During my probably-unhealthily-regular perusing of the liquor store shelves this week, I noticed something peculiar nestled amongst the bitters: a bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. What was my favorite steak condiment doing next to the likes of Angostura and Peychaud's?
The answer lies, according to Rancho Pinot bartender Travis Nass, in the Bloody Mary. The western version of soy sauce, Worcestershire was first made in Worcester, England by chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins (Hey! Lea & Perrins!). The Lea & Perrins brand was commercialized in 1837 -- around the same time recorded cocktail history began -- but the sauce and the drinks remained on parallel paths until bartenders began serving Bloody Marys in the 1940s.
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Today, there are very few cocktails in which Worcestershire is a major player. It's not surprising when you consider its makeup: distilled white vinegar, molasses, sugar, anchovies, water, onions, salt, garlic, tamarind concentrate, cloves, and chili pepper extract (the recipe differs slightly from the original British version, which uses malt vinegar).
Nass admits that Worcestershire has never been high on his list of priority ingredients, but the sauce has its place in savory, tomato-based cocktails that can carry the hefty umami flavor it delivers. A Michelada, Caesar or the ubiquitous Bloody Mary wouldn't be the same without it, as far as I'm concerned.
Check back tomorrow for recipes using Worcestershire and decide for yourself.