Monday, 25 February 2019

In search of the Bloody Fairy

Virginia Davis, manager, Pirate’s Alley Café/Absinthe House, New Orleans

The ”Bloody Fairy?” Gimmick or classic? Let’s explore this..

By “Bloody Fairy,” of course, I mean an absinthe equivalent of the “Bloody Mary.” Sounds simple, or so I thought.

But it turns out that there are different directions this could go: it could be a standard spicy Bloody Mary with a few dashes of absinthe as seen here:

Or it could be a completely different (and not spicy) drink using absinthe, cranberry juice and tonic water as seen here:

Or it could be a drink in which absinthe completely replaces vodka as mentioned here:

I believe the last option included here fits far better with the "Bloody" proposition and is clearly more "Fairy" related.

I used this starting point on my 2018 visit to New Orleans and later at home. I now believe I am close to the perfect Bloody Fairy, loved by bars, using tweaks from famous cocktail experts, and indulging my own preferences too. It’s been a tough journey but someone had to do it!

Firstly I see little need to tamper with the "Bloody" element, For bars serving very spicy or alternatively more mellow Bloody Marys, you know what works for your customers, so don’t tamper with that element. That’s what your customers want, whether it be a brunch cocktail, aperitif or even digestif (a good Bloody Mary can indeed be all of these). So I will not detail or define here the spicy tomato element of this cocktail: what works for your customers in your bar or for you at home in a Bloody Mary will work for you in a Bloody Fairy.

Moving onto the absinthe element, it is clear that absinthe can be a polarising taste. While vodka can be somewhat blander. I believe less bitter absinthes work much better in this cocktail, complementing the tomato juice and the spicy elements, rather than fighting with them. For me, and the New Orleans bartenders we tried this with, Butterfly Classic Absinthe worked really well, with respectable strength (65%), little bitterness, and a flavour profile that complements tomato and spices. Butterfly has a traditional recipe base of herbs and spices which complement the spices used in Bloody Mary; it also has hints of citrus and mint that sit well alongside tomato juice.

Butterfly's US heritage makes it a perfect ingredient in this Bloody Mary twist, given that the Bloody Mary may have been born at the New York Bar in Paris in 1921 or in New York itself in the 1930's, and it is certainly a cocktail which is most popular in the USA.

So this was the start of the drink: a traditional tomato/spice mix and Butterfly Absinthe. A prototype Bloody Fairy that I drank in bars in New Orleans in September 2018. Firstly in The Old Absinthe House with Jackie and her team:

(yes, I know the Bloody Fairy glass is empty: a clear indication that this was the most popular of the three cocktails we shared)

at other bars around New Orleans:

and at Tony Seville's Pirate's Alley Café and Absinthe House (see photo with Virginia Davis at the top). We all loved it.

However I recognise that the slight element of bitterness in any good absinthe may not work for everyone, and after consideration I realised that an extra ingredient I had enjoyed in Bloody Marys a few years ago would really be the icing on the cake,


I researched further and I found that some of the world’s most celebrated cocktail experts have used sherry to complete their Bloody Marys. If this idea is good enough for Erik Lorincz (formerly of The Savoy)

and for Simon Ford of Ford's Gin

there must be a reason.

Manzanilla or Fino didn’t seem quite right, so I was interested to consider a cream sherry. I was not alone, judging by this article from a British newspaper:

So there we have it. The perfect Bloody Fairy recipe:-

1. Tomato juice and all the usual spices and garnishes: exactly how you would combine them in your Bloody Mary.

2. Spirit: replace the vodka with Butterfly Absinthe, an American-style absinthe. Noting that this comes in at 65% alcohol, then you could perhaps reduce the amount of absinthe to around two-thirds of the amount of vodka you would use in a Bloody Mary.

3. The icing on the cake: float Cream Sherry on top.

We hope you love this Bloody Fairy as much as we do! It is much much more than a gimmick and deserves to become a new classic cocktail. And, as it's Oscar season, I'd like to thank Bernie for all her help in New Orleans and for sharing a few Bloody Fairies! Cheers!

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