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The drink looks like the kind of watered-down cocktail that bartenders prepare for wedding stumblebums who have already sucked down one too many from the free bar. Mixologist Todd Thrasher‘s Tomato Water Bloody Mary at Restaurant Eve is almost clear, save for a faint yellow-green tint to the liquid. Before even taking a sip, I’m mentally passing judgment on the thing: It’s a bloody Mary for the gold-plated palate crowd, those folks who consider Tabasco a culinary abomination foisted upon them by a bunch of Southern crackers.
Then I take a sip.
It’s like taking a bite from a ripe tomato plucked straight from the garden. I do a double take at the liquid in my Collins glass. How the hell does this pale glass of firewater pack so much flavor? Just as perplexing is the drink’s aftertaste — a distinct pepper irritation of the tongue — despite the fact that I can not detect any evidence of Tabasco stirred into my bloodless Mary.
I start grilling Thrasher, who’s working behind the bar. How did he prepare this mysterious Mary?
Thrasher starts with beefsteak tomatoes, which he roasts ever so briefly, he says.
Brilliant, I think. Roasting brings out the tomato’s natural umami.
Thrasher takes those semi-roasted tomatoes and purees them with lemongrass, salt, serrano peppers, and onions. He then takes the resulting mixture, strains it through a massive filter bag (which he buys from Australia), and finishes with the juices from various citrus fruits. Thrasher notes that it takes about 8 quarts of tomatoes to make about 4 quarts of tomato water.
To make the actual drink, Thrasher uses about 1.5 ounces of citrus vodka to 4 ounces of tomato water. As a garnish, Thrasher stabs a Sun Gold cherry tomato onto a small metal skewer that the mixologist found at an antique store. The skewer has a hook on one end, so that Thrasher can hang the tomato off the end of the glass. It looks like you have a door knocker on your drink.
About half-way through my Tomato Water Bloody Mary, I start to inspect the skewer. At one end, there’s what looks like an Aztec design.
“That’s a nice touch,” I tell Thrasher, “given tomatoes are a New World vegetable.”
He doesn’t seem too impressed with my insight — certainly nowhere near as impressed as I am with his drink.
By the way, if you’re looking for a real recipe for Thrasher’s Tomato Water Bloody Mary, you can read the one published by Epicurious, which is the most exacting of the many found on the Web.
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Eve