July 5, 2006
Although it’s a ritualistic concoction you build each year at this time, there is absolutely no substitute for a good old-fashioned test flight on the day previous to the holiday so that you’re sure you got it just right when morning rolls around on the Fourth and your thirst settles in backstage on the deck above Swede Alley.
Prior to the official on-display and somewhat boisterous pageantry conducted between the gauntlet of blender and buffet bashes along Main Street and Park Avenue, Swede Alley plays host to a quite entertaining assortment of last-minute hubbubs all its own. And when these early morning yahoos get rollin’, your libation of choice had best be in order.
So, basically, with only your finicky self to look out for, the volume in question is not an issue. The legendary deck host, when she is in fact in town and at home for the event, usually takes it upon herself to shower the "decksters" who arrived empty handed with a quantity of liquid love sufficient to the occasion.
There’s nothing quite like nuzzling up to a Bloody Mary to get your patriotic juices flowin’. Not to mention the fact that it provides volume and intensity to the various gibberish-filled declarations of independence that fill the air on such a day. Unless, of course, you’re smitten with something a little more out-of-the-box — like, say, a "Bloody Maria."
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, here. This is dress rehearsal day — the time when this year’s bit-players meet and commingle upon the grand stage of a large highball glass for the first time. From their confident collective slouch, it’s obvious they’ve read the script and know their lines and the parts they play in this overall taste-bud drama.
OK, without further ado, let’s whip one up. Everybody into the glass ice, you stand in the wings for a bit, and, the rest of you, remember your cues.
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Horseradish, we’re counting on you to bring a little subtlety to this scene. If you wish to make it to the deck, please do not overact. Remember, this is an ensemble piece — there is no need for the soliloquy from "Hamlet."
Now, Tabasco and Worcestershire, we’re looking for a high-degree of improvisation from you two. In other words, neither of you should be afraid to turn it loose, get outside the script a bit — be the brains of the outfit, as it were. That should relax the other actors and sort of take the edge off.
Next, the limejuice just a squeeze followed by a few dashes of celery salt and lemon pepper. And, as this is just the first rehearsal, we may as well bring all the actors onboard that took the trouble to show up for "call." Like, say, clam juice and Dijon and even a dash of Sherry. Yeah, right — like there is ever any Sherry around this dump!
At this time, maybe we should bring on the headliner of this year’s production — aptly named "Bloody Maria," by the way. And that would mean that, in lieu of " ," as Dostoevsky once referred to his unaged distilled repast of choice, we will bring on something with a little more south-of-the-border flair.
Please, if you would, make welcome the star of our show, fresh from the small-batch oak casks of the Los Altos region near Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico, the Brando of the bunch, as it were, and, fittingly, one of the greatest method actors of our time, Señor El Tesoro Añejo.
Admittedly, it is in this part of the process that our ability to crunch numbers as per the recipe being properly followed comes into question. We beg to differ, but two-ounces of tequila does not a Bloody Maria make. This is the exact reason for the invention of that windfall to Utah private club owners – the "sidecar."
And that is also the prime motivating factor behind conducting rehearsals. So that one can be absolutely, positively, convinced that the correct ratios of ingredients are being followed as per the final judgment of the taste buds involved prior to entering that sacred timespace upon the deck above Swede Alley on the morning of the Fourth of July.
So, after assessing the correct ice and añejo levels and adding the tomato juice, and pouring the nearly completed concoction back and forth from one glass to another until it is quite properly mixed, all that is left is presentation — a dash of dill weed, a couple of pickled asparagus spears, a wedge of fresh lime, and a sprig of celery.
We are now at the moment of truth — our initial taste test, which, by most any stretch, should be quite elegant. But, of course, that isn’t necessarily good enough. Perfect is what we are after. Here goes!
Whoooaaaa! Yikes! Now that is good. But, as mentioned previous, good is only, well, good. There is plenty of time to whip up a few more test cases until we have arrived at the point of "ahyeeee!!!," which, of course, is nothing more than a euphemism for "ay carumba, muchacho!!!"
But there is always more fiddlin’ around to be done with the recipe. The next time around it would seem proper to adjust the Tabasco-Worcestershire pairing a bit more in favor of the cayenne pepper sauce, while holding back a bit on the vinegar-molasses-corn syrup components. But, hey, that’s what rehearsals are for! It’s about getting it right and then being casual about it.
Some more lemon pepper on top wouldn’t hurt either, along with maybe another asparagus spear. And maybe installing the layer of añejo first and then adding all the other moving parts. Why not? ¿Por qué no? The day of which we are in preparation is all about independence, is it not? And isn’t experimentation in ritual all a part of that?
So, one more time. Mix, mix, pour, pour, concoct, concoct, imbibe, imbibe! When it comes to celebrating a collective independence, laying the groundwork can be so tedious. But, you must remember, these antics are not just about the parade. They are also about putting one in a proper mindset for independently strolling rugby sidelines later on the Fourth. Free yourself up!