When you hear Bloody Mary, you think tomato juice – sometimes (unfortunately) you think V-8. Not that V-8 is bad, per se, it’s just not the thing you first think about when on your way to a bar. And it’s CERTAINLY another what you think about standing over a hot blazing BBQ pit when you need a good adult beverage.
So, let’s focus on how we can bring some heat. Let us begin with one of the main characters, the tomato juice. Now, we don’t want our tomato juice too thick, like spaghetti sauce…but we also don’t want it watery. So, we have to make our own tomato juice (hence, the three-day process). And we have to give it a little smoke, a little vegetable depth…all factors that we can control from the oven (or the grill, if you prefer to be adventurous, but that’s another discussion entirely…
And we cannot forget the other main character, the vodka. The vodka with its fresh clean taste provides a great counterpoint to the heat..even as it BECOMES the heat.
Let’s get to the 3-day process!
Day 3: Place 4-5 tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes in a 2-quart Mason jar. Cover to the top of the jar with vodka. You don’t have to use the top-shelf stuff (but I will say, it always helps). Store the jar in a cool, dark corner of a cabinet. Every 3-4 hours, shake the jar in a circular motion until the pepper flakes at the bottom swirl to the top, almost like a tornado. Allow the flakes to settle at the bottom of the jar, as they will steep and release the capsaicin and color into the vodka. Conventional wisdom holds that the seeds in the flakes hold the most heat as part of the pepper, and you will agree as you sip!
Day 2: Today, the tomatoes turn into tomato juice – the exciting version. Take 2 pounds of heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes along with a pound of Roma tomatoes and quarter them all. Add 2 jalapeño peppers and 2 large yellow onions, and quarter those as well. Place the veggies on a solid sheet pan that has been wiped with a thin coat of oil that can withstand high heat. (My personal preference is avocado oil with its 500-degree smoke point) Roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-6 minutes. The veggies should be softened and developing blisters from the heat. This means that liquid is issuing from the vegetables, and you will need it in its most intense reduced form.
Continue roasting until you see liquid pooling on the bottom of your pan. At this point you can remove the pan from the oven, and allow the vegetables to cool. Pour off the pooled liquid into a pitcher or other container and set aside. Once the veggies are cooled, run them – all of them – through a tomato press or food mill. You can even use a blender if that’s what you’re working with. Run the squeezings through at least twice to maximize all possible juice collection. You should have 3-4 cups of juice at this point.
DAY 1: The big day is here! It’s time to blend the flavors together!
In 3 well-chilled 16-ounce Mason jars (it’s a Carolina thing, I’ma make you understand) drop 6 squared blocks of ice – 2 in each jar. To each jar, add a cup of your reserved tomato juice. Then add a cup of your peppered/pepper red vodka. Garnish with celery sticks.
NOTE: Mason jars are like shot glasses in North Carolina – every self-respecting bar (especially those that serve Pitmasters) must have them. They’re wonderful because:
- They hold exactly 16 ounces of liquid, which is your average drink size (read, can of beer or soda);
- They have markings at 1/4 cup points on each jar, making them perfect for measuring drinks;
- They have removable screw-on lids to keep from spilling your drink. You can even get lids with straws in them so that you can sip by the pool with your neighbors;
- If you so choose, referencing the wonderful beverage recipe above, you can add the liquid ingredients beforehand and close them with the included bands and lids. You can then refrigerate them overnight for guests coming in the next day – or transport them in a cooler full of ice (don’t worry, they’re built for freezing and pressure canning and don’t break easily) so you can grab refreshing drinks while you’re tending pit or grill!