For some strange reason, when it comes to Bloody Marys, everybody is an expert. "Everybody likes to argue about who makes the best Bloody Mary, so I decided to throw it back at the customer and let them do their own thing," explains Parnell Egan, owner of the West End Tavern.
Not only did Egan birth the do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar in Cleveland, he very well might have pioneered the entire concept. While working for the Victoria Station restaurant chain way back in the '70s, Egan decided to turn the salad bar into a Bloody Mary bar during weekend brunch, thus making morning drinking acceptable. "They say you eat with your eyes. Well, you drink with your eyes, too," he says. "And the Bloody Mary bar gave customers something to talk about at the table — and it started to bring them in."
If you've never had the pleasure of this interactive drink concept, then you likely aren't a brunch fan. Edging out the Mimosa as the Hair of the Dog these days is the well-stocked Bloody Bar. Here are some of the best around.
West End Tavern
18514 Detroit Ave., 216-521-7684 • westendtav.com
When it's available: Saturdays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Price: $4 • Pour: 1.25 ounces in a 15-ounce goblet
History: West End opened back in 1986, and launched the Bloody Mary bar just three years later.
Mixers: Red Eye, Tabasco, Sacramento, V-8, Clamato, and a housemade variety
Garnishes: Celery, carrots, cucumber, green onion, lemons, limes, celery salt, garlic powder
You have what? Skewers with olives, peppers, cherry tomato and summer sausage
Quote: "Bloody Marys are perfect for Saturday morning," Egan says. "Tomato juice goes down easy and the drink takes the edge off."
14810 Detroit Ave., 216-767-5775 • deagans.com
When it's available: Sundays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Price: $7 • Pour: 2 ounces of Smirnoff in a pint glass
Mixers: Housemade mix, tomato juice, Zing Zang, Mr & Mrs T, Tabasco, Clamato
Garnishes: 30 different garnishes including housemade pickled beets, radishes and asparagus, cornichons, blue cheese-stuffed olives, horseradish
Hot sauces: 40 different varieties
Quote: "We liked the idea, but we wanted to expand it, put our own spin on it, and make it our own," explains owner Dan Deagan. "We sell roughly 120 to 150 each brunch."
Market Rocky River
1137 Linda St., 440-799-4292 • marketbeer.com
When it's available: Sundays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Price: $7 regular, $8 for Hail Mary • Pour: 2 ounces in pint glass, 3 ounces in 23-ounce glass (Hail Mary)
The set up: An old lumbar cart retrofitted with 36 cold stations for garnishes
Mixers: Jimmy Luv
Garnishes: 16 types of olive, five types of Smokie, three types of bacon, three kinds of horseradish, cheese and fruit
Hot sauces: 24 ranging from avocado and mango to Pain 100%
You have what? Pepperoncini stuffed with cream cheese, bacon and chives
Quote: "I saw a place in Chicago doing something similar, but it was a poor attempt," says owner John Owen. "So I went to the West Side Market and made deals with five different vendors."
Touch Supper Club
2710 Lorain Ave., 216-631-5200 • touchohiocity.com
When it's available: Sundays 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Price: $3 to $8 depending on the vodka • Pour: 1.5 ounces
Delivery: Vodka is presented in a stainless shaker. "You can't make a great Bloody Mary unless you shake it," says owner Rob Ivanov.
Vodkas: House-infused pepper, tomato-basil, wasabi-soy and rosemary-herb
Mixers: V-8 and plain tomato juice
Garnishes: 15 to 20 including house-pickled cukes, asparagus and artichokes, blue cheese-stuffed olives, horseradish, garlic capers
Hot sauces: 100 (you read that right)
You have what? Housemade Napa cabbage kimchi
Quote: "Bloody Mary bars are nice for people who aren't bartenders to get a chance to be one for a day," says Ivanov. "If you make it for them, it's never right. This way the only people they can blame is themselves."
Great Lakes Brewery
2516 Market Ave., 216-771-4404 • greatlakesbrewing.com
When it's available: Saturdays 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Price: $8 • Pour: 2 ounces in a pint glass
Vodkas: Housemade hop-infused vodka, plus Ohio-made Oyo and Watershed
Mixers: 7 or 8 including Tabasco and V-8
Garnishes: 20 from the West Side Market including olives, bacon, celery, shrimp, and peppers
Hot sauces: 10 to 20 including many from Cleveland-based Blaze Gourmet
You have what? Lobster
Quote: "The original idea came from one of our bartenders a few years back and it kind of took off," says Brewpub GM Jeff West.
Buckeye Beer Engine
15315 Madison Ave., 216-226-2337 • buckeyebeerengine.com
When it's available: Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Price: $7.25 • Pour: 2 ounces of Smirnoff in a pint glass
Mixers: V-8, Zing Zang, Major Peters
Garnishes: 35 to 40 including jalapeño-stuffed olives, pickled ginger, okra, clam juice, pepperoni • Hot sauces: 3
You have what? Spicy pickled Brussels sprouts
Quote: "We have a lot of customers who come in just for the Bloody Mary bar," says Nicky Dembinski, assistant manager. "It's fun to watch. Sometime there will be groups of people who tell each other what goes good together. It's a nice way to cure your hangover."