| Booze |

Beaver's Bloody Mary

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I've been hearing how amazing the Bloody Mary at Beaver's (2310 Decatur St.) is ever since running into Chef Jonathan Jones one night a few months back at Anvil. He raved about his bacon-infused vodka, which seemed interesting, but not particularly alluring to me. Nevertheless, I was curious and eventually found myself sitting at the bar, ready to taste test Beaver's famous Bloody Mary.

The bartender explained that Beaver's makes its own Bloody Mary mix several times a week. They start by bruising celery stalks and garlic cloves with a gigantic mallet and then infusing the tomato juice with this before straining. They then add lime juice, salt, pepper, wasabi, Worcestershire sauce and their own special "Ex-Wife" hot sauce, which is a blend of original Tabasco, green Tabasco and chipotle. The base itself is pretty amazing, with a spicy kick and a mellow afterburn. You can also intensify the heat factor by adding more hot sauce if you're one of those people who likes their food to burn a hole in their stomach.

Next comes the most important part - the booze. You have your choice of four different forms of alcohol: The original, made with Monopolowa vodka; Bacon, made with bacon infused vodka; tequila (Bloody Maria); or the Smoked Whiskey version. I tried the original and the Smoked Whiskey on my visit. Both came with a thick salt and pepper rim but no garnish, which was disappointing, as half the fun of a Bloody Mary is swirling it with that giant celery stalk and savoring the infused olives and/or other pickled veggies.

The original was tasty and actually endeared itself to me more with each sip. But it was nothing compared to the Smoked Whiskey version. This was love at first gulp. The smokiness of the whiskey elevated the flavor complexity and depth to a whole other realm. I was unsure of how whiskey would meld with tomato juice, but unlike vodka, which has a tendency to quietly disappear into a drink, the whiskey made its presence known and enjoyed.

I have yet to try the bacon or tequila version (there are only so many Bloody Marys one can drink in a night), but I hear they're delicious too. The bartender informed me that Beaver's goes through more than a hundred Bloody Marys on a typical Sunday and actually sells a fair amount during the week too.

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