“Bloody Mary,” my son says. “Me, too,” his brother murmurs. Hmmm. Bloody Mary’s at brunch on a wintry morning. Perfect. “Sounds good,” I say to the waiter. “I’ll have one, too.”
One of my Millennials looks up from the menu as I squirm out of my coat, a jacket, and two scarves. He is gazing at me with furrowed brow. “You don’t drink Bloody Mary’s,” he says matter-of-factly. “Do you even know what’s in a Bloody Mary?”
He asks with a mix of earnest surprise and a dollop of disdain. Surely I was less incredulous around my own parents at his age!
I glare at him, frankly astonished. “Are you kidding me? Of course I know what’s in a Bloody Mary,” I say. Then I add, “You know, I had a life before I was married and gave birth to you and your brother.”
Disapproval and assumptions from our (finally!) adult children. No doubt it is a rite of passage. Still, it is galling that they assume we know so little, have done so little, have lived so little — as if imagining their parents young (as they are) is impossible.
But perhaps I assume too much in an observation like that; I rarely see my son except at the holidays, and he hasn’t lived with me now in, let’s see… nine years. My other son, meanwhile, is quiet during this exchange with his brother. He sees me more often. He has lived with me more recently. He is less demonstrative in his commentary. Nevertheless, he seems amused.
Truth be told, a Bloody Mary jolts me back to very fond memories of brunch in Manhattan with friends during a period of time when I used to work there. And as I had just reminded my kids, I was single into my thirties and I socialized like any other single person!
Now, both my sons know that spicy foods don’t typically sit well with me, so I am cutting figlio mio some slack on that score. And, admittedly, a Bloody Mary contains Tabasco. Make that Tabasco and Worcestershire. Make that Tabasco, Worcestershire, and pepper. Um… lots of pepper at some establishments.
And I was about to learn how much.
The Bloody Mary’s arrive. Admittedly, it has been some time since I enjoyed this particular drink, and my usual is more likely to be a single glass of red, the occasional dirty martini, and a glass of champagne for a special celebration.
To my surprise, when the cocktail appears, it is embellished by more than the traditional stalk or lemon wedge; it is a very TALL glass with a long skewer balanced on top and a number of items dangling over the drink itself. WTF? Is this a cocktail or the circus?
More precisely — we are in the thrall of all manner of (tasty, savory) pickles, onions, and olives along with the traditional celery stalk. Around the rim is an interesting and vibrant (red) mix of what I assume to be a bit of seasoning and salt — expecting lemon or lime around the rim with a touch of maybe, oh… I don’t know… paprika.
So I put the glass to my lips and take a big swallow. Oh Momma!!! Can you spell BLOODY HELL?!? Forget the lemon, lime, and paprika! Best I can tell, I just had a close encounter with a pugilistic punch of cayenne pepper and all of its ferocious friends.
I reach for my water and take a few swallows after that little faux step, managing not to show my OHMYGODTHATSHOT face, and instead, careful to smile sweetly at my son (in case he is watching for a reaction).
As we are waiting for our eggs to arrive and I continue to sip (through a straw), I also discover that there is enough Tabasco in this cocktail to heat my gullet for the next hour. Even my younger son is eyeing me cautiously as he takes baby sips of his drink and raises his eyebrows.
I continue to sip (stubbornly), alternating the red stuff with my handy glass of ice water. Brunch arrives, it is delicious, and we go on with our chatting and catching up. But holy hell, this is the spiciest Bloody Mary I have ever had. As entertained as I am by the overwrought garnish, I can barely taste the tomato juice this thing is so fiery! Seriously? They could’ve doubled the vodka and held the cayenne!
Well, I didn’t finish the drink, but I valiantly managed to get through half, which is just about as much as my younger son powered through, later letting me know that he too thought it was an uber-spicy cocktail concoction.
For dessert after our eggs?
Who had room for dessert? (Besides, my lips were burning. A thick layer of handy-dandy lip gloss — merci, Dior — and the cold air outside helped a little.) We did, however, take a stroll through one of the coolest foodie havens around, and a place I am rarely able to visit. Dean & Deluca’s!
Everything was gorgeous. The colors of the sweets alone were enough to make my little heart sing!
In the meantime, Tabasco and cayenne pepper aside, I was reminded how much I enjoy a weekend brunch, the company of my kiddos (all commentary aside), and a Bloody Mary. On the other hand, the next time I indulge while out, I am going to politely inquire as to the associated heat index. And I just might go for a Mimosa instead.
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