The Bourbon Bloody Caesar

Are Bloody Caesars a thing where you live? As in, a Bloody Mary that swaps in Clamato for toe-mah-toe juice? They seem to be a thing in Montreal -- or all of Canada -- and I had my first (virgin) one last weekend at Cafe Sardine (to celebrate my Saveur best-blog nom; vote, won't you?). Let me rhapsodize on this place for a sec before I continue:

The PhoBlograpHusband and I live in the Plateau, adjacent to Mile End, which is the neighborhood with restaurants more our speed. Eating out in Montreal is caustically 'spensive, I find, and I say this having moved here from New York. The difference is, it's just as easy to find really good cheap food in New York (slice at Joe's, Corner Bistro burger, zomg patacones) as it is pricey food. So far, that hasn't been the case for us in Mtl/Le Plateau, but the Mile End boasts numerous little boites serving interesting little plates where you can leave sated (not stuffed) for under $100 including tax(es) and tip. We have learned to consider that a bargain.

So our friend Tao had recommended Cafe Sardine and we went there Friday night, no reservation, easily seated right away. By its looks, this was my kind of place: open kitchen, salvaged-everything furnishings, and all-male staff, one more closely resembling a member of Vampire Weekend than the last. As has become my custom, I asked if the bartender (a friend of Tao's) would make me any kind of mocktail. And what I got was the aforementioned virgin Bloody Caesar.

So good! So, like, meaty and chewy and salty/briny/acidic/spicy and practically a meal in itself, especially garnished as it was with some skewered pickled-beet chunks. (Beet juice is now on my to-cocktail list; hopefully that'll come soon.)

Coincidentally, one time when we were buying Maker's Mark up here, the bottle came with a hangtagged recipe for the Maker's Mark Bloody Caesar, so on Sunday Sean and I used that recipe as a launching pad for a Bloody Caesar tailored to our liking.

The Bourbon Bloody Caesar

(Adapted from the above-pictured promotional literature once attached to a bottle of Maker's Mark)

1 1/2 ounces Heaven Hill Bourbon

5 dashes Frank's Red Hot

2 dashes soy sauce

Clamato, to fill

Fresh black pepper

Colonel De's New Bay seasoning

Lemon and cucumber slices, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients plus black pepper in a tall, ice-filled glass. Dump all contents into a shaker and shake vigorously. Set shaker aside for a moment while you rim your glass with New Bay and refill it with fresh ice. Strain drink back into glass and enjoy.

Tasting Notes

Yes, that's a bottle of Buffalo Trace in one of the pics above, but it contains Heaven Hill, which I believe Sean transferred into there to somehow feel better about his station in life. Obviously, any bourbon will do, and I'd recommend not going any more top-shelf than Maker's/Buffalo.

Why all the glass-to-shaker-to-glass hoopla? So's your "fill" portion of Clamato is accurate. Not even a pregnant lady wants a weak Bloody Caesar.

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The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing

Guest post by the PhoBlograpHusband

Seriously, summer!?! Three days of suck-it-Trebeck humidity and thunderstorms, capped off by a 67-degree Friday and foggy in the middle of the day, that’s your idea of a grand entrance? Rose and and I have been looking forward to debuting these fantastic-for-summer, mouthwatering concoctions for months and this is what you give us?

(Yes, we’re bitching about the weather two days in a row, but it has really sucked...)

So long as you allow me a half-hour of relative sunlight on Saturday mornings so I can hit the farmer's market in peace, I won’t let you spoil my fun. The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing is perhaps the perfect seasonal cocktail for the first week of summer, when farmer’s-market strawberries and basil are at their ripest and most abundant.

I’ve seen a few strawberry and basil cocktails out there before, but they are generally vodka-based and come off as little more than a slightly boozy summer salad. Our way around this was grappa. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with grappa my whole drinking life. I want to love it but I usually end up hating it. Though I’m not one to shy away from straight liquor, the burn of grappa is just a little too aggressive, the finish a little too long. Turns out that grappa’s in-your-faceness was just the thing to give what could have been an all too saccharine and ethereal cocktail real substance.

The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing

1 ¼ ounces Finger Lakes Distillery Grappa

¾ ounce Grand Marnier

1 ¼ ounces club soda

4-5 basil leaves

2 strawberries

¼ teaspoon Colonel De’s Mint Julep sugar

Muddle strawberries, basil and sugar (regular sugar will work if you can’t get some from the Colonel) at the bottom of a highball glass. Fill glass with ice and add grappa, Grand Marnier and soda and stir or lightly toss back and forth into a tumbler.

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