I’d have arrived at the battlefield on time had I not been forced to instruct yet another bartender at the breakfast buffet in the construction and presentation of a proper Bloody Mary.
Brought to my table initially, I took one look at it and told the waitress “I asked for a drink, not a salad. Never mind, I’ll take it back to the bar myself.”
There was only one bartender working, a young man, and no one else at the bar, so to get his attention, I’m afraid I set the liquid salad glass on the bar more violently than I had meant to – It could reasonably have been called “slammed his glass down on the bar”, and I’d have had to agree.
The young man set down the champagne flute he was cleaning (the Embassy Suites serves Bloody Marys and Mimosas with their breakfast buffet), and came smiling towards me – I suppose they are trained to do that even when customers slam their glasses on the table and have a dour look on their face (perhaps especially when the customer is an old man with an unmistakably military haircut, wearing jeans and a navy blazer with jump wings on the lapel and a Ranger T-Shirt underneath).
“What can I get you, Sir?” asked he. “A Bloody Mary,” I told him, “make it a double, and take this salad back.” Raising one of his eyebrows, he asked “salad?”
“Yes, Mr. Spock,” I told him in recognition of his single eyebrow raise, a feat I’m not capable of myself, “This salad. Do you see that big godd****** leafy stick of celery in this glass? The toothpick with four giant olives on it? The lemon slice on the rim of the glass? I can live with the Old Bay seasoning around the rim, in fact I sort of like it, picked up a taste for it while I spent some time at Aberdeen Proving Grounds over past Baltimore. But the point is, you’re wasting about a quarter of the glass’s capacity with vegetables and fruit…A proper Bloody Mary might have Old Bay on the rim of the glass or not, but It would not have celery or lemon, and d*** it son, olives are for Martinis.”
“Ah,” says the young man, “The ‘old school’ recipe. I’ll get that for you right now.”
He reached for a tall cocktail glass, poured two jiggers of Grey Goose into it, then a handful of ice, filling the rest of the glass with a decent Bloody Mary mix (Major Peters – Nice and thick, full of horseradish). So far, so good. But when he started to pour the contents of of the glass into a shaker cup I stopped him: “Whoa, whoa son…Where’s the Worcestershire sauce? The Tabasco? The black pepper?”
He looked at me in utter confusion. In order to avoid an impasse, keep the peace, make sure I got a decent Bloody Mary, and perhaps ensure that future Bloody Mary customers receive decent drinks as well, I asked him “Look, is it OK if I come around to your side of the bar? No need to call the law, I’m not coming after that a**, I don’t plan to throw any bar stools, I just want to show you how to make a Bloody Mary you’ll get better tips for.”
“Absolutely,” says he, “come on over here to the waitress station and I’ll open the swinging door for you.” He got points in my book for agreeing immediately.
So he opened the door for me, and I walked with him to the spot where he’d been making my drink. “You do HAVE Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco, correct?” I asked him, and he smiled and set a bottle of each on the bartender’s counter. “OK. We have everything we need,” I said, “what you’ve made there so far is OK, no need to pour perfectly good vodka down the drain, but we need to add for a tall cocktail glass, since this is a double, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce – If it were a short glass, a teaspoon would do.”
He pulled a tablespoon from his rack of clean silverware, filled it with Lea & Perrins, dumped the contents of the tablespoon into the waiting glass, then looked at me expectantly. “Now, in order to demonstrate, may I add the Tabasco myself?” I asked him, to which he replied in the affirmative. As I began to shake the bottle of hot sauce to squirt what I readily admit is more hot sauce than most people would want into the glass, I explained “Most folks want some heat in their Bloody Mary…Me, I’m from Texas, I want this sonofab**** to melt my teeth. If you decide to use this recipe going forward, which I would suggest, start with two squirts and let the customer send it back if they want it hotter. I don’t use a shaker cup at home, that’s reserved for Martinis, but hey, if you have time, it doesn’t hurt anything, and you have plenty of shaker cups.”
So I dumped the contents of the glass (now four fingers of Grey Gooose, three ice cubes, a cup and a half or so of Bloody Mary mix, a tablespoon of Lea & Perrins, and a veritable ocean of Tabasco sauce, with a few shakes of ground black pepper added) into the shaker cup, shook it all up, and poured it into a new glass. I grabbed a straw from his container of them, unwrapped it, and put it in the glass, which I then handed to the bartender. “Taste that.”
He took a sip through the straw, and up went that eyebrow again…And a smile came to his face. “Whoa. That’s pretty spicy, but I like it!”, he says, handing the glass back towards me.
“Nope,” I told him, “that one’s for you, put it on my tab. Now make me one just like it.”
There’s an “unofficial” training method used in every training course in the army: “Tell ’em what you’re gonna say, say it, then make ’em demonstrate that they were listening.” The young man quickly prepared a perfect Bloody Mary and handed it to me (with that godd***** eyebrow raised again), upon tasting it I pronounced it fine, slapped him on the shoulder, and told him “Well done, Spock. Do it like that and watch your tips go up. Have a great day.”
You all do the same. The weather is fine here in Northern Virginia, and I have a lot of walking to do…Manassas isn’t the biggest Civil War battlefield, but it’s plenty big enough that I’m certain I’ll need a few breaks to accommodate my pulmonary hypertension.