Bloody Good

Did local, organic vodka change anything on New Year’s Day?

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This New Year, I’ve resolved to buy more organic products. I’ll support local farmers at the farmers market. And, of course, I’ll cut back on the booze. Right after I drink this Bloody Mary— that’s locally sourced, with organic ingredients.

At the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, I spy a stand that still has tomatoes, improbably, in early winter. Growing a stone’s throw or so across the freeway, the tomatoes at Hector’s Honey Farm go gently into these frosty nights with the help of row covers. True, some are looking a bit rough by now—but aren’t we all at this time of year?

These hard little winter tomatoes are having a dry January of their own, however. The good news is, no desperately hungover persons are waiting on my tedious juicing attempt, which nets little more than two ounces from a bag of small, and ironic, Early Girls. I add freshly grated horseradish, a bit of garlic sliced Goodfellas-thin, a pinch of paprika-based spice from Sonoma County’s own J. Christopher Co., sea salt from Jordan Winery and foraged Meyer lemon juice. (If you can’t find a Meyer-lemon bush in the North Bay, take off those dark glasses.)

Local BM round one: Mixed 1-to-1 with an international brand of vodka, this pink cocktail looks like a greyhound, but smells of fresh tomato. However, the ethanol lifts the horseradish aroma too far to the fore. Hanson of Sonoma’s habanero vodka ($28), made from organic grapes, cools the aroma and adds a spicy element, while Spirit Works vodka ($30), distilled from organic California wheat, introduces a vanilla aroma, and black pepper and garlic details. Like a boozy gazpacho.

Local BM round two: Bloody Bob’s “all natural” Bloody Mary mix ($6.50), produced in Healdsburg, has got everything but the celery stick, and a bit of latent heat, too. But, mixed in equal parts with the big-name brand, only the tomato paste note stands out—like pizza sauce. With the Hanson’s, there’s an accent of pepper, while Spirit Works shows that sweet vanilla note.

But the revelation comes when I mix up a 2-to-1 ratio of vodka to Bloody Mary mix. Now, the mix can’t hide the character of the vodka. The characterless, mass-produced vodka leaves the tomato purée to lay heavily on the palate—my main complaint with most iterations of this cocktail—with a cold metallic tinge, while both the Hanson’s unflavored version (with a sweeter aroma than the habanero) and the Spirit Works add a welcome sense of “warmth” to what’s supposed to be a recovery tonic, after all.

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