Q: As warmer weather approaches, my thoughts turn to refreshing libations and the lazy enjoyment of same. On that front, is the red draw a popular beverage in any town in Texas other than Wichita Falls?
Jason Willett, Waxahachie
A: The Texanist is a big fan of springtime in Texas—the longer days, the wafting scent of freshly cut grass, the beautiful sprays of colorful wildflowers, the warmer but not yet sweltering weather, his favorite pair of cutoff blue jean short-shorts, all of it. In fact, among the various seasonal transitions, winter to spring is probably the Texanist’s favorite. Summer to football season is, of course, always a welcome time, but, man, there’s just nothing quite like springtime in Texas.
And, yes, as the days grow warmer, so too does the satisfaction gained by the imbibing of refreshing adult thirst-quenchers, the red draw included.
Before the Texanist gets to the question at hand, though, let him first inform the uninformed. A red draw is, basically, a beer infused with tomato juice. And this particular form of this simple and delicious tipple is, to be sure, associated with Wichita Falls more than any other town. Yes, in other places one can find similar, even identical drinks that go by such names as red beers, red eyes, frosty reds, red ices, bloody beers, and even spicy micheladas. But red draws by that name are, inarguably, a Wichita Falls thing. Ask anybody familiar with red draws and/or Wichita Falls and they’ll tell you the same.
The Texanist, for instance, asked the fine folks at the Museum of North Texas History, located just a few blocks from the Wichita Falls Farmers Market and the Wichita Falls Public Library (not to mention the four-story tourist attraction known as the World’s Littlest Skyscraper), if this was so and, as he expected, received confirmation. The precise origins of the red draw, though, are as murky as the drink itself. Some tell of a 1950s invention at the Bar-L Drive Inn, on Thirteenth Street. Some say the potion was formulated at the old Rock Inn on the Old Iowa Park Highway. And still others say the drink showed up in the 1960s, thanks to the presence of hungover German pilots who were stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base. And then there are the folks at P2–The Deuce, reportedly the oldest bar in Wichita Falls, established in 1948, who claim outright ownership of the drink—“Home of the Red Draw” goes their slogan.
If you’re wondering, by the way, where P2–The Deuce got its strange moniker, that story is a bit less murky. Wichita Falls is home to a regional chain of restaurants that went under the name Pioneer. The spot where P2–The Deuce now stands was once the home of the second Pioneer restaurant, which Wichita Fallsians began calling P2, short for Pioneer No. 2. And then people started using “the Deuce” as a nickname for the No. 2 in Pioneer No. 2. And then, sometime after the place formally separated from the Pioneer mini-chain (the Pioneer and the Pioneer No. 3 are still in business), everyone started combining those nicknames when they referred to the establishment, which seems somewhat redundant to the Texanist, given that “2” and ‘The Deuce” basically mean the same thing. But then again that’s often how it is with nicknames—they don’t always make a lot of sense to outsiders, which the Texanist, despite his abiding affection for his esteemed colleague Skip Hollandsworth’s hometown, certainly is.
Apologies for the digression. In any case, the name P2–The Deuce was formally adopted decades ago, and for as long as anybody can remember, the bartenders there have been making a traditional red draw with twelve ounces of Budweiser draft beer and four ounces of Campbell’s tomato juice served in a frosty (it has to be frosty) sixteen-ounce mug. Nowadays, there’s also a “special” michelada-esque version that comes with a proprietary special seasoning, lemon and lime wedges, and a dash of Tabasco. Both drinks are red and both are popular at P2–The Deuce.
The Texanist, a man known to enjoy knocking back a few now and then, loves a good regionally specific alcoholic beverage. As such, he’s had the pleasure of gulping down his share of Mexican bulldogs in South Texas, Mexican martinis in Austin, ranch waters in West Texas, and Chiltons in Lubbock. He even once had a slug of eye-popping white lightning in East Texas. The Texanist is, though, sorry to report that he has somehow never had the pleasure of sipping a red draw in Wichita Falls, though he has imbibed them—likely under another name—in numerous other locales, and found them to be quite satisfactory.
Which, finally, brings the Texanist around to the actual question at hand, the one about whether red draw, by that name, is popular anywhere other than its town of origin. In a poll of joints located outside of Wichita Falls but inside of Texas, the Texanist discovered that a thirsty patron with a hankering for a red draw would not be disappointed upon stumbling into a number of watering holes located outside of Falls Town proper. The Rockin’ S Bar & Grill in Graham, a good hour south of Wichita Falls, serves them, as does Doc’s Bar & Grill in Muenster, an hour to the southeast of Wichita Falls, and the Vernon Parts Sports Bar and Grill in Vernon, 45 minutes northwest of Wichita Falls. And then there’s the Feedlot Restaurant and Red Dirt Saloon in Burkburnett, twenty minutes north of Wichita Falls, whose staffers serve a beer and tomato juice concoction they self-promotingly call “Red Dirt beer,” though they’re not fooling anyone.
Of course, the farther one strays from the home region of a particular regional delicacy, the less readily available it will likely become. The Texanist does not believe that he has ever seen a red draw on the drinks menu of any establishment in his Central Texas hometown of Temple nor in his adopted hometown of Austin, nor during any of his many visits to Houston or San Antonio or North Padre Island or Mercedes or Del Rio or Notrees or Midland or Lufkin and so forth and so on, though he bets you could probably find one in Dallas or Fort Worth.
The truth of the matter is, much as the Mexican martini is probably not as popular in Wichita Falls as it is in Austin, the red draw is not as well-known in Austin or anyplace else as it is in Wichita Falls. And that’s A-OK. The Texanist, after all, is likely known to a fair number of Oklahomans, but he is not, most likely, as popular amongst them as he is among his fellow Texans. And that’s A-OK, too.
Luckily for anyone with a hankering for a red draw who lives outside of Wichita Falls, the drink’s short list of required ingredients (beer, tomato juice) means that this regional favorite can be easily prepared by any barkeep worth his or her celery salt, or by pretty much anyone at home, no matter where in Texas—or anywhere else for that matter—they happen to find themselves.
Thanks for letter, Mr. Willett. Red draws all around!
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.