VAIL, Colorado - The expression comes from an ancient Scottish belief that if you were bitten by a dog, placing a piece of its fur in the wound prevented further suffering. As hard as it is to imagine that scenario ever going well, the sophistry of "the cure for what ails you in the form of what ails you" lived on. And today, employing about as much scientific know-how as those ancient Scots, we use "hair of the dog" to describe the morning drink we hope will ease our hangover. Usually, a Bloody Mary.Why? Maybe virtuous tomato juice and crisp vegetables seem like just the right ticket in our time of need. Or maybe, the not-for-kids savory/mellow/salty/spicy flavors of a good Bloody Mary are just so delicious, we don't care if it fixes anything. We just want one.In any case, what may have started as a folk remedy for overindulgence has become, in the last few decades, the daytime cocktail of choice, for white-tablecloth breakfasts, casual aprs-skis, and everything in between. Bloody Mary evolution The origins of the Bloody Mary are as opaque as the ruby drink itself. More than one early 20th century bartender claimed its invention, and the name has been attributed to everything from the brutality of Queen Mary I to a waitress at Chicago's Bucket of Blood bar. One thing that is certain is that the original - vodka, - tomato juice recipe has evolved considerably over the last century. Across the Vail Valley, Bloody Marys - artful concoctions of complex, spicy flavors, signature garnishes, and proprietary infused vodka - grace the tables of tourists and locals alike, celebrating everything from a hard day of skiing, a well-earned vacation, and yes, even too much of partying the night before. Breakfast and beyondThe Bloody Mary at West Vail's West Side Caf has its storied roots in an eclectic group of ski buddies from all over the U.S. who, long ago, made annual trips to Vail and had an endearing way of demanding preferred status. Their restaurant of choice happened to be one where West Side Cafe owner Mike Dennis and his two partners then worked; they affectionately dubbed the group "The Golden Boys." One year, the Hawaiian Golden Boy sent Dennis a box of pineapple and mangoes, requesting that he use them to make something special for their upcoming trip. Dennis took the challenge and infused vodka with the fruit for exclusive "Golden Boy" martinis. This endeavor was so successful it led to further vodka infusing experimentation, and ultimately, the house-made pepper/onion/celery infused vodka that, along with their house-made tomato mix, is now the base of West Side Caf's signature Bloody Mary. "Our Bloody Mary is served in a 20-ounce goblet, with an 8 ounce sidecar of beer, and is garnished with a 6-inch skewer of all kinds of pickled vegetables," Dennis said. "It's popular at breakfast, all day long, and into the night. We also have some fun variations: the Spicy Mary (habanero and jalapeno peppers), and the Bacon Bloody Mary, made with bacon-infused vodka and garnished with a crisp strip of candied bacon." Lunch, apres and afterVail's Larkspur restaurant is located at the base of Golden Peak, which makes it as convenient as it is a delightful destination for any thirsty skier's lunch or aprs. And nothing punctuates a great day of skiing with better than Larkspur's exceptionally balanced, full-flavored Bloody Mary, as invigorating as it is satisfying. Each component is made in-house, beginning with vodka infused with fresh, rough-chopped vegetables, and including a fresh, house-made made tomato juice base. Served in a 13 oz. Tom Collins glass rimmed with Old Bay seasoning, the Larkspur Bloody Mary is garnished with a lime wedge and a skewer of olive, pepperoncini, and the tour de force: a chunk of the mysteriously tantalizing "Stevenson pickle," so named for its inventor, Josh Stevenson, one of Larkspur's original employees. "Stevenson pickles are marinated with a blend of (secret ingredients, including) sambal. They have a nice kick to them that adds the perfect complement to our Bloody Mary," said Christopher Eckert, Larkspur's bar director. (He's right. They do. Please sir, may I have another?)And because the sweet, mellow nature of tomato is the perfect foil for hot, spicy, tangy flavors, Larkspur's executive chef Richard Hinojosa is currently developing a lunch appetizer featuring a variety of crisp-fried pickled vegetables, with a hearty Bloody Mary dip. Give it a shotVail's La Tour has recently introduced an aprs menu (1:30-5 p.m. daily), where chef/owner Paul Ferzacca offers two versions of the drink. The elegant Bloody Mary cocktail (garnished with pickled okra, olives, and fresh lime) is made with Svedka vodka and a housemade organic Bloody Mary mix."Organic tomato juice has a lot of variation in body and flavor, so we are constantly adjusting the seasonings of our mix to get the right balance," said Paul DiMario, La Tour's sommelier and beverage director.Ferzacca has also incorporated the drink into an aprs offering that's part beverage, part appetizer: the Maine Lobster Bloody Mary Shot. A tender, morsel of cold poached Main lobster, served in a shot glass filled with their signature Bloody Mary, and garnished with a strip of house-pickled fennel root-it's the perfect mouthful. Whether recuperating, relaxing, or reveling, there's no drink more complex, nourishing, or satisfying than a great Bloody Mary-the cure for what ails you, even when nothing is ailing you at all. Madeleine Berenson is a freelance writer contracted by Larkspur Restaurant. Larkspur, located at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Visit www.larkspurvail.com.
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