The scene: Capitol Lounge, brunch, a quiet time populated mostly by the deeply hungover, bickering couples escorting an overbearing matriarch on a tour of local haunts, and the occasional lone drinker, rocking gently back and forth on his stool.
I do what I do almost every weekend: order a Bloody Mary. I am handed a glass with ice and vodka, and told to fix my own drink from the Bloody Mary Bar up front. I scoff and snort - why would I come to a bar to prepare my own drink? Wouldn't I just do that at home?
All that derision makes me thirsty, so I reach for my glass of ice water and take a long pull. Which turns out to be from my Bloody Mary starter glass, meaning I just sucked down a mass quantity of rail vodka through a straw.
I spend the rest of the day mildly buzzy and smelling like the school nurse's bottle of iodine.
The scene: Ruby Tuesday's. The last stop before suburban oblivion, 2.4 kids and suing the neighbors over their ugly landscaping and cluttered driveway.
I order the house Bloody Mary, a portal to a damned dimension, known here as the Cajun Mary. I figure it's just a Bloody Mary with some extra cajun seasoning, a favorite add-on for me at home. I was wrong. I had taken a wrong turn into the Land of Everything That Could Possibly Go Horribly Wrong with a Relatively Simple Cocktail.
It was (and I shudder as I type...) sweet. Sickly sweet. With a funky aftertaste and the aroma of a grand experiment plunging toward bizarre and laughable failure. I was drinking the Chris Gaines of the cocktail world. I put the drink aside in pity and disgust.
The waitress noticed, and I sent the drink back for revision. The fix, the boozy lipstick on the drunken pig, so to speak? More Tabasco. Well, at least the sinuses got a hefty workout! So now it was sickly sweet and undrinkably spicy.
That's when I found out the secret ingredient in the Ruby Tuesday Cajun Mary. Hint: It's not love. Hint: It totally doesn't belong in any mixed drink, ever.
THE SECRET INGREDIENT IS BARBECUE SAUCE.
I haven't been so appalled since I found out that To Serve Man is a cookbook. The bartender came over and apologized, and brought me a new barbecue-free drink. By this time, I felt like a boozehound Goldilocks, but I was able to pronounce it "just right."
Most people would assume the lesson is to stop drinking Bloody Marys. But that's not a lesson I'll ever listen to. After all, I had to be forcibly dissuaded from inventing Velcro Riding Breeches after I was (due to my own incompetence) thrown from a galloping horse at Camp Wingaroo.
Instead, the lesson is not for me. It's for all restaurants, everywhere:
Don't mess with a Bloody, Buddy!
(Hat tip for post title: Ric. Hat tip for writing style: Rod Serling)