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."
When it comes to the beloved Sunday ritual of the Bloody Mary bar, people are so set in their ways that Francesca Harris had to steer devotees to something new the only way she knew how: by telling little white lies.
As beverage manager of Flats-based craft rum bar Portside Distillery, Harris jokes that more often than not she was greeted with, "Rum? In my Bloody Mary?"
"I started just asking them the infused flavor they wanted and wouldn't bother telling them it's rum until after they tasted it," she laughs.
Bloody bars like Portside's have been spreading across the city, and behind each one is somebody like Harris or Egan who is eager and willing to hand over the reins to do-it-yourselfers. Here's a rundown of well-stocked options for day drinkers.
983 Front Ave., 216-586-6633, portsidedistillery.com
When available: Browns home games 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Price and Pour: $8 for 2 ounces in a 14-ounce glass
Garnishes: Celery, pickles, lemon, lime, sport peppers
Liquors: Rum infused with cucumber, olive, jalapeno and even hops.
Quote: "You look at Bloody Marias, they have tequila. Blood & Sand is made with Scotch," says Harris. "Rum is becoming a nice little trend."
Sterle's Country House
1401 East 55th St., 216-881-4181, sterlescountryhouse.com
When available: Sundays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Price and Pour: $7.50 for 2 ounces
Mixers: Local Pope's Bloody Mary mix
Garnishes: Downtown-based Randy's Pickles, pickled red onions, banana peppers, mustard seeds
Hot sauces: Pope's line plus sauces picked up at neighboring AsiaTown markets
Vodkas: Absolut Peppar for a little kick, Tito's, Grey Goose, Stoli and Belvedere
Quote: "People just love Bloody Marys," says executive chef and GM Jeff Jarrett. "It has such a following and it's almost like a Cleveland thing too. You can go to other towns and they have them, but the ferocity of people wanting them is never as much as it is here."
The Red Lantern
17446 Lorain Ave., 216-331-1458, redlantern.us
When available: Saturdays 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Price and Pour: $6 for 1.5 ounces in a Mason jar
Mixers: Housemade original and herb. Seasonally, tomatillos and cucumbers become a "green" variety.
Garnishes: Smoked jerky from Fligner's Market in Lorain, thick-cut bacon, pepperoncini, banana peppers
Vodkas: In-house infusions of Tito's Vodka such as habanero-bacon, dill, lemon-garlic
Quote: "We moved into the Kamm's Corners area, which has a lot of history and nostalgia," says owner Cory Rowland. "We wanted to do something that no one else was doing at the time."
Touch Supper Club
2710 Lorain Ave., 216-631-5200, touchohiocity.com
When available: Saturday and Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Price and Pour: $4 to $8 (depending on call) for 1.5 ounces served in your own shaker. "We let you be your own bartender."
History: Touch has offered its Bloody bar since 2005. After a one-year hiatus due to remodeling, they've expanded the bar to both upper and lower levels due to popular demand.
Garnishes: Pickled egg, charcuterie stems, kimchi
Hot Sauces: More than 100, including bacon, habanero and Dave's Original Insanity Sauce
Vodkas: House infusions of tomato-basil, potato-bacon, wasabi, mango, horseradish, jalapenos
Quote: "We're going to start right where we left off with the Bloody Mary bar," says owner Robert Ivanov. "But this time around, we've really upped our game."
A Bar and Kitchen
850 Euclid Ave., Ste. 110., 216-644-8954, abarcle.com
When available: Sundays 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Price and Pour: $10 to $12 for 1.5 ounces in a pint glass
Mixers: Housemade concoction
Garnishes: Corned beef, eggs, Slim Jims, salami, bologna, pepper jack cheese
Hot sauces: House-blended mix with Frank's and habanero
Vodkas: Paramount, Tito's, Absolut, in-house pepper-infused
Quote: "It's Sunday morning, people have gone out the night before," says owner Clarence Wilson, who's seen a recent uptick in the morning-after elixir. "Sometimes there's nothing better than a nice Bloody Mary to bring you back to a normal state."
West End Tavern
18514 Detroit Ave., 216-521-7684, westendtav.com
When available: Saturdays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Pour: 1.25 ounces in a 15-ounce goblet
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."
Market Rocky River
1137 Linda St., 440-799-4292, marketbeer.com
When available: Sundays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Price: $7 regular, $8.50 for Hail Mary
Pour: 2 ounces in pint glass, 3 ounces in 23-ounce glass (Hail Mary)
The set up: An old lumber cart retrofitted with 36 cold stations for garnishes
Mixers: Jimmy Luv
Garnishes: 16 types of olives, five types of Smokies, 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."