Dad’s Bloody Mary

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Harvey Daddy! That’s what I called the beverage being passed around a sailboat on Lake George one summer when I was too young to know the difference between a drink and a Drink. It was really a Harvey Wallbanger- apparently quite the rage in the ’70s- but all I heard was Harvey. My Dad’s name.

My father and I became interested in wine at the same time. He had difficulty distinguishing among flavors and relied heavily on the descriptions of others. I would get so frustrated with him when he insisted on looking at a review before saying what he thought of a wine. Drove me crazy. Until one day I overheard someone ask him, “Harv- what do you think of that beer?” Not even a pause. “What does Kris think of it?”

I was my Dad’s Robert Parker of beer.

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People often ask me what my favorite beer is, but there’s no way to answer that without context. Where was I, who else was there, what was the view, the weather, the music? My father and I agreed on our favorite glass of wine though.

I took my parents to Spain in 2008. I did all the driving, including in Valencia when I accidentally turned onto a tram track- facing an oncoming tram. Horns sounded, people screamed, an armed police officer sprang out of nowhere- and I calmly backed up and continued on the correct route, pulling over to face the wrath of a very angry man. The officer was screaming at me in Spanish, my father was frantically looking up “I’m sorry” in the dictionary, and I think I caught my mother praying in the back seat. I kept giving my impish American smile and shrugging until he pounded on the car and motioned for us to just get out of there. I did not wet myself, but I had to think about it to be sure.

The next corner opened up to a giant screen of deep blue with a sandy stage. We stopped at a restaurant for our first authentic paella. And the best wine we ever had. I have no idea what it was.

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One morning a couple of months ago I was in my office in Boston talking to my Dad on the phone about an upcoming family vacation to Cape Cod. He had just come in from mowing the large lush lawn of the house I grew up in. After we hung up, he told my mother- his wife of 52 years- what he wanted for lunch and went back outside to finish the lawn.

The next day I was writing his obituary.

In addition to loving memories, his military service and career highlights, a few quirky lines that only those closest to him would understand- I knew it would not be complete without a mention of his Bloody Mary. Everyone who knew him knew of it. It was perfect, and had been for as long as I can remember. I tried- believe me- to improve upon it. He encouraged me! Pickled okra? tried it. Wasabi instead of white horse radish? Why not. Tabasco and dozens of other hot sauces over the years? Beef bouillon, artisanal tomato juice, more expensive vodka? Nope. We tried it all. But he’d nailed it already, and it’s still perfect every time.

I tucked a copy of his recipe into every thank you note I wrote after his service to those many people kind enough to make the trip, give me a hug, send flowers, or otherwise say sorry for your loss. I know it’s unconventional- but he would have loved it. The response was overwhelming. And so, on this day when Americans celebrate fathers, and I sip to the memory of mine, I give you Harvey Butler’s Bloody Mary recipe. Go ahead and tinker with it- I guarantee you cannot improve my Dad’s Bloody Mary.

Add ice to a tall glass and add in this order:
1 heaping teaspoon of horseradish
1.5 oz cheap vodka, like Smirnoff
2 dashes Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
2 shakes of celery salt
1 shake salt
1 small can of original V8 juice (not any other brand; not low sodium)
1 generous grind of pepper
1 wedge of lime, squeezed and dropped into the drink
I stalk of celery to stir

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