Brian Bartels was raised in the small town of Reedsburg, Wisconsin. His work has appeared in The Missouri Review, Literary Juice, Fiction Writers Review, and China Grove Press. He is the author of The Bloody Mary cocktail book. Here, he touches upon the Bloody Mary drink, and why it deserves the royal treatment.
The first bartending gig I ever had was in Madison, Wisconsin. I was twenty years old, knew nothing about spirits or cocktails, and only wanted to do, say, and look as cool as the older bartenders I admired. But if I wanted to accomplish that, I needed to work brunch service. I was up for the challenge. What could be so hard about that?
Right out of the gates, my early world of bartending taught me many things. Some of the first lessons I learned: 1) Wisconsin people are thirsty people, 2) Wisconsin people love their Bloody Marys, and 3) If I wanted to grow into a more respectable bartender, I first needed to harness and respect the almighty Brunch Shift.
From a service standpoint, brunch can be a beast. To work it requires speed, deftness, and an ability to tolerate droves of thirsty patrons, so parched it seems they would be more than happy to jump over the bar and relieve you of your own job. Wisconsinites are nothing if not thirsty, hard-working people.
The Bloody Mary gets plenty of love from the great state of Wisconsin (and surrounding Midwestern states, where we like our get-togethers) to celebrate the beginning of a day or the end of a long work week. As we know well enough in our adult lives, there is a time to work and a time to play, and thinking about a Bloody Mary to celebrate the survival or end of another week of work can prove highly rewarding.
There is something royal about the aesthetics of a Bloody Mary. The garnishes inhabit a sense of beveled jewelry; the curves in a stalk of celery; the grooves in a translucent lemon wheel; olives strung up like pearls on a necklace, all tailored for the grand ball that is brunch, and coupled with a side of cold, refreshing beer to cleanse the palate. It warrants elevated praise.
I personally associate it with any excuse to throw a party. Any time people have off work and are looking to congregate, it’s the perfect time to have a Bloody Mary. The best times to raise a glass surround friends, family, co-workers, and healthy camaraderie. No other cocktail wields its level of garnishes, vitamins, and lip-smacking praise. Part of its appeal has always been where a gathering is taking place, often to celebrate a reunion of people getting together who haven’t seen each other in a long time, or celebrating an anniversary, graduation, promotion, holiday, day off, or to just make sincere attempts to remember what happened the previous evening, and where are my keys, phone, and pants!
As the First Cocktail of the Day, it deserves a queen’s adulation (look at all that jewelry on her!), each sip the embodiment of restoration, contentment, and celebration. And if there’s a Bloody Mary buffet involved, watch out. Everyone gets a chance to create their own kingdom. There’s never a bad time to have a Bloody Mary – except when you’re out of vodka!