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If preparing the optional smoky ketchup, begin by preparing that: in a small bowl, whisk all of those ingredients together until well blended; then, cover with plastic and chill for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld together for extra zip.
To prepare the onion rings: add the sliced onions into a large bowl, and pour the buttermilk over them just to cover; allow the rings to marinate in the buttermilk for about 20 minutes.
While the rings marinate in the buttermilk, place a medium-large pot on the stove, and add enough vegetable oil to come about half-way up the sides of the pot (about 5-6 cups), and slowly bring the temperature of the oil up to 350-360° while you prepare the rest of the steps.
Prepare your flour dredge by adding 1 cup of the flour, along with the cornmeal, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper into a large Ziplock bag.
Once the rings have marinated, thoroughly drain them from the buttermilk allowing any excess to drip off, and add them into the Ziplock bag (work in a couple of batches if you need to), tossing them very well to coat them thoroughly; remove the rings from the flour dredge and place them in a single layer onto a wire rack or baking sheet to hold for a moment.
To prepare your beer batter, add the remaining 1 cup of flour to medium-size bowl, and slowly pour the beer into it, whisking gently until the batter is smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter.
To fry the rings, dip each ring into the beer batter allowing any excess to drip off, and carefully place into the hot oil; repeat with another few rings (you will work in batches), and allow the rings to fry for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown.
Remove the fried rings from the oil and drain them on paper towels or on a wire rack, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them while still hot; repeat the process with the remaining rings. (You can keep the rings very hot by placing the finished ones on a baking sheet and into a warm, 200° oven while you work on the batches, if you desire.)
Serve the onion rings while hot with the smoky ketchup, or your favorite dipping sauce!