While we may not have a palate for wine, it's no secret that Eating Our Words loves beer. And hot sauce. And the two of those things magically mixed together in a pint glass. So in the interest of further promoting this concoction, we agreed to judge this past Sunday's michelada and Bloody Mary throwdown at Beaver's Ice House.
Wait. We know what you're thinking. Wasn't there just a michelada throwdown a few months ago, complete with National Geographic-style video footage of the event? Yes, there was. But some competitors don't handle losing gracefully. And sometimes those competitors call for a rematch.
Unlike the last michelada throwdown, however, there were more than three contenders and more than just micheladas being mixed. Ten chefs and bartenders (and even a barista) competed to see whose michelada was el maximo and whose Bloody Mary was the bloody best.
Like last time, some of the entries were downright puzzling. Ryan Rouse, head bartender at Beaver's, put together a creamy, red curry-based Bloody Mary with pineapple-basil ice cubes that we didn't care for at all. That didn't stop it from winning third place in the Bloody Mary competition (we suppose more people appreciate cold curry than previously expected). Thankfully, some of the more bizarre mixtures were surprisingly delicious. To wit: Beaver's bartender Claire Sprouse's "beet-chelada," a refreshing and earthy michelada made with beet juice and Tecate, with just a hint of spice. It earned her third place in the michelada competition and third place in overall entries.
Some of our favorites didn't place at all, like Caleb Gutierrez's simple yet perfectly spicy michelada rimmed with cumin and salt, or Jonathan Jones's delightfully busy michelada topped with a fresh, briny Gulf oyster. And we found ourselves completely impressed with barista David Buehrer, who had never even tried a Bloody Mary prior to the day's competition yet came out strong in both competitions. His sweet, aquavit-based Bloody Mary with a subtle finish of gingery heat was far better than we -- Bloody Mary connoisseurs -- could have done.
Despite these promising entries, it should surprise no one that the winner in both categories was the same man who won the michelada title last time: Anvil Bar & Refuge's own Bobby Heugel. His Bloody Mary was strikingly well-made -- a small but potent serving that tasted like the garden itself -- but his michelada was a stroke of simple genius. Heugel poured fresh tomato juice over mezcal and a cube of hickory-smoked ice. Yes, hickory-smoked ice. No, we have no idea how he did it. The result was a michelada that was tangy and citrusy up front, but that developed a rich, smoky flavor as the ice melted. Try that at home.
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Jonathan Jones snagged second place in the michelada competition, while 13 Celsius's Mike Sammons scored second in the Bloody Mary contest with a bright green tomatillo-based cocktail that was oddly and satisfyingly sweet.
For those like us who fell in love with the "beet-chelada" on Sunday, some promising news from Beaver's: They're working on putting it on the bar menu as a special. As for the other cocktails, you'll just have to bribe your favorite bartender. And the smoked ice? Talk to Bobby Heugel.
For more photos from the event, check out our slideshow.