The first day of the New Year. Another rolling over of the clock, another chance to tut-tut about how each one rolls by a little faster than it used to.
And we seek to wrest control of that ticking clock by making resolutions about the year ahead. This year I will be in control of my weight/smoking/drinking/budget/relationships/swearing.
I’ve pretty much had them all, and every year I plan to travel more and vacuum less. One year I resolved to spend the year talking more like the Fonz and did indeed tell a few people to “Cool it” and once said “Exactamundo” so I guess you would call it a moderate success. (It wouldn’t qualify for a gold medal, but perhaps a bronze – like this Bronze Fonz statue I bet you didn’t know existed in Milwaukee).
But this year my resolutions are all about the writing – more and better.
I’ve often entertained romantic notions of how much writing I would get done if we could just pack up as a family and move somewhere isolated for a couple of months.
Like being winter caretakers in a big hotel. Somewhere the children could joyfully ride their tricycles down long, empty corridors and pass the time having unsupervised carefree adventures. If you haven’t seen The Shining, it’s a great advertisement for any career other than being a writer and offers solid rationale for parents of identical twins not to dress them in the same outfits.
Unfortunately, neither hotel used in the film has such an employment opportunity. Both The Stanley Hotel in Colorado which was Stephen King’s inspiration for the book, and Timberline Lodge in Oregon which gave the external shots for the 1980 film are open for guests over winter. You can go to both and even work on your hangover next New Year’s Eve at a fancy party.
But in Kubrick’s film, we see Jack Torrance as he descends into madness, bellying on up to The Gold Room at The Overlook and asking creepy Lloyd for another New Year’s tradition – a hair of the dog that bit him. Jack’s is bourbon on the rocks. That’s hard-core.
There is some bio-chemical logic behind the hair of the dog, about moderately replenishing ethanol levels while you suffer alcohol withdrawals, but its origins are super-dodgy. The idea was that if you put some dog hair in the open wound you received from the bite of the same rabid dog, you wouldn’t get rabies. I think medical science has moved on somewhat – if you do suspect you’ve been bitten by a rabid dog, here’s NHS Rabies advice on what to do. It isn’t booze or quick trip to the dog-grooming salon.
I’m similarly sceptical about the notion of drinking when you have a hangover. You never forget being so sick you have to throw up in your handbag on the Tube. And after that, heading for the nearest pub isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’ve finally surfaced to suck down some fresh London air.
Or so I’m told.
But I do love the occasional matutinal drink. Lest you think I am a massive wanker, “matutinal” is a new word for me – one I picked up in researching this blog post. It means “of or occurring in the morning” – isn’t it nice? A matutinal champagne or scotch on Christmas Day really adds to the festivities.
And then there is the queen of all matutinal drinks – the Bloody Mary.
The Bloody Mary was scientifically short-listed as a Xmas One-for-the-Road-Test due to its prime position in the Venn Diagram at Shake, Stir, Muddle HQ and because of all the interesting stuff there is to know about it.
Like all good cocktails, its origins are contested. If you want to read a full history, you can do that here, but in brief, it looks like bartender Fernand “Pete” Petiot likely invented it at King Cole Bar at St Regis Hotel in New York – “invented” in this instance meaning enhancing the existing vodka and tomato juice combination that had been regularly served at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, where Pete worked before moving to St Regis.
It had to have a different name at St Regis because Bloody Mary offended the sensibilities of the NY establishment. And probably not without cause.
Bloody Mary was named after Queen Mary I, who, among other things put a lot of non-Catholics to death before her sister Queen Elizabeth I took the throne and re-balanced the population by putting a lot of Catholics to death.
If you fancy some good amateur occult stuff, you can try chanting Bloody Mary three times into a mirror and she will appear before you. It didn’t work for me, possibly because I didn’t have the lighting right. Certainly when I opened my eyes, there was a woman in the mirror and she did look a bit rough, but that’s nothing a bit of lipstick won’t fix.
Apparently if you see Bloody Mary, you should taunt her about her childlessness – this in reference to Queen Mary’s multiple miscarriages and false pregnancies. Seems to me like doing that makes you a massive jerk though.
Or you can engage in the Bloody Mary ritual that encourages young women to walk up a flight of stairs backwards, holding a candle and a hand mirror. Possibly a recipe for a sprained ankle and one burnt-down stately manor, but if you can negotiate the hazards of a maxi dress, you’ll see in the mirror either the face of your future husband, or a skull, which will indicate that you will die before you marry.
Another source tells me that the avenging spirit in the Bloody Mary myth is sometimes called “Mary-Jane”. This, I think, explains a lot.
At this point in the blog post I generally like to reference a mediocre Michelle Pfeiffer movie but sadly, I’ve come up short this time. I’m sure she has thrown a Bloody Mary back somewhere in her celluloid history, but I haven’t found it.
Rather than harassing long-dead childless monarchs or wasting time on Michelle Pfeiffer back-catalogue though, I decided to make lemons into one tablespoon of lemon juice and add it to a cocktail.
Bloody Mary’s cousin, Red Snapper. A gin-based variant which pre-dates old Mary and which has become my new preferred tomato-based cocktail.
- 4 parts tomato juice
- 2 parts Gin (I used Tanqueray)
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp horseradish
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3 dashes ground black pepper
- 4 dashes Tabasco
- 1 celery stalk for garnish
It couldn’t be easier to make – fill a tall glass with LARGE ice cubes (small ones melt too fast and dilutes the tomato juice, changing the taste), pour in ingredients, stir, drink.
Repeat as necessary.
The Red Snapper does lose a bit of the brilliant red of the Bloody Mary and the horseradish does look unsettlingly like fly larvae in your glass but you don’t see that from above. And it’s so worth it. This baby tastes
nourishing, especially if you crank up your garnishing levels like they do at Frank & Albert’s at the Arizona Biltmore and add pickles, salami, mozzarella cubes and olives. Have two and you can call it brunch.
And before you go, there is a happy ending with this post.
The Red Snapper is also referred to as “The Snapper”.
This is also the title of a 1993 movie where unmarried 20 year old Sharon Curley upsets the balance in her small Irish village by becoming pregnant to an undisclosed source. During the pregnancy, Sharon sports a perm just like the one I had in the late 1980s (hers was longer than the jaunty crop in this photo, but for obvious reasons, little evidence survives of my long perm, large shoulder pads era – and in my defence, it was well gone by 1993) and throws up into her handbag, just like someone I know has done.
Stephen Frears directed.
He also directed The Queen, High Fidelity and Dangerous Liaisons.
Which starred none other than Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame Marie du Tourvel.
Cheers and Happy New Year beautiful people.