Raising The Bar Again Transcript

Good Drinks Bar

    Greetings, American cooks. If you're a fan of this program, you no doubt recognize this oft repeated scenario whereby I rail at you for slacking off and allowing some classic American dish to fall into disrepair. Well, today is going to be different. Don't worry, I'm still going to rail at you. But the dishes we will attempt to mend were not actually conceived in the United States, they were damaged here. So I feel it's our duty to repair said damage and in doing so, mend our bruised international food image. Now I should point out that they're not actually dishes, they're beverages, cocktails in fact; and by some reports, the most popular cocktails in the land. And yet, both have become bloated, mangled versions of their former selves.
    Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you the two once-great ladies of the American bar. Here, we have the Bloody Mary, who in the hands of fern-bar mixologists seeking to modernize her has decayed into a murky miasma of discordant spices aimed at buzz-eager brunchers. And here, beside her, the poor, put-upon margarita, her agave warmth now muffled by a icy slush, her smoky citrus bite buried beneath sickening shawls of sweetness. Nectar, yes, but for spring-breakers. A plague on both our houses, lest we right the wrongs suffered by these ladies' honor.
    Luckily, with a few quality ingredients, some sound science, a dash of properly applied technique and some uh, historical perspective, we can do just that. Not to mention create some quaffable ...

[Good Eats Theme Plays]

Harry's New York Bar

Scene 2 – Harry’s New York Bar in Paris

              Hemingway, Reporter
              Mary Tudor

    To better understand the Bloody Mary, we need to venture to Paris in the 1920s, and Harry's New York bar—Harry's, for short—which had become a home-away-from-home for a gaggle of American ex-pats and jazz-age refugees from Fitzgerald to Gershwin, who they say wrote most of "an American in Paris," at the downstairs piano.
    Now, an historic setting and supporting cast to be sure, but the real star of this particular drama was a bartender named Pete.

PETE: [knocks on the window]
AB: Ah! Salut, Pete. Ca va? [Ah! Hello, Pete. You okay?]
P: Pas mal, et toi? [Alright, What about you?]
AB: Oh, bien, bien! [Oh, okay, okay!]

    Ferdinand "Pete" Petiot came to work the plank at Harry's in 1921. Now Pete was friendly with some Russian families who had fled the Bolsheviks back in 1917, okay? And one of these families, the Smirnoffs, had supplied a curious spirit called vodka, or "little water", to the Czar himself. It was this association that inspired the young mixologist to experiment with this chameleonic elixir.
    Now, nobody knows exactly when Pete had his big monkey touch monolith moment, okay? But I like to think that on one fateful morning, a young reporter came in with nerves a-jangle, head throbbing from a late night of drinking and probably fighting with his first wife. Now good ol' Pete knew that Hemingway really needed a little hair of the dog.

P: Bonjour, Monsieur Hemingway.

    Figured he'd try out some of that new vodka stuff hidden within the tomato juice that he knew the writer liked. It should be noted that canned tomato juice was becoming very popular in Paris at the time as an eye opener, that is something that one drinks when drinking is what someone's been doing too much of the night before. Pete also figured he would round off the flavor of this new concoction with a few drops of something salty and spicy, so he reached for Worcestershire and Tabasco, which had both become standards in the bar. Before you knew it, something brand-new was crossing the bar. Hemingway drank it down.

HEMINGWAY: Pete, what do you call this bloody thing?
P: Comma vous appelez-vous? [What is your name?]
MARY: Je m'appelle Mary. [My name is Mary.]

    I'm not saying that's exactly how it went down, but a lot of people do think the drink was named for the original "Bloody Mary", Mary Tudor. Mary Tudor: It's the perfect thing after a long day of dealing with Protestants. Of course, she'd been dead for a few ... never mind. Nomenclatural issues notwithstanding, Pete's concoction took off like a shot, and the rest is history.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Yeast Sock Puppet

    Like any other spirit, vodka is born of a carbohydrate-rich mash that is fermented by yeast.

