Gut Check is proud to introduce the Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
A drunkard needs a bloody mary in the morning (or whenever the drunkard decides to rise). Not everyone may realize this, but typical bloody-mary mix contains anchovies -- specifically, it contains Worcestershire sauce which is made from anchovies. What's an ethical sot to do? One can look the other way, with a kind of culinary "don't ask don't tell" policy. The Drunken Vegan has done this and been criticized for it: "You won't eat cheese or eggs but you drink bloody marys? You're a hypocrite." Well, as Walt Whitman said, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
There are, luckily, a number of work-arounds for this thorny issue both at home and at the bar.
Firstly, there is such a thing as vegan Worcestershire sauce (find it at Whole Foods or Local Harvest). David Bailey, proprietor of Small Batch (3001 Locust Street; 314-380-2040), says his mix uses a vegan Worcestershire sauce. Tree House (3177 South Grand Boulevard; 314-696-2100) uses soy sauce instead and also serves a lovely green variation called a "Santa Maria," which mixes tequila with tomatillo, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro and lime. The Drunken Vegan also sampled its new kimchi bloody mary, which uses soju as a base with kimchi brine and simple syrup. It was sweet and sour with a nicely funky note from the kimchi. It may be a hair too sweet for the bloody-mary traditionalist, however. There are endless variations on the classic bloody mary, and they all get the job done.
If you are not in one of Saint Louis' fine vegetarian restaurants, beware Zing Zang mix, which seems to be the most widely used kind. It is not vegetarian. If you see that green label, you're out of luck. You can always ask if they have tomato juice: Mixed with a pepper-infused vodka, it will do in a pinch. And most bars have Sriracha or Tabasco sauce.
If the Drunken Vegan can't drag himself out of the house, there are creative ways to do a vegan bloody mary at home as well. The fact is that the International Bartenders Association specifies only three required ingredients for a bloody mary: vodka, tomato juice and lemon juice. Worcestershire gives the cocktail salt and a nice umami tone. Besides anchovy, tamarind is a main component of most Worcestershire, and one could easily combine tamarind paste with a bit of soy sauce as a base. Also check out the vegetarian "fish" sauces at Asian markets -- these are soy-based. It's also easy to make a rough substitute for fish sauce at home using just good quality soy sauce mixed with a bit of sugar and fresh lime juice. A dash of concentrated mushroom stock would hit that umami note quite handily. Basically, there are lots of options for replacing Worcestershire, which is merely one flavor note in this rich and complex cocktail.
Here's the home recipe that the Drunken Vegan used and drank for breakfast this morning (after downing an Underberg):
This bloody mary was served with a beer float (use whatever you have on hand) and garnished with a celery stalk, olive, cocktail onion, pickled Brussels sprout and a dill pickle spear (yes it is possible to assemble a nourishing and interesting spear of garnishes without quail eggs, Volpi salami, Slim Jims or bacon).
Now drink up; it's time to get started on the next hangover.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips. E-mail us!