I live outside of town. It's about a half hour drive to Portland. Which means I'm in the car a lot. Not as much as some people, I know. Recently, I had been thinking about the Bloody Mary on the drive into town. While I've ordered the drink plenty of times in my life I don't think I would consider it a favorite. It's a breakfast drink I associate with...not feeling so great. And to that end it functions perfectly.
This eventually led me to thinking about Alka-Seltzer and how those tablets look when they dissolve in a short glass of water. In both cases, liquid endeavors to mend. I wanted to replace the contents of that Alka-Seltzer package with a Bloody Mary. To be able to tear it open, shake its contents into a glass and watch it fizz up. Then drink it like a traditional fizz. Which is to say quickly.
This all reminded me of a drink by Tony Conigliaro called 'The Morning After the Night Before'. It's in his book The Cocktail Lab and involves adding tablets of sodium bicarbonate to a drink to make it fizz with the similar goal of mitigating the effects of the previous evening.
Instead of adding sodium bicarbonate to a drink though I wanted to get the key flavors of a drink, in this case the Bloody Mary, in powder form - then make tablets out of that, maybe incorporating some baking soda to get it to fizz. I had no idea if the drink would actually taste good. It seemed like it might. Or it might be a messy disaster. Figuring it out though had its own appeal so I carried on with it.
Tomato powder seemed to be the best place to start. We have a food dehydrator and an old coffee grinder that we use for spices so making the actual powder wouldn't be too difficult. But to what extent would it dissolve in the drink? Would it be gross? The body and texture of the drink would obviously be completely different, would it still work? How best to dry horseradish? And what about the Wocestershire?
First things first. Tomatoes.
Thank you Goodwill. My wife purchased this dehydrator a year or so ago because I had been wanting one for something. I can't even remember what. Jerky probably. But it sat in the basement until a couple of weeks ago when it became an instrumental piece of this whole puzzle.
I've never used a dehydrator before. That's why those tomato slices are so thick. The first round of dried tomatoes were sliced much thinner. But they became paper thin and were difficult to remove from the trays. The ones pictured above are too thick and took almost two days to dry. Next time I will split the difference.
Four trays of thickly sliced tomatoes equals the amount of dried tomatoes pictured above. I have no idea what the percentage is of water in a tomato but it's got to be pretty high. If I had really been thinking ahead I would have put them on a scale before and after. But I didn't. Maybe next time.
Aside from the tomato powder I knew there would need to be some mustard powder, cayenne, horseradish and Worcestershire involved. The last two were tricky. Until I spied Wocestershire pepper with the spices in the grocery store. I was going to mess around with msg and bouillon powder but not anymore! I don't know why wasabi didn't occur to me sooner as a horseradish substitute. It's called Japanese horseradish for crying out loud. Are they the same? No. Are they close enough for the purpose at hand? Heck yeah!
After a few test batches I settled on some amounts for the dry stuff, mixed it up and then ran it all through the spice grinder to get it as fine as possible. At this point I figured I would add enough sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to make it fizz when the powder was added to water and vodka. I thought I'd be able to go back and adjust some of the other ingredients to offset any negative flavors associated with the baking soda. That turned out to be too tall an order. To get water and vodka to fizz required the addition of more baking soda than minor adjustments to the other ingredients could accommodate.
Eventually, surrounded by all of these powder experiments, I realized that if you dump a spoonful of it, without baking soda, into some carbonated water...bammo! You got yourself a fizz going! Instead of trying to fizz up water and vodka with the powder I could drop the baking soda, carbonate the liquids and add the powder to get the fizzing effect while the powder dissolves.
Now, on to the tablets. After several failed attempts at adding things to get the powder formed into discs I decided to leave it alone for a few days and pursue beverages I already knew I was fond of. I don't know why I didn't pick up on this earlier but when I came back to the powder I noticed how well it held the shape of the jar it was stored in if I turned the jar over or shook it lightly. I'm guessing this was due to residual moisture in the tomato powder. Maybe it didn't need anything added to it to hold its shape.
I began pressing the powder into things like bottle caps and jiggers and whatnot and, once removed, it managed to maintain the shape of the various containers it had been pressed into. I found a small plastic measuring cup that turned out to be ideal. This measuring cup had the added bonus of being just bigger than a muddler which made pressing it into large-ish tablets a cinch.
I ended up cutting the measuring cup off at 3 tsp so that I didn't have to keep picking it up to see how much powder was in there. Getting the tablets out requires a clumsy type of finesse. You've got to rap the thing upside down on a flat surface so that the outer edge makes contact at the same time while also tapping the middle of it. It needs to release all at once or it will fall apart. Its not complicated but it felt that way the first 6-8 times. The tablets are fragile, but not so much so that you can't lift them up and move them around. I think cutting the cup down also helped minimize the casualty rate since the tablets had less distance to fall once they released.
Time to get on with it then.
It worked. It tastes like a Bloody Mary that's also a fizz. It's on the spicy side but the flavors are all there. This isn't one you're going to want to linger over. The fun is in the fizz and you'll want to drink it while it's still somewhat effervescent.
Thinks I'd do differently:
- Cut the wasabi powder back just a bit next time.
- Cut measuring cup down to 2 tsp instead of 3. The drink doesn't need quite as much powder.
- Cut tomato slices thinner.
- I tried some citric acid in test batches to give it a little zip and acidity but never could make that ingredient fit in with the rest. I have some lemon confit in the works and I may, at some point, dehydrate some of the wedges and mix them in with the other ingredients.
Bloody Mary Fizz
5 oz Carbonated Water/Vodka (mixed 2:1 - I made enough for a few using a sodastream)
3 tsp Bloody Mary Powder* pressed into a disc (or not, the result will be the same)
Add tablet to the water/vodka. Poke with a spoon to break up and stir briefly.
*Bloody Mary Powder
5 tsp Tomato Powder
1 1/2 tsp Mustard Powder
1 tsp Wasabi Powder
1/2 tsp Wocestershire Pepper Powder
1/8 tsp Cayenne
1/16 tsp Celery Salt