YEAST: [enter burping]

    What's particularly interesting about vodka is that it doesn't really matter where the carbohydrates come from: fruit, roots, corn, potatoes, grain, whatever; because once the mash is fermented, the resulting brew, or beer as it's called, is distilled, meaning that the alcohol which boils out at 173 degrees Fahrenheit is cooked out and then condensed back into liquid form. The problem is is that some impurities remain kind of chemically glued to this young vodka, and so it has to be distilled again, and sometimes it's distilled a third time, or even a fourth time. The distillate is then filtered, usually through the very same activated charcoal found in home water scrubbers. In fact, I've heard tell that you can turn mediocre vodka into top drawer hooch just by running it through one of these [home water filters] four or five times. But, I can neither confirm nor deny whether that really works.
    Finally, water is added to dilute the ABV, or alcohol by volume, to whatever the distiller wants. At that point, the vodka should live up to the legal definition, which means it should be odorless, colorless and tasteless, which makes you kind of wonder, what then is the difference between decent vodka and really, really good vodka. I'll show you.
    On the right, we have a $25 bottle, on the left, an $80 bottle. The difference, in this case, $55 worth of bottle. I'll take this one. ($25 bottle)

Good Drinks Bar

GUESTS: Women Patron

    Now, the Bloody Mary never would have seen the light of day or Hemingway's throat had it not been for canned tomato juice. Because back then, the only fresh tomatoes in a bar were sitting on the stools, right?

Oh, touche. Oh!

    So, these days, for better or worse, modern American megamarts have a constant tomato supply on hand, so I say we can the can.

AB: I bet you dance a mean can-can.
WOMAN PATRON: [slaps AB again]

    I got to get out of this business.

The first published recipe for the Bloody Mary appeared in the
“Stock Club Bar Book” by Lucius Beebe in 1944.

Out Front of Good Drinks Bar

    When we talk about the way a tomato tastes, we're actually referring to a fleet of flavors. A chemically complex stew of sugars, aromatic compounds, acids and amino acids. And to fully capture that in a glass requires that we extract every possible molecule of goodness from the best tomatoes we can find.
    Now ripe cherry or grape tomatoes are high in sugar and juice, but relatively low in the pithy flesh that makes up the inner structure of larger tomatoes. So I'm going to use 1 3/4 of a pound of those.
    Now these large heirlooms, on the other hand, are positively zaftig, but they're mighty nice and ripe so they can come to the party as well. We'll just use them in a slightly different way.

Good Drinks Bar

    Tomatoes, botanically speaking, are berries, and as such, contain both water and alcohol-soluble flavors. Now vodka, being alcohol and water, is an ideal solvent for extracting those tomato flavors. But to do so thoroughly takes time, a lot longer than it would take to mix and drink a Bloody Mary. The answer, of course, is to make tomato vodka, right?

    Now to do so, we will need a pound of large, ripe tomatoes, that's what our heirlooms are for. Just cut them into, say, eight pieces, and place in a large, clean glass jar, and top with 750 ml of 80 proof vodka. And again, this is definitely the $25 variety. There, now seal that up tight for five to seven days stirring the ingredients at least once a day. 1 Pound Ripe Tomatoes
750 ml Bottle 80 Proof Vodka

    Then, after a week, remove the lid, and strain through a fine mesh. Then just discard the solids and return the vodka to its bottle. Keep in a cool, dry place and enjoy, neat. Sometimes I add a couple of drops of hot sauce and just call it a day; but we've got a Bloody Mary to make; so, onto the base.

    All right, into your blender carafe go the tomatoes and they should fit into most residential and commercial models. To that, we add two teaspoons of the hot sauce of your choice, three teaspoons of lemon juice. And yes, this needs to be freshly squeezed so that the acidity will properly balance the fruit with the booze. Next, we will go with two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. 1¾ Pounds Cheery Tomatoes
2 tsp. Hot Sauce
3 tsp. Freshly Squeezed
    Lemon Juice
2 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce

    Pete used it back in 1921, and it's still on the standard parts list today. Why? Well, it's salty for one thing, and tomatoes need that, but three of the ingredients inside Worcestershire—soy sauce, anchovies and tamarind—contain glutamates which highlight the savory aspects of the tomatoes. Foodies refer to this as umami, which is Japanese for "deliciousness." Works just like good, old-fashioned MSG, and it will add a meaty goodness to the cocktail. Of course, I prefer homemade, but that'll have to wait for another show.

    Last but not least one half teaspoon of kosher salt. The lid goes on and we blend on high for 1 ½ minutes. I should mention that all alone this makes a pretty fabulous tomato juice that'll keep in the fridge for up to a month. ½ tsp. Kosher Salt
    Now when it comes time to construct the drink, I like a tall Collins glass. It holds plenty of liquid but it's narrow, so when you turn it up to get at the ice cubes, they won't fall in your face.

