Coming of age with 21 drinks: A bewildering Bloody Mary bar at The Hornet

So, this is adulthood. Grown men and women jostling for the last drops of spicy Bloody Mary mix. Zombie-eyed hangover victims marching grimly back and forth to fill their glasses. Is this what I have to look forward for the next fifty years, until I'm forced to take my booze intravenously?

If you're reading this, I'm sure you enjoy a drink or two now and then. And when you go overboard, there's nothing better than hair of the dog and a nice brunch the next day -- and The Hornet on South Broadway offers both. But who decided to stick vodka in tomato juice, anyway?

See also: - Coming of Age with 21 Drinks: Beer and booze, two great tastes at Euclid Hall - Ten tequila drinks that aren't margaritas -- and where to find them in Denver -Ten best pre/post-show eats on South Broadway

H.L. Mencken, that wonderful journalist and drink aficionado, once allegedly hired a mathematician to calculate the number of cocktails that could be made with bar ingredients -- and came up with 17,864,392,788 drinks. It was inevitable that one of those combinations would turn out to be a mix of vodka, tomato juice, Worcester sauce, lemon juice, and Tabasco, even if a Frenchman named Ferdinand Petiot claimed to have added these fantastical ingredients to what was previously dull vodka and tomato.

Later, Petiot attempted to rename the drink the "Red Snapper." But the drinking public had already taken to the suitably garish name for this lurid cocktail, and its association with the execution-happy Mary I of England, and the witch of urban legend who likes to terrorize the little girls who chant her name in the mirror. (No word on her opinion on the issue of horseradish.)

The Bloody Mary is at the same time the drink of the common man -- think grizzled Mother Jefferson downing them on The Jeffersons -- and a tonic for the vices of the rich and torpid. Think Ritchie Tenenbaum habitually peppering his drink.

Whatever tax bracket you fall into, sipping a Bloody Mary seems to connote a certain WASP-y grandeur, all while enough vegetables to staff a farmer's market poke out from under your nose. Even as a guy with a lifelong aversion to tomato juice, I was intrigued by the idea that it's socially acceptable to drink in the morning, just as long as it's a mimosa or a Mary.

For the dangerously reasonable price of $2, The Hornet will hand you a glass of vodka and let you loose on the bar. I was impressed with the cleanliness and assortment of ingredients offered -- hot sauce, celery, pickles, pepperoncini, olives, cocktail onions -- anchored by two shiny tanks of Bloody Mary mix in regular and spicy versions. One of our more enterprising tablemates even dropped a strip of bacon in her glass, making a meal out of her drink.

But by the afternoon, the spicy mix had run out, and people were getting anxious. The servers were clearly miffed at the neo-yuppies clogging the floor. Who knew brunch had become so fraught with tension? And the taste of the Bloody didn't agree with me, either. If I must take my vegetables in drink, I would prefer to tip a hat to Monsieur Petiot and make a Red Snapper, now simply a Bloody Mary with gin subbed for vodka. The deep vegetable flavors are enhanced by the gin's botanicals. rather than being smothered by vodka. Try my mostly traditional recipe and then make your own crazy concoction.

Keep reading for that recipe.

Chris' Citrus Snapper Ingredients: 2 oz. Hendricks gin or other top-shelf gin (Use Tanqueray Rangpur if you really want to go wild.) .5 oz. lime juice 4 or more oz. of tomato juice 3 springs mint Green Tabasco sauce to taste Salt and pepper to taste

Wake up at 10 a.m. Stare at ingredients in despair. Throw them together until it resembles something like a drink -- but don't forget to muddle the mint.

With every installment of Coming of Age with 21 Drinks, I'll be featuring a cocktail recipe cooked up by me or the bar itself. Have a suggestion for a place I should visit? Post it below.

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Chris Utterback
Contact: Chris Utterback