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Published October 22, 2012, 11:40 PM

Hail Marys: Local bartenders mix twists on the classic for national contest

MOORHEAD – Elijah Larson doesn’t do boring, and that translates into the cocktails he creates. The tattoo-covered local bartender formulated a kicked-up version of the classic Bloody Mary for O’Leary’s. His Mango Bloody Mary mixes sweet and heat.

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

MOORHEAD – Elijah Larson doesn’t do boring, and that translates into the cocktails he creates.

The tattoo-covered local bartender formulated a kicked-up version of the classic Bloody Mary for O’Leary’s. His Mango Bloody Mary mixes sweet and heat.

“This one is really different,” said Sammi Leno, Larson’s girlfriend who disliked Bloody Marys until she tried his spicy concoction. “Usually, bloodys just hit the vegetable flavors, but this is unique because of the spice and how everything is put together.”

Larson, who has bartended for about 10 years, was ranked first in Minnesota for Absolut Vodka’s “America’s Best Bloodys” contest when voting closed Sunday. He was ranked ninth in the nation until early last week.

“The Bloody Mary is the most versatile and complex drink out there,” he said. “You can play with flavors once you have the standard recipe down.”

His mango vodka-infused drink starts with equal parts tomato and pineapple juice, rather than just tomato juice.

“Pineapple kicks it up and cuts the heat,” he said.

Sriracha Chili Sauce, known for its garlic-chili heat that typically accompanies Asian food, horseradish sauce, pepper and a splash of jalapeno juice pack a punch in the mango bloody.

“I love Sriracha. It has a fuller taste, like it’s from the earth,” he said.

Traditional Bloody Mary elements of vodka and Worcestershire sauce combine with the mango vodka to finish the drink. After a thorough mixing – a must, said Larson – the bloody pours into a glass rimmed with Baby Lucas Sweet and Sour Mango Powder (a Mexican powder candy) and two blends of chili powder. Pineapple and onion sautéed in garlic and chili garnish the glass.

“The heat isn’t too potent,” Leno said. “You ease into it.”

Across the river in Fargo, the Three Lyons Dirty Mary is also packing heat and was in first place in North Dakota when contest voting concluded.

Developed by Three Lyons Pub general manager and cook Kent Larsen, the Dirty Mary’s source of heat is the same as the Mango Bloody Mary’s: Sriracha.

Sriracha pairs well with traditional Bloody Mary ingredients because it’s not too acidic, and balances spicy with sweet, Larsen said.

Sriracha is where the similarities end between the drinks.

The Three Lyons’ Bloody Mary doesn’t stray too much from the classic, and Larsen meant for it to be that way.

“It’s about respecting the original drink, and that’s one of the challenges of coming up with a new twist,” he said. “But, there’s some room to mess around.”

The Three Lyons Dirty Mary pays homage to two classic cocktails: the dirty martini and the Bloody Mary.

Pickle, olive and crushed chili pepper-infused vodka, which is made in house, and a not-from-concentrate tomato juice form the core of the salty sip. Worcestershire sauce, fresh black pepper and a few pinches of celery salt complete the drink. Then, it’s onto the garnish, because “there are a million and one ingredients you can put in it, but the pickled garnishes are really what it’s all about for people,” Larsen said.

Larsen chose traditional garnishes of pickle, green olives and a slice of lime because he doesn’t believe in putting anything on the drink that isn’t in the drink. Lime is served to balance the flavors, he said.

Both bartenders said the Bloody Marys are on the menu at their establishments, and they intend to keep serving them.

As of press time, the official contest results had not been released.

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