A few weeks ago I along with my friends and fraternity brothers, Susan and Wendy, attended parent’s weekend at my son’s university. The bulk of our activities centered around the school’s football home game and the marching band, which my son, Keller, is a member of.
The morning of the game, we attended a tailgate hosted by parents of the band’s recent alumni. The folding card tables held a breakfast feast of Southern favorites: biscuit and gravy, country ham on biscuits and egg casseroles. Behind the spread, our gracious hosts had stashed the alcoholic beverage safely away from the many underage drinkers roaming the tailgate.
As I sipped my cocktail of cider, fireball whiskey and ginger ale, Keller inquired, “Isn’t it a little early for a drink?” At 11 a.m. in the morning, it may have been. I quickly replied with the favorite cliché of party revelers everywhere, “Well it’s five o’clock somewhere.”
What I should have said is that “it’s one o’clock somewhere in the world.”
One o’clock happened to be the exact start time of the Tiki Cocktail Competition I attended last week on a Sunday. Though I was expecting to be awash in fruity cocktails, the organizers, the DC Craft Bartenders Guild, had arranged for a Bloody Mary competition—an aperitif to the main event. Bloody Marys are among my favorite brunch cocktails. Unlike mimosas, Bloody Marys feel more like a health drink—a V8® with a kick. Wendy and Kristin, who attended the event with me, are not fans of Mary. Despite her dislike of the cocktail, Wendy stepped up to the deed and did the tastings with me. Kristin discovered the mango-guava-flavored beer from 3 Star Brewing Company that was set out on the buffet table along with scramble eggs and hash. It would seem this event was mine to enjoy alone.
There were four bartenders competing representing Rosario’s, Toki Underground, Five to One and Dirty Habit. Each had their own spin on the classic brunch specialty. Bob with Rosario’s had the most conventional Bloody Mary in the competition. The only deviation to the cocktail was the addition of basil to the mix, a reflection of the Italian cuisine served at his restaurant.
Chris, a bartender at the ramen noodle restaurant Toki Underground, created a Bloody Mary that embodied the finest in Asian fusion. Kimchi, yuzu and sake was blended with tomatoes, peppers, garlic and red onions. A garnish of pickle, bell peppers and feta enhanced elevated the Bloody Mary to practically a meal. The kimchi added the right amount of heat that it made me wonder why anyone would use Tabasco® sauce.
Five to One’s Faith Alice Sleeper paid homage to D.C. go-go band Junk Yard Band with her Junk Yard Mary spotlighting D.C. originals Capital City Mambo Sauce and Gordy’s Fine Brine, and of course go-go music. Navy Beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onion and horseradish added substance to the cocktail with a pork sausage garnish to round out the mixture.
The final entry and the winner of the competition was Mimi’s Bloody Mary crafted by Amy Russel of Dirty Habit. Using the tomatillo, aka the Mexican husk tomato, as its base layered with garlic and serrano peppers, the ensuing cocktail proved to be refreshing and light—a perfect precursor to an afternoon of tiki cocktails for those of us who had the stamina for such an endeavor.
Even though we have long outgrown the tendency to drink to the point of inebriation every once in while it happens unintentionally. For me, it was the wine pairing dinner at Victoria and Albert’s at the Walt Disney World® Resort that insidiously did me in. For Wendy, it was Mimi’s Bloody Mary. Wendy had left before 3 p.m. to finish up errands before the start of the work week, only to be sidelined by the number of drinks she has during her time at the event. She later confessed to me that it was around 7 p.m. that she felt productive again. Sometime before 3 p.m., Kristin came to the self-realization that she had enjoyed one too many of the guava-flavored beer. The only difference I had noticed was the silly grin that came across her face. Kristin left to do a little “drunk grocery shopping” as she characterized her post-tiki outing the next day when I saw her in the office.
Back in the day, when I was a frequent consumer of brunch, I remember spending my Sunday afternoons lazily relaxing following a meal of huevos rancheros and a swirl frozen cocktail of sangria and margaritas mixed together. It may have seemed like an afternoon wasted, but it felt more like a needed respite from the drudgery of the week. Many years later, a languid afternoon feels more like a wasted day than a restful retreat. With this in mind, I deliberately paced myself to make it to the end of the event. The reality is that it is always one o’clock somewhere, and the rest of the day is calling to you. Even if the most productive thing that is being done all afternoon is sampling cocktails.