Jeffrey Morgenthaler is Food Republic’s contributing cocktail editor and author of the occasional column Easy Drinking. Jeffrey is an industry veteran, having worked at many styles of bars over the past two decades. He currently manages the bars Clyde Common and Pépé Le Moko in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
My first bartending job, back in, ahem, 1996 was at a little neighborhood tavern in the college town of Eugene, Oregon. It was a dive bar before anyone used the term. Back then, they were just referred to as bars. If you wanted a fancy cocktail around that time, you had to take your chances at a restaurant or hotel bar. Most bars were places with television sets or jukeboxes, or both. You drank there.
The Tiny Tavern was a beer bar. There was no liquor, and just one dusty bottle of red wine that nobody ever touched. We poured Olympia beer, and not much else. And just as a little honey left on a kitchen countertop will attract ants, a neighborhood beer bar will attract people from Wisconsin.
Our very best group of regulars was about ten people who had all moved out from Wisconsin, some together, some separately. They came in every weekend, drank beer, listened to the band (a folk music duo also from Wisconsin) and shot the shit with the bartender: me. It wasn’t long before these people became my close friends and we were spending time together outside of the bar. And it was from these fine folks that I learned how to drink.
Now, I don’t mean that they taught me how to binge-drink. No, listen: Drinking is done better, with more purpose, and with more grace by Wisconsinites than by any other people I have met in my extensive travels. (Full disclosure: I have never been to Wisconsin but am eagerly anticipating my first visit.) And I am forever in their debt for teaching me how to prepare the constitution for daytime beer drinking when the Green Bay Packers game comes on.
I learned early on that the proper way to serve a Bloody Mary is with a small sidecar of beer…. The beer is slowly added to the Bloody Mary as the drink is consumed.
Ostensibly, you’ll have a touch of the bottle flu when you begin your morning, and the thought of opening a beer is, hopefully, a little repulsive. But you know you’ve got to get there, because you can’t not drink beer while the game is on. So, naturally, you’re going to be having a Bloody Mary to start the morning off. But what’s important here is the progression you’ll be taking to get from vodka and tomato juice to beer.
I learned early on that the proper way to serve a Bloody Mary is with a small sidecar of beer. Not fancy beer, mind you, but good old American yellow beer. Preferably something made in Milwaukee, like Miller. At Clyde Common, we serve all of our Bloody Marys and Caesars with a small glass of the local lager we carry, but if you’re just about anywhere else, simply order your Bloody Mary with a “beer back.” You’ll get what you need.
The beer is slowly added to the Bloody Mary as the drink is consumed. You’ll find that the beer pairs beautifully with the cocktail, kind of drying it out a little. More sipping, more beer added, until what you’re drinking is essentially gone and what you’re left with is a glass of dirty ice, flavored with Bloody Mary spices. Hang on to this glass.
Your next order is a small beer, the same flavor you were drinking before, with a tomato juice back. Sure, you can always just order a red beer (if your bartender doesn’t know what a red beer is, you’re in the wrong bar), but I like to pour my beer and tomato juice right on top of that dirty ice.
Continue ordering small beers until you’ve depleted that entire little can of tomato juice, and before you know it, you’ve graduated to good old-fashioned beer and are ready to watch the game. And that’s how it was taught to me by professional drinkers from what I can only imagine is the greatest state in the country. You’re welcome, America.
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (please use Lea and Perrins, and don’t bother with the organic crap they’re trying to push at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
4 dashes Tabasco (don’t try to make this fancier than it should be — stick with the original; nobody wants your Sriracha Bloody Mary)
2 ounces (¼ cup) vodka (you can make this as fancy as you want; Smirnoff if you’re easy, Belvedere if you’re trying to impress someone)
4-5 ounces tomato juice
Add all ingredients to a pint glass, top with ice, and pour into a fresh, chilled pint glass (salt rim optional). Garnish with lemon wedge, two olives and whatever other crap you think is necessary. Serve with a small lager on the side.