If you’d asked me three years ago I would have told you that the Bloody Mary is absolutely disgusting. And, to be fair, I still think it’s pretty gross. Tomato juice? Spicy tomato juice? That’s just wrong. But the truth is, I’ve also learned to love it. Yes, my friends, this is my hero’s journey from the relative security of mimosas, out into the unknowable abyss of spicy tomatoes, and back to the known world, spicy magic elixir in hand. Against all odds, I learned to love the Bloody Mary.

Our story begins like any other: waiting for a brunch table at Mission Beach Café in San Francisco. Clocking in at nearly two hours, its wait times were a thing of legend in those days of yesteryear. But wait we did. Being grown adults, my party elected to go into a dark bar across the street and, at 11:30 a.m., begin drinking.

Every single one of my compatriots ordered a Bloody Mary. Each arrived in a pint glass, a skewer of tomato, cream cheese, and maple bacon adorning the foreboding, grainy beverage. Because I’m going places in life, I ordered a shot and a beer.

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Our party proceeded to drink. My friends nursed their hangovers with what to me looked like a living nightmare, but they seemed genuinely sated by the salty, spicy, tomato-y solution. I looked down at my beer (the shot was long gone). I looked up at their joyous faces. I looked down at my beer. There it sat, sunken in the shadow cast by those six glasses of bacon-garnished spiciness, a sad excuse for a morning drink. The beer seemed like it was too lazy to even try, to say nothing of the man who had ordered it. Without quite realizing it, I knew that I wanted to – I wanted to try.

“There has to be a better way,” I told myself.

A little history at this juncture. The Bloody Mary’s origin story is a mess; no one is quite sure exactly where the name came from and, frankly, I’m not sure really anybody cares. If you’re interested, my understanding is that it is named after a hermetic monk of the late-Romantic period named Bloodia Maryolo and originally contained an emulsion of proto-trail mix and vinegar. But since this story is about me and not him, we should return to the subject at hand. I just figured that most stories begin, then give some background, then get back into the story. Let’s resume.

Like any strong-willed man, I realized the only way to remedy my problem was to adopt the behaviors and opinions of those around me. So I finished my beer, dusted off my childhood memories of never fitting in, and ordered the horrifying mess known as a Bloody Mary. I figured the shortest route to beverage bliss started with embracing the spice, so I stepped up to the plate and responded “Yes” to whether I wanted it spicy. The drink arrived along with a healthy dose of reality; the time had come to lift the glass and sip.

It was gross, as expected. Gross and spicy, which is my least favorite kind of gross. After each sip I hacked and shouted. But I choked it down. And then, against the advice of my friends, I ordered another. In for a penny, in for a pound, you know?

Again: hack, shout, choke, finish. Tempting disaster, I prepped myself to order another, but fate intervened: A ringing phone announced that our table at Mission Beach Café was ready. We left the bar and went to brunch.

Looking back on that day, I realize I had walked into that bar a boy, living in fear of red drinks. But I walked out a man. A Bloody Mary drinking man.

And a changed man I was destined to remain. The next opportunity for a Bloody Mary announced itself the following morning, and I took it. This time, I hacked less and began to sense a glimmer of enjoyment from deep within my blackened soul. This repeated itself over the next few weeks and months until something absolutely astounding happened: I came to reflexively order the erstwhile offensive drink whenever it was time-appropriate.

I had mastered this drink through temerity of spirit and strength of will. Through hard work and determination, I had bent the beverage’s flavor profile to my will. I came to learn a deep lesson from my battles with the Bloody Mary: Through arbitrary and capricious dedication to a meaningless goal, anything is achievable.

It’s an awe-inspiring achievement. I’m a hero, and you could be one too.