September in Indiana is a lot different than August in Indiana. Produce stands that were overflowing with tomatoes and corn two weeks ago are now hawking pumpkins, mums, and decorative bales of straw.
Around the first of September, Williams-Sonoma contacted us to ask if we would put our spin on the bloody mary using freshly juiced tomatoes. Our response went something like this: "Um – yes, we would LOVE to." And our reward? Well, I think you can figure that out.
So, we went out to get tomatoes and we came back empty-handed 3 times. One would think that, in Indiana, when it's still summer, it wouldn't be hard to find organic tomatoes. WRONG. All of those quaint booths along our country roads were gone, "Poof!" Except one.
While we were driving our car home from the body shop [thanks to the luggage carrier that scuffed our roof on the road trip] we saw a beacon of hope. We skidded to a stop and u-turned down a short gravel road marked by signs promising kale, salsa, squash, and yes… TOMATOES. They did not disappoint. We brought home a sack full of tomatoes that weighed about ½ pound a piece and they were full of plenty of juice.
Until the Williams-Sonoma team put us up to the task, I had never considered making a bloody mary without using a mix. I don't know why it never occurred to me because – this bloody mary is a prime example – everything is better when it's made from scratch with quality ingredients.
Speaking of quality, I highly recommend using good vodka. Pass up the Smirnoff in favor of quality vodka – Van Gogh, Tito's, American Harvest – you won't be sorry. Quality liquor adds flavors, scents, and depth that take your cocktail from good to fantastic.
We don't use our juicer anywhere near often enough, so this was the perfect opportunity to dust it off. We have an older model that isn't made anymore, but it looks and operates very similar to several of the slow juicers that Williams-Sonoma has. Just browsing through their juicers prompted me to start working on my Christmas list. [Speaking of: Does anyone have a recommendation? I'd love to know what you use!]
When you juice tomatoes fresh, like we did for this cocktail, you know what to expect. The drink tastes like it was picked from the vine just hours before you sip it – because it was. Basil and fresh lemon create a bright crispness and horseradish adds the finishing bite that makes you say, "Ahhhh..."
My main concern before starting the juice was that it would turn out water-y and filter out too much of the tomato, but that wasn't a problem at all. Even after being processed through the machine, plenty of the tomatoes' substance comes through in the juice. That's what you get when you invest in a quality juicer.
There is a time and a place for a heavy, filling bloody mary and this is not one of those times. This bloody mary? This one is for when you want to save room for brunch and when you need a late afternoon libation after one of summer's remaining hot days. The heavy, overly garnished ones are meant for the dead of winter – and there'll be plenty of time for drinking them then.
For now, let's all enjoy the sun's last few rays and the last fresh tomatoes we can get our hands on. Juice them, chill them, and combine them with quality vodka, then relax.