Collins glass can turn
without ice falling

    Speaking of ice cubes, I make mine out of the Bloody Mary mix itself; three cubes will do the trick. Dump just a jigger; that’s an ounce and a half of our tomato vodka and then top that off with the Bloody Mary mix stir, if you want, or you don't have to. 1½ Ounces Tomato Vodka
4 Ounces Bloody Mary Mix

     As for garnishes, well, we don't need no stinking garnishes. It's a delicious drink, but one of the things I really love about it is that once the beverage is gone, you still get to crunch on all those delicious tomatoey ice cubes.

AB: Here you go, Pete.
P: [tastes] Pas mal. [All right.]

    Dang tootin' it's pas mal.
    Now it should be noted that alcohol anthropologists credit Harry's bar with creating yet another cocktail a decade later built upon brandy orange liqueur and lemon juice. Dubbed "the sidecar," it became the poster drink for an entire class of citrus-based drinks referred to as "sours." And the sidecar is first cousin to the margarita. Ironic, don't you think?

The most famous member of the sour family is the “Whiskey Sour” made
with whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a maraschino cherry.

Good Eats Bar

GUESTS: Mexican Barkeep
             College Kids

    Although they are both classic fruit-based cocktail, the Bloody Mary and the margarita could not be more different. In the bloody Mary, vodka—more phantom than spirit—plays silent partner to the crimson nightshade. But everything in a margarita, a good one at least, serves the tequila. And whereas vodka can be made anywhere from anything, as long as it's thoroughly distilled and filtered, tequila is one of the most jealously guarded and regulated varietal products on the planet. It is also one of the most misunderstood. Now I would love to go on for hours about this mysterious spirit, but we're a little pressed for time.
    So here are the top four things you simply must know about tequila. One, tequila is made from the blue agave plant, not a cactus. Now when the agave's about a dozen years old, which is considerably larger than this, they are dug out by hand, the spikes are removed to reveal the heart, which looks so much like a pineapple, they actually call it a piña. Yes, that was an actual pineapple, sorry about that.
    Number two, tequila, like champagne and Vidalia onions, can only legally be called tequila if it is produced in very specific areas, Including the states of Jalisco, and limited regions of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Any agave-based spirit made outside these areas are called mezcal.
    Tequila fact number three. There are actually two different categories of tequila. There is 100 percent agave tequila and then there are mixto tequilas, which, by law, only have to contain 51 percent agave, the other 49 percent of which can be, well, we call it headache in a bottle.
    Now it's worth noting that the number-one selling tequila in the United States—very popular with the college kids—is in fact a mixto, which is mistaken as the good stuff, because it usually has the word "gold" associated with it because of the caramel coloring. Now the really good stuff, the 100 percent agave, does cost more than the gold stuff. But it doesn't really cost you an entire bucket of money, it's just we already had the props and the wardrobe rented, so there you go. That's the good stuff.

    Four: within the 100 percent agave territory, there are several classifications, alright? Blanco or white tequila is often called silver. It's crystal clear, like vodka, and straight from the still. The flavor is pure agave, which is floral, spicy, even a little fruity.

Blanco or White Tequila
aka: Silver

    If the tequila is stored in oak barrels for at least two months but not more than 11 months and 30 days, it is labeled Reposado, or rested. The pale gold is from the wood, which also lends a subtle smokiness.

Tequila aged in oak barrels from 2 months to 11 months & 30 days is labeled Reposado

    Now as the aging continues for between one to one day short of three years, the tequila is Añejo, "aged". And the woodiness and smoky flavors resemble those of other spirits that are aged similarly, such as scotch whiskey, and of course, bourbon.

Tequila aged from 1 year to 2 years 11 months & 30 days is Añejo or "aged".

    Then we have extra Añejo. As they are very, very dark, due to spending more than three years in wood, and these are really expensive tequilas, which should be sipped and savored the way you would enjoy a fine cognac. Otherwise you're going to miss out on the subtleties, and that's the real word here.

Extra Añejo is aged for 3 years or more in wood.

    I keep 100 percent agave silver, or white tequila, around for all my mixing needs, including, of course, the margarita.

100% Agave Silver or white tequila is great for mixing, especially margaritas

    Now, many have laid claim to the creation of the first margarita. But whoever did the making, I'm willing to bet five to one it went down just like this, okay?
    Now imagine, one night in the mid '30s, some spiffy gringo swells were whooping it up in a hot night club, maybe in Tijuana or Juarez or Monterrey, and one of them turns to the barkeep and says, ...

GRINGO: "we'll have two sidecars."
Como? [What?]
G: Two sidecars.
MB: Si. [Yes.]

