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Reconsidering the Zuni Balsamic Bloody Mary

I found myself at Zuni Cafe last Sunday. It was my first visit in months, and the first time on a weekend in even longer. Among other things Zuni is famous for (its chicken, its caesar salad, its shoestring fries, its oysters, its ricotta gnocchi, its espresso granita--jeez, that's a long list) is its Balsamic Bloody Mary.

Now, I'd never really been a fan, which is strange given that I am a freak for anything with vinegar. Nevertheless, there was something disctinctly strange about Zuni's Bloody that usually left me ordering something else. I have a friend who just didn't like the addition of Balsamic; he would ask for his to be made without it and then brought in his own bottle of worcestershire sauce (which Zuni doesn't offer). Perhaps his attitude affected me.

But last Sunday--a rainy, gloomy day--I decided to try the drink again, as I had nothing better to do while I waited almost an hour for my friends to show up. And I was pleasantly surprised. While the Balsamic gives it a nice tang, it also makes it quite sweet, a quality I can't say I love. But the fresh pepper and Tobasco make it quite spicy, and I have to say I love the little crunch that comes from the chopped onion and pepper salsa that garnishes the drink's top. I also tried one with El Tesoro tequila and another one with Junipero gin, and found them both preferable (the latter if you squeeze in extra lemon) to the same drink made with vodka. Luckily my friends finally showed--bearing exquisite wine, no less--which saved me from having yet another Bloody with something else in it. That would have sent me over the edge and made for an extremely curtailed day.