As it turns out, not everyone likes a good Bloody Mary. But despite the loss of an easy opener, I'll admit that I'm glad this cocktail isn't for everyone. Just as beer fanatics derive a sense of smug pleasure from throwing back a brew with more hops than an entire keg of the average domestic lager, I find a singular pleasure in sipping on a cocktail filled with hot sauce, black pepper, tomato juice, pickled vegetables and other ingredients you would otherwise never, ever drink.
Black pepper and hot sauce in a cocktail — how did this happen? It turns out no one really knows. The most common story is that a Paris bartender invented a dreadful concoction of equal parts tomato juice and vodka as a hangover remedy in the 1920s, and another bartender added spices and garnishes a few years later, creating something similar to the cocktail that we know and love/hate today.
But you see, the history of the Bloody Mary isn't that important when considering the drink itself — the very premise of the modern Bloody Mary is that there are no recipes, no rules to dictate what the finished product will look or taste like. Of course, vodka and tomato juice are required, but the rest is a matter of the taste and the sanity of the person making the drink.
Wahoo's on the Island, a pleasant little establishment on the Treasure Island Causeway, is a popular spot to have brunch, kick back in the outdoor courtyard, have a few cocktails, and enjoy live entertainment that is featured nearly every evening, ranging from an Elvis impersonator to a dueling piano show. And yes, it's also a choice location to enjoy that savory, spicy and vaguely sinister cocktail, the Bloody Mary.
There are few things more enjoyable than sitting outside in the spring, sipping a Bloody Mary and watching the traffic go by. Wahoo's knows this. On Saturdays and Sundays, from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., Wahoo's features a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, where patrons can take the reigns and dump any kind of sauce, seasoning and garnish they can imagine into a blank canvas of a glass, containing only vodka and rocks.
The bar is well-stocked, boasting four different bases to choose from, from the ubiquitous V8 to the highly questionable Clamato. The next step is generally an addition of Worcestershire sauce, but Wahoo's doesn't settle for uniformity, providing a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce for the adventurous. From that point, salt, pepper and fresh horseradish can be added, with several garnishes to choose from, including lemons, limes, green olives, celery sticks, peperoncini and even pickled asparagus. Strangely, celery salt appeared to be absent.
Then there's the hot sauce: Tabasco, Cholula and Sriracha, if you're crazy like me. Oh, yes, Bloody Mary enthusiasts have been known to make their creations nearly undrinkable with the addition of more hot sauce than you'd like to have in your Thai curry, but that's all part of the fun. At this point, the Bloody Mary's purported utility as a hangover cure is doubtful at best, but I think many drinkers will agree that an afternoon Bloody Mary is an unrivaled experience.
Wahoo's is a fantastic place in itself, with cheap and solid drinks all day, every day; I hate to spend an entire column talking about Bloody Marys. But Wahoo's has a great thing going on the weekends, and if the thought of a red-hot, tangy, sodium-laden cocktail has you salivating, then you should sidle up to the Bloody Mary bar and try your hand at some amateur bartending. If, like my unfortunately willing brunch companion, you're less than enthusiastic about this particular libation, there's a fully-stocked bar at your disposal. In fact, I understand the margarita is quite excellent. For the rest of you, don't forget the horseradish.