A few glasses of cheap wine, a can of sparks and a broken bloody Mary into the night, I was fixing bloody Mary number two. Number one had fallen onto the ground, smashing my friend’s pint glass and covering my shoes with vodka, tomato and the spices I scrounged from his kitchen. I made number two right in the bottle of tomato juice. Ever so delicately, I hammered ice cubes into the bottle with my hand. A guy with long hair smiled at me while selecting a drink from the dregs of the liquor supply. I smiled back and went back to fixing my drink. I could feel he was still standing there, so I looked up again. He was staring at the bottle. “You totally had Tool and pink Floyd patches on your backpack in high school,” I thought. (Not that I didn’t). I also thought he didn’t get out much if he was so fixated on me destroying ice cubes so I could have a frosty drink, with minimal broken glass.
“Clamato, huh?” he said.
“Makeshift bloody Mary, “ I said.
“With clam?” he said.
“Clamato has clam juice in it,” he said.
According to the official Clamato website, Clamato was created in 1969 as regular tomato juice with a little flair—which were spices and clam juice. Drinking Clamato is essentially like having Manhattan style clam chowder through a straw. The juice is the key ingredient in the bloody Cesar, Canada’s most popular cocktail. (Essentially a regular bloody Mary with the power of clam and oregano). Budweiser created Cheladas, which are Bud or Bud light in a tallboy combined with none other than the world’s most popular bivalve infused juice. Clamato’s website seems surprised by the beverages success, claiming it created a whole new market for juices called “Seafood blends.” According to my research, the only other brands in the market are Friskies, Whiskas, and Meow Mix. I have no idea who else is selling seafood juices to humans. In fact, up until that party, I had no idea Clamato even existed.
“You’re shitting me,” I said to former tool fan. He told me to read the label. I looked at the ingredients, and dried clam broth was listed right before red dye number 40. “Fuck! I thought that was just the brand of juice like V8 or something. You just ruined this for me,” I said.
“Oh don’t be like that, you liked it before I said anything,” he said.
“I guess…” I started at the bottle.
Normally, I’m neurotic about reading labels because I try to avoid artificial and unnecessary ingredients (high fructose corn syrup, anyone?). My guard was down that night; Clamato was the only brand of tomato juice the bodega had. Picking out drinks while you most of your brain is still in afternoon nap phase apparently means you ends with orange flavored paint thinner to wake you up and liquid fishy vegetables in an attempt to make yourself feel healthy. I’m not allergic to shellfish, I’m not kosher, and fish is the one meat I still ate occasionally. But I’m so the opposite of adventurous with seafood; if it had tentacles or lived in a shell it creeps my shit out. My new found aversion to my drink reminded me of the episode of “Who’s the Boss” when Mona’s chowin' down on something, raving about delectable it is, and when she finds out it’s dog food she starts spitting and making vomit noises. “I can be above this,” I thought. My taste buds were drunk anyway.
“Oh fuck, there’s a picture of a clam on the label,” I said to my friends Set and Amanda, who were already dying laughing at my Clamato. I could only picture liquid clams. I was above it. I set the bottle down on a table and finished the rest of my vodka straight.