pisco mary {cocktail}

As you know, when it comes to cocktails I have my quirks. I go through phases (there was the Martini phase of 2011, and the very long Negroni phase of 2009). But I’m also very much influenced by how a drink looks: the color, the glass, the garnish.

Lately, as the work day ends, I’ve been picturing red cocktails. I know it has something to do with the holidays. Yes. I’ve been reading the myriad ‘festive cocktail’ features popping up everywhere from the New York Times to Cigar Affciando. 

So the other night I opened the liquor cabinet, and decided to play around with Campari, Gin and Lingon Berry syrup. Was kind of thinking of this look.

But by the time I had lugged my bottles into the kitchen from the living room (ok, my apartment isn’t that big, but there were three bottles to wrangle) I realized that what I really had in mind was something more savory, rather than sweet or bitter.

So back went the bottles and I started over. It took me a minute, but I finally settled on this equation: Red + Savory = Bloody Mary.

Except sometimes vodka is just so boring.

So I grabbed the bottle of Pisco Domenico had brought back from Chile (where he is designing 6 homes). I also scooped up the brand new glasses my friend Arlene had given me as a gift. (they are the highball version of my Finish martini glasses. Thank you Arlene!)

Now, you’re probably thinking Pisco in a Bloody Mary is kind of weird. But trust me on this one. I love using something other than vodka, and tequila is usually my option of choice. While I actually had never used Pisco for anything other than Pisco Sours, I thought its slightly mellow/tangy flavor would work well with the tomato juice.

The fun thing about Bloody Mary’s (is that the plural? or is it Bloody Maries?) is to set a theme. You can do classic, which is fine. But funner to go with what is seasonal, and work with that.

Since we had some gorgeous, swollen bulbs of fennel from the garden, that was the direction I took. Horseradish got swapped out for just a tiny bit of garlic. Instead of worscestershire sauce, I opened a bottle of intensely fruity new olive oil (hey, if you can add bacon to a cocktail, why not olive oil?). Tabasco seemed too strong for the fennel trend I was cultivating, so I chose the mellower piment d’espelette. And since I was going to garnish with fresh fennel instead of celery, I exchanged celery salt for fennel pollen.

The strong citrus notes that are needed for any self respecting Bloody came right off the trees on the terrace, which are groaning with fruit this time of year. When Domenico came back from Chile two trips ago, he not only brought back 3 bottles of Pisco to make Pisco sours, he also smuggled in a small tree to provide the other necessary element: Limon di Pica. Teeny, tiny, round, lime-like fruits. They are a bitch to squeeze, since they are the size of small marbles, but once you do the juice is intensely floral. Perfect in a Sour, of course, but very happy mulling around tomato juice in a Pisco Mary.

Pisco Mary
(makes one drink)

2 oz of Pisco
1/3 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons lime juice (or limon di pica if you can find it)
grated fresh garlic, about a 1/8 tsp
large pinch of salt
Piment d’Espelette (or any not overly strong red pepper)
1 tsp fruity olive oil
1/8 tsp fennel pollen, plus more for garnish
Slice of fresh fennel, with root end in tact, for garnish

In a medium sized rocks glass, pour in the pisco, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, fennel pollen and stir to combine. Add tomato juice, stir. Fill glass with ice, stir gently. Sprinkle with fennel pollen, and balance the fresh fennel on the rim of the glass.

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