Most bottled cocktail mixes are loathsome, brought down by corn syrup, chemical tastes or a necessary replacement of fresh citrus juice with citric acid. The only bottled cocktail I'll consider is a Bloody Mary mix, as most of the ingredients of a "fresh" Bloody Mary come from a bottle or jar anyway.
I was alerted to a new possibility during a visit to iBurn last month, where co-owner James Wreck showed me a combination of a Bloody Mary mix and a pepper purée. He'd tested it with a bartender, who gave the combo a thumbs-up and said it was one of the best Bloody Marys she had ever served.
That obviously called for a taste-off, so I bought a quart of Freshies Hot Mary Spicy Habanero all-natural mix, and a bottle of CaJohn's Fatalii pepper purée, and went to work. The other side of the comparison was a Bloody Mary made with Campbell's tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, Tabasco, cayenne powder, and fresh lemon and lime juice.
First I tasted the Freshies Hot Mary mix with nothing but vodka. Surprisingly, the habanero wasn't very hot, though it started to sneak up on me. The drink was a little heavy on the Worcestershire sauce and celery salt, so it needed something to lighten that taste; it needed fresh citrus juice. A teaspoon of lemon didn't work, but a teaspoon of lime made it a decent Bloody Mary.
I made two new drinks without lime juice, and added ¼ teaspoon Fatalii purée to one, and ½ teaspoon to the other. Fatalii peppers are from Africa, and they taste like habanero peppers with an additional citrus flavor. Good call by James Wreck, adding the citrus taste. The smaller amount of the Fatalii purée made the drink plenty spicy, but if you're a chilihead, the ½ teaspoon would be a better choice.
To me, the drink was still in need of fresh lime juice, which is why I recommend a fat wedge of lime as a garnish.
So how do the two Bloody Marys compare? Although both drinks contain the same amount of vodka, the fresh Bloody is lighter, more citrusy, with a slight burn of cayenne. This drink is -- forgive me -- brunch-ier.
The combo from James Wreck (The Bloody Wreck?) is definitely hotter, and more serious. This is a Bloody Mary you can drink at night, or, if you're having a difficult time withdrawing from last night's fun, this cocktail is a delicious example of what's called an anti-fogmatic, providing a mild alcohol boost, and a serious capsaicin buzz to ease your ennui.
If you want to compare for yourself, the two drinks:
James Wreck's Bloody Mary
- 2 ounces vodka
- 6 ounces Freshies Hot Mary Spicy Habanero mix
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon of CaJohn's Fatalii pepper purée
- Fat wedge of lime
- Celery stalk (optional)
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-- Pour ingredients over ice in a pint glass, and stir. Garnish with the wedge of lime, and a celery stalk if you wish.
A Fresh Bloody Mary
- 2 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces Sacramento or Campbell's tomato juice
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco or Frank's RedHot sauce
- ½ teaspoon fresh horseradish
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Pinch of cayenne pepper powder
- 1 wedge of lime
- 2 wedges of lemon
- Sea salt and black pepper
- A wedge of lime for garnish
-- Muddle the lemon, lime, cayenne, Worcestershire, horseradish, hot sauce, salt, and pepper in a mixing glass. Add vodka, tomato juice, and ice. Close the shaker and roll the mixture back and forth horizontally, instead of shaking. Strain into an ice-filled pint glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.