I'm a big drunk. There, I said it. Because of that, though, I've had many, many, different kinds of drinks at many, many, places. One of my favorite drinks is the Bloody Mary. A cure for hangovers (or the start of one), it's a drink everyone should try. One, it's kind of different. It's a nice diversion from the thousands of fruity sex-in-your-hair or what ever the next cheap slop is that they can disguise with artificially flavored liqueurs, plus, a guy can only drink so much cranberry juice in a single night. And Two, if you drink one in the morning, you feel like you're doing something right. Or getting your vegetables. Or, well, maybe, but my point is, they're good.
For those of you that don't know, it goes a little something like this:
Bloody Mary recipe courtesy of the New York School of Bartending:
* 1 oz. to 1 1/2 oz. (30-45 ml) vodka in a Highball glass filled with ice.
* Fill glass with tomato juice
* 1 dash celery salt
* 1 dash ground black pepper
* 1 dash Tabasco
* 2-4 dashes of Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce
* 1/8 tsp. horseradish (pure, never creamed)
* Dash of lemon or lime juice
Garnish with celery stalk.
As you can see, it's salty, spicy, and vegetably.
A caveat, the Bloody Mary is a bit of a special drink. It's a pain in the $@! to make, because you have to have ingredients that just don't fit too often in other drinks. Worcestershire? I mean, come on. Because of this, I've seen it made three different ways:
1. Put actual celery, tomatoes, ect. in a blender and do it up with a homemade touch. Very rare, but the best way. You won't find that in too many places.
2. The pre-mix. Could be made at the bar pre-hours, might just be a mix bought in bulk. Who knows, it's in those plastic containers.
3. V8 juice is the usual.
Now, some quick backstory: A few weeks ago I took a buddy of mine to the local Turkish/Persian eatery (used to be called Istanbul Palace, now...? Grape Leaf, I think) and on the way out he suggested we get some drinks at the bar next door. Being a little, eh, hungover, I wasn't keen on the idea, but he advised a Bloody Mary to ease my troubled mind. So, seeing the wisdom of this counsel, I obliged, but to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. The bar was a local working man's joint, a sports bar, called, simply, The Campus Pub. But, lo and behold, to my surprise, the bartender (who also happened to be a knockout blond) made one of the best Bloody Mary's I've ever had. Ever Had. And I've had a bunch. Who would've thunk it?
So that set the bar.
I got to thinking, since I live downtown, which bar makes the best Bloody Marys around? With that thought fermenting, I went out a few days later.
So there I was, drinking at a local joint, when the idea to test each bar's Blood Marys came back to me like a car barreling out of the fog. Thus spawned the Lexington Downtown Blood Mary Crawl.
Now, it's true, I was already pretty sauced having been drinking since noon, but on the other hand, I'm a professional. I hit a number of bars, in a vague zig-zag manner, which I'll list in order of getting to them.
All of the bars made decent drinks. I didn't have a bad one. So my rankings are Standard, Good, and Excellent.
When the idea hit me I was sitting in McCarthy's Irish Bar, a favorite of horse-racing enthusiasts, working professionals, college students, and Irish business folk. That night it was helmed by all-around-nice-guy Donny the manager. The drink was Standard. However, I will say that it was the fastest Bloody Mary I've ever seen made. No joke, from the minute the words came out of my mouth to the moment the cool glass of vegetably vodka touched my sweaty little palm, 40 seconds.
The second place I went to was Bellini's. One of the nicest places to eat in the city, Italian styled, and you definitely want to dress up when you take your date there. (Why they let me in there, I'll never know). The man behind the bar was Ryan who proceeded to serve me with that nice blend of cool professionalism and wary friendliness that comes from eyeing a sloppy drunk come in the door. Ryan used the cracked peppercorn straight from grinder which was a nice touch and the taste was evident in the drink, as well as the peperoncini juice. This bumped it up to Good.
Making my way around to the end of the block and around the corner, I stopped by another of my favorite Irish bars: Molly Brooks. They have a beautiful crafted wood interior, a great atmosphere, and super friendly staff. Unfortunately, they didn't have the ingredients, which was a disappointment, because it is otherwise a great place to drink. Get it together, Molly Brooks!
Right next door, the next bar posed a different kind of challenge, Crossings. It is a watering-hole that caters to a... particular clientele. Let's say you won't find a lot of ladies hanging out. I had never been inside, but, deciding that my quest for the best Bloody Mary must be legitimate, I stepped through the door. The bartender Pete quickly put me at ease and then proceeded to make the best drink of the night. It was Excellent.
Across the street I entered the next domain, Mia's. The band was rocking and the place was full. I didn't catch the name of the lady behind the bar because she was so busy but she get time to make me a drink that was Standard all while giving me the skeptical eye appropriate towards someone who claims to be writing a blog about Bloody Marys. I really liked the atmosphere but, duty called, so off I went.
I stopped by the Side Bar, another great joint and pretty new addition to the downtown scene. For a Gen-X'er it is a bit like home, most of the staff have tattoos, there's a retro Betty Page kind of vibe on the walls and '90s alterarock tunes blaring from the stereo. Kind of place you want to ride your motorcycle to. Once again I was disappointed because they didn't have the ingredients.
Winding around, I ended up at Le Deauville. One of the nicest restaurants in town. Traditional French cuisine made by real French people. Cozy with a wide front that opens out to the street. At once contemporary but with a touch of the Old World. Another place you want to put on your good shoes for, this place will impress any date you take out, and the food is delicious. Their drink was Standard, mainly because it was served in a smaller glass than most other places, though the taste was good. I didn't catch the name of the pretty lady who made the drink, cause frankly, I already had 4 big glasses of this delicious drink on top of what ever I had before that. Despite my obvious state of intoxication, they made me feel very welcome.
I should interject at this point, that I didn't find out until later that professional tasters don't actually eat everything they taste, they sample it and move on. However, even if I did know that then, I'm a tightwad and can't let $4.50 go to waste. So I was pretty schwilly by this point. However, that didn't stop me from catching a cab back to my local stomping grounds, Lynagh's Irish Pub & Grill for one more. A Good Bloody Mary, made particularly nice by the mystery mix they have behind the bar.
So there we have it.
In order of Best in Downtown:
Le Deauville: Standard
Side Bar: no ingredients
Molly Brooks: no ingredients
Of all Sampled:
Campus Pub: Excellent (The Best)
Le Deauville: Standard
Side Bar: no ingredients
Molly Brooks: no ingredients
Summary: I was a little disappointed that literally two of the nicest places to eat in town, used pretty standard ingredients for their drinks. The best Bloody Marys came out of left field, Campus Pub and Crossings both surprised me with their quality. I will say, however, that ALL of these great establishments I would take any guest to, all go above and beyond to cater to their customers and that is something even a drunk like me won't forget.
There are still lots of bars downtown, so look for Part 2 coming soon. Also, if any of the establishments listed have improved their recipe, drop me a line and I'll come by and check it out.