The heights of Bloody Mary creativity were on display recently at the Bloody Mary Festival held in Brooklyn, an event now in its third year. (The festival is also a traveling attraction, and will be taking up residence in Washington, D.C., on May 7.) Restaurants and bars from around the borough competed for the title of best Bloody Mary, as determined by a panel of industry judges and by popular vote, and they showed just how versatile the Bloody Mary can be. It would have made Ernest Hemingway proud.
The house Bloody Mary at Skylark bar in Park Slope is more like dinner than a drink. “It depends on what brunch was, I guess,” said bartender Luke Peters. “Some people will come in at night and order the Bloody Mary.” And with A-1 steak sauce and a “secret spice mix,” the Skylark recipe is nothing so much like a steak in a glass — served bloody, of course.
Like the restaurant it’s served at, the Lucky Luna Bloody Mary takes its inspiration from Mexican and Taiwanese cuisine, incorporating Sriracha and Valentina hot sauces, Maggi seasoning and house-made kimchi as garnish. And since Korean food goes well with pretty much everything, why not? For their efforts the Lucky Luna team took home the judge’s award for best original recipe.
Kimchi isn’t the only Asian ingredient making its way into Bloody Marys recently. The Bloody Mary from Talde, an Asian-American fusion restaurant in Park Slope, draws on chef Dale Talde’s Filipino heritage in this Eastern-inspired cocktail. With wasabi powder, smoked paprika, fish sauce, and two types of vinegar, the drink is half a world away from the tomato juice-and-Tabasco version. And with hot peppers, celery, and bacon on a skewer, its garnish game is also on point.
“The Well Traveled” Bloody Mary from Travel Bar in Carroll Gardens uses Sriracha and cucumber juice, along with a blend of celery, cumin and caraway seeds to make the drink taste like a kind of tomato-vodka-curry. “It almost feels like you’re being healthy,” claimed bartender and partner Mike Vacheresse, “especially with cucumber juice in it.”
Meanwhile, in North Brooklyn, the “Blood for Dracula” from Syndicated, a bar, restaurant, and movie theater in Bushwick, pays homage to partner Tim Chung’s Korean-American heritage. With the addition of banana pepper juice, Gochujang (a red chili pepper paste) and black-and-white sesame rim, it makes a perfect sweet-and-spicy prelude to dinner.
On its surface, “The 706” Bloody Mary from 706 bar in Prospect Heights looks like it might be George Jessel’s original recipe — nothing but tomato juice and vodka. There are no olives, no celery, and no bits of horseradish floating on top. But inside the drink there’s a lot more going on. This Bloody Mary, which takes its inspiration from the neighborhood’s West Indian community, includes vodka infused with basil and Jamaican scotch bonnet peppers, giving the drink a refreshing and spicy kick.
Big Easy Bloody
With a Cajun spice mix and Abita stout float, the Creole Bloody Mary from Catfish bar and restaurant in Crown Heights is all about the spirit of New Orleans. And like the Crescent City itself, this drink isn’t restricted to brunch. “You can get them all day long,” said bartender Kate Gunther, who was busy handing out strings of beads with the drinks. Laissez le bon temps roulez!
A Bloody Mary can seem like it has a week’s worth of vegetables, but the traditional Worcestershire sauce — which contains anchovies — makes it off-limits to strict vegetarians. Which is why Esme, a bar and restaurant in Greenpoint, came up with a vegan version that uses Dijon mustard instead of Worcestershire. The result is lighter than usual, meaning that you can easily put away a few of these at brunch — or maybe more.
If it seems like Bloody Marys are all about the garnish, that’s because they are. It’s hard to beat a whole salad of pickled vegetables on a skewer. The “Saigon Mary” from Hunter’s in Cobble Hill goes a step further with a pickled shrimp garnish straight out of Georgia.
Meat Lover’s Bloody
Are there pigs in the jungle? I’m no zoologist, but there are definitely a lot of animals in “The Jungle” Bloody Mary from Park Slope’s Iron Station. Winner of this year’s People’s Choice award, this Bloody Mary is the opposite of the vegan option. It’s made with bacon-infused vodka and beef stock, and has candied bacon and soppressata as garnish. Say oink?