced tomatoes in a colander set above a bowl. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the kosher salt and allow the tomatoes to sit for at least one hour. You’ll begin to see the water drain from the tomatoes into the bowl. After an hour and just before you prepare the drink, press lightly to squeeze out any additional tomato water. Set the colander of tomatoes aside.
- Pour the collected tomato water into a mixing glass. I collected about 1/2 cup of tomato water from one pound of tomatoes. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing glass and stir well. Pour the cocktail into two Collins glasses filled with ice and garnish with your favorite herbs. I used a sprig of Thai Basil, a cocktail tomato and a dill pickle spear!