    The barkeep turns and he grabs the orange liqueur, right? But then he reaches for the brandy, the key ingredient, and ooh, he's just about out. Now the bartender—who looks like Pete, but isn't actually Pete—sizes up the customers and figures they'll never notice if he switches it out for something else, maybe tequila. Yeah. And he's got plenty of tequila right there, and it's nice and cheap to boot. Of course, on top of that, he'll also need some lemon juice. Oh, he's out of that, so he reaches for the lime. Necessity is the mother of invention. He shakes it up and he pours it down and of course, the customers drink them down without ever noticing that they were actually consuming the first margaritas on earth. Good job, barkeep.
    And that's how I just know it happened. The reason I know is that if the margarita had been built from scratch; and well I know I'm about to commit beverage heresy here, but, if it had been designed from scratch, the orange liqueur would never have been in the glass in the first place. And so, I say to those of you at home, unless you really like drinking orange liqueur, or sidecars, just skip it all together, and spend the money on better tequila and a little bit of agave nectar.

Agave nectar is produced by extracting the sap from the
“pina” or core of a mature agave.

Good Eats Bar

    Here comes the margarita hardware.

  • One cocktail shaker. I like the two-piece Boston style.

  • A small liquid measure. I prefer the plunger which is adaptable,

  • One citrus reamer.

  • A muddler

  • A cocktail strainer and

  • A 12 ounce glass; martini or cocktail glass we call that.

  • Two saucers one with a tablespoon of kosher salt the other with just half an ounce of the tequila. Excuse my little measure for that. It should just cover the bottom. Perfect.

1 Tbs. Kosher Salt
½ Ounce 100% Blue Agave

    Now take the cocktail glass, invert, and dip into the tequila thusly. Now just count to ten. Because it evaporates faster than water and is just a little bit on the sticky side, tequila will provide a better, well primer, if you will, for the salt to come.
    Time's up. So just place the rim straight down in the salt, give it a wiggle, tap off the excess and invert. that prep is done.

    Now, as far the margarita itself, we start with the citrus. We're going to need half a juiced orange quartered and four limes, two quartered, two halved with one small wheel cut off of the half. Yes, it's a lot of lime, but we're only going to be using the juice from part of it, the rest we're going to be muddling for the oils in the skin, that's a very different kind of flavor. 2 Limes, Halved
½ Hamlin Or Valencia Orange
1 Thin Slice [lime}
2 Limes, Quartered

    So, here we go, I like to use a reamer that actually fits right on the cocktail shaker, but you can use whatever juicing device you've got. There we go. And next, just dump in the oranges, and then come back for the limes. There we go, perfect.

    Now typically, we would muddle with sugar, but in this case, I'm going to use the agave nectar, two tablespoons of it. It is mostly fructose, so it's sweeter than an equal amount of sucrose. But unlike say, honey, it is relatively neutral in flavor and it's highly soluble in cold liquids, so it's perfect for cocktails.\

2 Tbs. Light Agave Nectar

    Muddle thusly for two full minutes, to release, again, not just the juices, but the oils in the skins. Now this step is often kind of glossed over in the fast-paced professional bartending world. Don't make that mistake.    There. I think the fruit has given up all that it's got to give. So strain into the other side of the cocktail shaker, or just another glass, if you're using that kind of model. And make sure you get every drop possible.

    Then, bring forth tequila, one and a half ounces, that’s a jigger and oh, don't forget about that half ounce back down in the saucer. Don't want to waste that. That goes in on top. 1½ Ounces 100% Blue Agave
    There, now we're going to shake that with three quarters of a cup of ice and the better quality the ice is, the better quality the drink will be. Shake for a full 30 seconds, or until the outside of the shaker is ice cold. Then simply strain into the prepared glass thusly. Oh, and of course, apply the lime wheel. There. Now that is the margarita that would have been if the margarita hadn't been a sidecar first. Hmm, oh yeah. ¾ Cub Ice Cubes

    Well, I certainly hope that you have enjoyed learning a little about a couple of perfectly good cocktails that we Americans led astray. Luckily, Americans possess the ingenuity, savvy, materials and skills necessary to repair whatever ethno-culinary habit we wreak, right? Well, sometimes we do. This time we do. See you next time on Good Eats. And oh, remember, please enjoy responsibly. Thank you and goodnight.


WOMAN: [slaps AB]
I got to get out of this business.

That's really the best you've got, I can't believe it. [laughs]

Transcribed by Jennifer Schleicher
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010