The Sportsman’s Bloodies

How the Vodka/Tomato Juice Concoction Warms One Drinker’s Soul

I’ve long felt that unless mind-altering substances are going to be involved in any social activity, I’d rather be alone. Although this philosophy is not so much alcoholic as it is misanthropic, it does have seriously troubling implications for my liver. Given my tendency to imbibe heavily whenever I’m around, well, other people, I learned early on to limit my drinking options to two (very filling) beverages: pints of beer and Bloody Marys.

I’m not so picky about the beer. I’ll take lagers, pale ales, IPAs, the occasional malt liquor. My only insistence is that it come in a pint glass, not a bottle, to get the most lubrication possible out of the least number of drinks.The idea is to feel like an alcoholic, not seem like one.

But Bloodys are an entirely different story. While a good Bloody is the best drink on the planet, a bad Bloody is the absolute worst. The first sign of a good Bloody is the size of the glass: Bloodys belong in tumblers, not those namby-pamby glasses diners use to cheat their customers out of as much fresh-squeezed orange juice as possible. A good Bloody should look, and taste, like a meal. I don’t pretend to know the best recipe for mix, or even what all of the ingredients are. I just know it should be thick and spicy and require a whole lot of vodka to be diluted. Like I said, if I’m home alone and able to freely exhibit all the crazy behavior my natural personality drives me to — such as dancing around like a maniac and making out with myself in the mirror — I don’t need a strong Bloody Mary. It’s just when there are people around that the flavor and texture of Bloody Mary mix take on paramount importance.

At no time is this truer than while the sitting in the Sportsman Lounge on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, surrounded by photos of drunk girls proudly displaying their cleavage and four or five 70-year-olds who have been drinking Coors Lights since 9 a.m. Fortunately, the Sportsman on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons is also blessed with the thickest, spiciest, most intoxicating Bloody Mary in town, thanks to Wayne, the bartender on those days, and the anonymous elderly man who faithfully drops off his master mix every week. Wayne has been known to lure more than one well-intentioned shopper or downtown worker into the Sportman’s sunless bowels with a call of, “Hey, are you a lawyer? Then why are you trying to pass the bar?” Before I even have time to get pissed that someone is talking to me, Wayne is filling up a tumbler with one part Vodka, one part mix before adding some extra Tobasco and shaking vigorously.

As my best Bloody Buddy likes to say as Wayne tops off our glasses with pickled green beans, “It’s like a salad.” Good. I’ll need all the nutrients I can get before I go home and start practicing my solo dance routine — a nuanced combination of jazzercise and strip tease — while belting out every word to the Empire Records soundtrack.

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