I am not a Bloody Mary enthusiast. I like Bloody Marys, I really do, but I don’t do weekend 50 mile radius searches for the best Bloody Mary in my area. I don’t have the time, the money, or even the care to bother. I maybe have a Bloody Mary once or twice a month (I’ve had more recently, funny enough, hence this post). All I ask from my Bloody Marys is that they are done properly. Of course, this is all a matter of perspective (“Too much fucking perspective” – Spinal Tap) – everyone wants something different from their Bloodies.
What can easily ruin a Bloody Mary for me is it being too sweet, too spicy, or too strong. Too much Worcestershire sauce will be the too sweet, the horseradish (which I wish would be banned from existence, not just in Bloody Marys) will be the too spicy, and the too strong…well, let’s just say I like booze as much as the next person but if I can see through my Bloody Mary, something is seriously amiss. And then there’s the matter of the ‘extras’.
In California, if you order a Bloody Mary you will get a lemon, a lime, and MAYBE a pathetic looking olive or wilting celery stick. Very rarely I’ve seen the dreaded pickled asparagus or (GAG!) the pickled onion. California always has the lemon and lime though – if nothing else. I contribute this to the amount of citrus in this State; they have to use it up somehow.
A "fancy" California Bloody Mary. Pathetic. At least there is an olive.
In the Midwest*, it’s a bit different. And when I say different, I’m talking about the Bloody Mary extras. The potential for having a good or bad Bloody Mary Basic is the same everywhere but it’s the extras that really make a difference. In the Midwest when you order a Bloody Mary, you don’t just order a drink - you order a drink and a snack. No, you actually get TWO drinks and a snack. The Bloody Mary extras vary from place to place in the Midwest but 90% of the time when you order a Bloody Mary you will get AT LEAST the Bloody Mary Basic with AT LEAST two olives, a pickle spear and a side car of the tap beer of your choice. Yes, a small side of beer. It’s to sip on if the Bloody is too spicy or to just pour in your Bloody if you so choose (and I do occasionally). In Wisconsin, where they are known for their cheese and also for having the Usinger sausage factory in town, it’s not uncommon to also get a piece of cheese and a beef stick. Talk about Bloody Mary heaven.
A Bloody Mary from Comet Cafe in Milwaukee. Yes, that is bacon. Sadly, I did not take this picture or have this Bloody though I'll be back in July.
I can’t be that picky living in California. I certainly can’t expect the cheese and the beef stick. I really can’t ask for a pickle unless they have a kitchen onsite. I’m not going to get a side of beer unless I order (and pay for) one. But I do expect olives. It’s a little thing, olives; all bars have a jar or two. I get annoyed when I order a Bloody Mary here and all that comes with it are those pathetic lemon and lime wedges – which I don’t even like and take out the minute the bartender is out of sight. Kristie, my friend and all around best bartender, knows this about me. When I order a Bloody Mary at the Harp I get a stick full of those green orbs of salty olive goodness and two spears of pickles from the Harp kitchen. Sure, I still have to order my beer on the side and run the risk of looking really really thirsty, but it’s worth it. Of course the minute I walk out onto the patio with my Kristie inspired Blood Mary, I will invariably hear, “are those pickles?!”
Bloody Mary from the Garage, East Side Milwaukee. It was more impressive before I ate bits out of it then decided to take the picture. You can also easily make this Bloody Mary vegetarian by giving me your beef stick.
If you are interested in learning more about Midwest Bloody Marys from a more professional source, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a great article on the subject. You should check it out just so you know I’m not making this shit up.
*I’m bunching the Midwest up in here as part of an assumption. What I’m about to say applies to Milwaukee, where I’m from, and to places in Chicago, where I’ve been, but I can’t say for sure this applies to places like Minneapolis or Detroit.