When I saw that this month's Random Recipe challenge at Belleau Kitchen was cocktails, I more or less decided not to join in. After all, we only possess one cocktail book and it's vaguely pornographic. And when we bought it, we didn't exactly have cocktail making in mind. Apart from that, we're not great cocktail fans and never touch a drink that is luridly coloured, served with a parasol or has half of Waitrose's fruit counter draped around the rim of the glass.
However the other day, not even thinking about the challenge, I idly picked up this book at random from a shelf for something to flick through while on hold.
And the page it fell open at was this: Virgin Maria Cocktail.
It just happened that I had all the ingredients to hand, apart from the olive juice, because I don't like dirty things (which you may not believe after reading the first paragraph). Actually, because we only ever buy Kalamata olives in oil, not brine. So I decided to omit the olive juice rather than having a layer of olive oil floating on the surface of my drink. And I used the brands of sauce that were in my cupboard, not those specified in the recipe book.
The other ingredients were tonic water. fresh lime juice, tomato juice, barbecue sauce, hot pepper sauce, black pepper and ice. Garnish was supposed to be a pimiento stuffed olive, for which I substituted a Kalamata one, sliced cucumber and a pickled bean. I don't possess a pickled bean, indeed I wouldn't recognise one if I met it in the street, unless they mean a green bit out of a jar of piccalilli, rinsed under the tap. But I wasn't going to waste good piccalilli on a drink that was starting to look so unpromising.
First into the shaker were the tonic water and lime juice. So far so good. Then the tomato juice and hot pepper sauce. Yep, they work well together too. It's when they all get together that it starts to get worrying - tonic water with tomato juice just sounds (and looks and smells) plain weird. And then in with a gloop of barbecue sauce. The stuff that's meant for spreading on sausages. Some pepper, and then shaking time. I'd never used a cocktail shaker before and maybe tomato juice wasn't a good thing to use for a first attempt, but it's OK, I've washed the walls and my arms now.
I have to say it looked pretty darned good.
However it didn't taste good. Not at all good. In fact after a few sips I poured it down the drain. There is no way the quinine tang of tonic water should ever be placed within a mile of the metallic sweet-sharp flavour of tomato juice. And what's the point of shaking up something bubbly with twice its volume of non-bubbly stuff, it just flattens it! As for the barbecue sauce, please, folks, keep it for your bangers. I hadn't really expected to enjoy the drink, but I'd expected the unpleasantness to come from the addition of barbecue sauce, not from the cacophonous jarring of the tomato-and-tonic.
The olive was good though.
From now on I'm going back to drinking tomato juice my favourite way, with just a splash of Lea & Perrins and a swizzle stick made of celery. And the tonic water? I'll have it with gin please.