There are two kinds of bloody mary drinkers in the world: the no-nonsense, keep-it-simple sippers who are fine to gnaw a beef stick but don’t require an over-the-top garnish; and the other, who favors a drink that answers the question “just what — and how many — weirdo-foods can one bartender stuff into a pint glass?”
The Duluth News Tribune investigated five regional variations on the drink and found a creative use of kimchi, a healthy squirt of squeeze cheese and a sculpture fit for a modern art museum. Here are five takes on a favorite breakfast drink.
Doc’s Bar and Grill, $9
34427 Majestic Pine Dr., Sturgeon Lake, Minn.
6369 Kobmagergade, Askov, Minn.
This oft-photographed drink is topped with an arrangement of meat, vegetables, dairy and aquatic life. Bartenders use picks and skewers to build up and outward, mixing traditional and unconventional garnishes on top of a pint glass.
Doc’s co-owner Tara Engel is a self-described “bloody mary connoisseur” who will not reveal the details of the bar’s super-secret mix or even the rim salt — though they do sell the latter on site.
“My sister and I are the only two who know the recipe,” Engel said.
The drink/feast, from start to finish: a pickled green bean; half a radish; a small cocktail onion; shrimp and a hot pepper that got one chomp and then was dumped into the drink for bonus zip; a circular cut of green pepper and matching red onion; a slightly spicy beef stick; pepperoni twisted into a triangle; and a small green olive.
The centerpiece is a fist-sized ham and turkey sandwich with pepperjack cheese — on this day it was still wrapped in the sandwich bag, twist-tie intact. (A similar bloody mary at Target Field had a chicken wing sitting on ice cubes. The sandwich bag is a good idea.)
A cube of cheddar; a large olive stuffed with garlic and bacon folded like an accordion; a sliver of asparagus draped over the rim; and a thick pickle laid horizontally across the top of the glass. This bloody mary stands alone. It doesn’t actually need the fanfare, though the fanfare is fun — and a commitment. It also takes about 40 minutes to eat and drink, not to mention how long it takes to put together — a standing joke.
“My bartenders are ready to shoot me,” Engel said.
Consider the case of Crystal Halverson, a bartender who has never actually had one, but claims to have once made about 127 bloody marys in one day during a two-hour stretch of a fishing tournament.
“It was the worst day of my life,” she said.
Cedar Lounge, $5.50
1715 N. Third Ave., Superior
Bar manager Daniel Heintz will tell you he obsesses over things. In the case of the Cedar Lounge’s bloody mary, the bar manager uses a tried, tested and tried again kimchi and dill-infused vodka in his recipe, making a spicy drink with a consistent kick.
It is possibly the bloody best in the Twin Ports.
“I wanted to see what kimchi would do — just to satisfy my own curiosity,” he said. “I love the back-end funk you get from it naturally.”
Heintz starts with a V8 base, he said, then adds a host of mystery ingredients, including hoisin and horseradish, and uses an immersion blender to smooth it out. There’s no salty seasoning on the rim. No need.
“It’s in the drink,” he said.
Before the accoutrements — a dill cheese curd, a meat stick from Old World Meats, a couple olives and a small pickle — Heintz’s drink is vegan. He substitutes red miso paste for fish oil in his kimchi.
This well-considered drink is just how Heintz works.
His theory: “Take a minute. Make something you’re proud of.”
OF THE SEA
The Boat Club, $18
600 E. Superior St.
The main attraction of The Boat Club’s epic bloody mary is the petite lobster tail, which curls a few inches above the top of the 20-ounce mason jar the drink is served in.
“We wanted to do something that had a ‘wow’ factor, something out of the ordinary that fit our theme as a seafood restaurant,” said owner Jason Vincent. “We came up with a petite lobster tail in a bloody mary.”
Meanwhile, the unsung hero of this pretty-pretty photo-friendly drink is bacon, which has the restaurant’s signature sriracha glaze.
Vincent admitted that not everyone at the The Boat Club believed that an $18 drink would sell. Turns out they were wrong. Its visual appeal helps sell it, both through social media and in person, when a server passes through the dining room to deliver one to a table, Vincent said. The mix is Miss Mary’s, small-batch and Wisconsin-made.
Not to be left out of the fun: Vanilla Bean Restaurant in Two Harbors, which is under the same ownership, will soon be adding to its menu a bloody mary dressed with a mini donut wrapped in sriracha-glazed bacon.
SAKE AND ZA
Bulldog Pizza, $6
101 Mount Royal Shopping Circle
Toward the end of last summer, Bulldog Pizza decided to test-run a weekend breakfast menu — scrambles, a breakfast burrito, even sweet pizza with cinnamon crust and fresh berries.
As for breakfast drinks: no liquor license, no problem. The pizzeria adopted a way around the beer and wine-only limitations with a bloody mary made with Hoshi sake.
“Vodka is one thing, sake is another,” said owner Ken Wright.
Vodka can be easy to ignore, but the sake adds a tangy layer. The mix is, again, Miss Mary’s and it’s served with a pickle, olive, celery and, of course, the shop’s signature fare: A small slice of pizza. Obviously.
“We’re a pizza place,” Wright said.
Choo Choo Bar & Grill, $7.75
5002 E. Third St., Superior
For all the fancy sculpture-work and super-secret mixes, the Choo Choo Bar and Grill’s bloody mary is a shoes off, sun-on-the-knees, cabin-life drink that deserves a lakeside lounge.
Owner Kim Kastern said she was raised in a bar. Her parents own the Copper Kettle in South Range, and she bought the Choo Choo in 2002. She knows what she likes in a bloody mary. It should have a bit of a bite, and:
“I think it should be cut thinner than thick tomato juice,” she said. “You can have a drink, then you can have another without getting full.”
She’s achieved both with the house favorite, which is served in a carafe. The shrimp is tasty with good texture, the bacon is still warm from the grill. A skewer holds an olive, a cocktail onion and a pickled mushroom.
It’s the old-school style hor d’oeuvre — celery, plugged with squirt-cheese — that really says: “who gives a rip about a best bloody mary list, we’ve got this.”