Alicia Fuhrman’s Local Libations: A bloody good base

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    Bloody Mary made by Eric Cameron , "aka Red", at the High Horse in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Bloody Mary made by Eric Cameron , "aka Red", at the High Horse in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Eric Cameron , "aka Red", makes a Bloody Mary (shown at right) at the High Horse in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Bloody Mary made by Eric Cameron , "aka Red", at the High Horse in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Bloody Mary made by Eric Cameron , "aka Red", at the High Horse in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Bloody Mary made by Eric Cameron , "aka Red", at the High Horse in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 11/17/2016 2:34:47 PM

Today, tomorrow, for the next four years, the pursuit of vitality feels more urgent than ever. And also that much more difficult. If only it were as simple as a drink.

This week I revisited a drink with a history as a pick-me-up: the Bloody Mary. Where I’m from, you won’t find it on the menu without an oyster shooter, too — a Bloody shot followed by a raw oyster on the half shell — and a combination I love enough to have abandoned the drink since I moved to this landlocked town.

What I really love is the essentiality of that combination: how sea brine cuts the vegetal, marinated intensity of a Bloody Mary base; the different sources and strengths of raw freshness; where natural salt meets the heat of pepper and vinegar; and how additional alcohol (where aging is necessary for either distillation or flavor) is a contrast enough to make time itself an ingredient. A sip like that is pure chemistry. But I realized, in fact, such balance doesn’t really require a coastline. Garnishes, flourishes to this drink can only play off what is already there.

Simply put: it’s all about the base.

At the High Horse in Amherst, beer isn’t the only thing done right. The same principle guiding their brewing applies to their house-made Bloody: perfection of a classic style, always fresh, with a signature nearly impossible to replicate. Here, that signature’s built from grated horseradish root and pressed garlic, lime-centric acidity, mouth-watering smokiness (adobo? paprika?) and a clean, peppery kick to finish. It’s the product of trial and error that you’ll taste, but never get to see.

I talked inspiration and process with Eric “Red” Cameron, the manager and mind behind the bar’s (secret) recipe — how it took as many efforts as ingredients to realize a final, ideal formula, and the goal maintained throughout: to create a base that would enhance flavors on both sides, given the addition of liquor. This explains the standout elements, the way lime meets tequila, smoke with whiskey, spice and gin. The crossover of essential flavors is embedded in the recipe itself. And I was reminded that vodka doesn’t have to be the exclusive pairing.

There’s not enough time or space to value each of these Bloody varieties as they deserve (the Bloody Maria, Bloody Queen of Scots, as they’re so named.) Let me just break down my favorite, the Margaret.

Gin’s a little unappreciated across the board if you ask me. Perhaps too ranging across brands or too harsh a spirit in theory to bother trying. But mixed here, it’s a triumph. The herbal, botanical qualities that characterize gin meet the natural crispness of cut roots and vegetables, while the bitterness of citrus rind and spices (key ingredients in both) press up against each other, resolve. A drink experience like that breathes a little life back into you. Like a shock of cold air in your lungs. Follow it with a pint of Kölner Dom (mild and refreshing, the High Horse’s version of a classic German Kölsch), and face your day maybe just a bit less defeated, more resilient.

Here’s my own recipe for a Bloody Mary base, with a few tweaks that particularly suit gin:

4 ounces tomato juice (Campbell’s or Sacramento, if you can find it)

2 ounces Gin (Cold River if you can find it, Plymouth if not)

¾ ounce fresh lime juice (about half a large lime)

¾ teaspoon prepared horseradish (basically, a pinch)

2-3 hits of Frank’s RedHot (Tabasco if you must)

1 pinch celery salt

2-3 grinds of fresh black pepper

1 dash of soy sauce or tamari

1 dash agave nectar

1 lemon wedge, 2 green olives, 1 celery stalk with leaves (for garnish)

Combine all, stir thoroughly, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Pour into a tall glass over ice and garnish with lemon wedge, skewer of olives and celery.

Alicia Fuhrman is a writer and bartender, born on the
West Coast and raised on the East, living and working in Northampton, for now.


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