Red Eyes and Cold Beer: A Primer for Drinking Beer & Tomato Juice
Happy DC Beer Week! I’ll leave beer to the experts, but it’s worth mentioning that beer is used in more than a few cocktails. Below is my favorite "beer-tail" for a Sunday morning (or Monday morning if you choose).
It was about two or three years ago that I decided it was time to switch from the Bloody Mary to the Red Eye, a healthful combination of tomato juice and beer (at least a doctor friend assures me that this is true). I'd started to detest the Bloody Mary, over-spiced with little spent carcasses of horseradish and long stalks of celery that generally get used for table décor rather than the stirrer they imply, and I figured beer and tomato juice would be a good sub for a Sunday morning recovery. Also, if the Red Eye is composed of Blood Mary mix, the beer acts as a kind of buffer for the spice by adding malt character and in some cases sweetness, and the bartender wouldn’t dare put celery in beer, would they?
Bourbon in Adams Morgan was the testing ground. So I ordered away. The only confusing part was when I asked for the Red Eye by name, which most people relate to the coffee drink. Had I just asked for beer and tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix over ice it wouldn't have been met with an initial pause (or maybe so, how many people order beer and tomato juice?). It was delicious—devoid of greenery and sufficiently balanced to my palate.
In the past year or so, I’ve found another beer and tomato juice combo making the District-rounds, via south of the border, the Michelada. This one is equally delicious. The Michelada, which is purported to mean "my cold beer," may be different in each respective Latin American country but generally involves tomato juice, lime, hot sauce, Worcestershire and Maggi (soy sauce).
For the Michelada, soy sauce is key. It adds “umami," a savory characteristic. It has a little more depth than your standard Red Eye, although it depends on what formula you choose. At a certain point the Michelada and Red Eye start to resemble each other, especially if you’re using Bloody Mary mix in your Red Eye (Worcestershire also adds umami). Perhaps the main difference then is that the Michelada has a salt rim.
There’s no reason to waste expensive beer on the Michelada or Red Eye, although it should be a beer you can drink on its own. I’ve had good Micheladas at both Bar Pilar and Agraia. Both use Tecate. I have to admit that usually use light beer in my Red Eyes but also Brooklyn Lager works for a heartier mix.
Perhaps some of you are ready to make the switch too?