Here we stand atop our town-square wooden stool, powdered wig askew, parchment proclamation unfurled: "The best Bloody Mary in the city is hereby recognized to be served in Lemay, on South Broadway at Loughborough, at a joint called Bob and Patti's No Wake Zone!"
Lo, no small feat. Oceans of sweat and tears have been expended in the search for this holy grail, and every self-respecting mixer develops his or her own magical drop of signature something that sets their Mary apart from those of their colleagues, be it ground shrimp or garlic or pickled onions or spicy peppers or sea salt or whipped cream (just kidding) or lemon or oyster juice.
And they can't all be right, can they?
No, they can't. Only one can be exactly right.
The No Wake Zone is an odd moniker. (Are they all asleep? Are the waters still? No funerals allowed?) Within, a standard South City establishment: A-B rules the taps (and the coolers and the walls and the ceiling). A few nights before St. Pat's, Budweiser shamrocks line the bar; if you've got $2 and feel like gussying yourself up, buy some shamrock suspenders, a sure hit with the ladies. Perfection is born in the most unassuming places.
Order a Bloody Mary, and Patti, a sparkle of a woman, will pull out a little basket, her works: three squeeze bottles, containing horseradish and Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces; celery salt; olives; pickled asparagus; dill-pickle spears; a five-and-a-half-ounce can of Campbell's tomato juice. And the secret weapon: Twang -- a chili salt consisting of natural lemon and lime essences mixed with three types of chili powder.
Patti coats the rim of the glass with Twang, then mixes, drops in the pickled things, stirs and presents the chalice with the confidence of someone who just knows.
"What I do is" she adds majestically, "I take my pickle and I rub it in the Twang and eat it like that. Then it becomes lunch." Price: four bucks.
Fans of all things pickled will feel like Homer Simpson in the Land of Doughnuts, plucking and frolicking and munching and leaping and gobbling, giddy at the joy of sampling asparagus, then crunching on a dill pickle, then -- sure, why not? -- skewering a green olive with the red cocktail straw before following it all up with a slurp. (Those unfortunate souls who dislike asparagus can instead opt for a pickled green bean.) Lick the rim; feel the power of lemon-lime chili salt. Feel alive. Feel victorious.