Once upon a time, a poor man needed a drink. His stocks were down, his job was disappointing, and his girlfriend Mary listened to Nickelback. It was 10am—so bars, and pants, were out of the question. He cracked open his emergency vodka, then scoured his fridge for some mixers. Realizing he spent all his grocery money on the vodka—priorities, people—he took out the one lone bottle he did have: ketchup. Desperate and sober, he squirted the ketchup in the vodka. It tasted like expired soup, but anything is better than Nickelback, right? He chugged his concoction every morning until he got so permanently drunk that he faked a British accent for the rest of his sad life. Bloody stocks. Bloody job. Bloody Mary.
This is how the Bloody Mary was born.
Okay, so this is not at all how the Bloody Mary was born, but I really can’t think of any other reason that someone would willingly mix vodka and tomato juice except when faced with the deadly combination of desperation and Nickelback. A vodka ketchup by any other name is just as gross, so why is it on every single brunch menu in America?
I met up with one of my closest friends over brunch last weekend. She was gabbing all about her new boyfriend when I interrupted her to introduce her to my new boyfriend—and by boyfriend I mean this place’s menu because I have never felt a more true, intimate connection than with this list of egg sandwiches. My god, it was beautiful. The budding romance was abruptly cut short when the waitress showed up for our drink orders. My friend ordered a Bloody Mary, and out of sudden heartbreak and sheer panic, so did I.
The waitress apparently dropped our glasses in dirt before pouring our drinks, or at least that’s what the salt and pepper on the rim looked like. There was a lemon for garnish, and I don’t know if you guys also had little cousins that pulled pranks at family barbecues like pouring lemonade in the ketchup bottle, but trust me- this was not a combination I ever wanted to revisit. I reluctantly took a sip, and for a split-second, I appreciated it. It’s an odd, savory drink that’s supposed to taste somewhat like soup to make you feel Mmm Mmm Good after a night of Mmm Mmm Bad decisions. Right as the hunger and vodka started to work their evil Snape magic on my brain, our food arrived.
One bite into my croque-monsieur, and I gained clarity. The grilled ham, the Swiss cheese, the poached egg: I saw the light. I found salvation. I was immersed in the holy trinity of brunch. However, my heavenly breakfast turned my drink into hell. The sandwich’s deep, smoky, satisfying flavors turned the heartiness of the drink into a savory overload. I felt heavy, slow, and in need of something light to balance me out. I ordered a Bud Light, mainly to keep my wallet happy—we’d been fighting ever since I ordered a French delicacy for breakfast and a nauseatingly expensive cocktail that I barely touched. As soon as the golden nectar slid down my throat, I felt complete. The light crispness perfectly complemented the warm depth of the croque-monsieur. The sandwich saved my soul, but the beer brought me back down to earth.
The poorest decisions I have ever made have been direct results of either impressing my friends, recent heartbreak, or extreme hunger. Ordering a vodka ketchup at brunch last weekend involved all three. If I’ve learned one lesson in this life, it’s to not order the drink that’ll get more likes on Instagram—or to treat people with respect, whatever. But really, beer may not be as hot or trendy as a Bloody Mary, but beer will always be there for you, even after the looks start to fade—and isn’t that the one you’d rather wake up next to?