On the rocks, spicy, with a celery stalk, with a lemon wedge, with a stick of bacon, with an entire meal in the glass. The origin of the Bloody Mary is unclear with multiple conflicting claims to who invented it. Funny enough the name itself has conflicting issues. Whether Ferdnand Petiot of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris created it in 1921 is true or not, it has been a classic cocktail reputed to be a hangover cure. Nonetheless, the restorative beverage’s reputation has been known to be enjoyed in the morning and early afternoon, especially during brunch. But don’t let the time of day stop you from imbibing.
Whatever makes for a great ‘tomato juice cocktail’ — as it was known for during Prohibition — there are a few ingredients that are classic to the Bloody Mary. Typical ingredients are three parts Vodka, six parts tomato juice, one part lemon juice, two to three dashes of Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco, and celery salt and pepper. Other variations include horseradish, clam juice or olive brine, brown sugar or molasses and bitters. Commonly it is garnished with a simple celery stalk when served in a pint glass. Bars have been embellishing the garnish for years including such items as olives, cheese cubes, a dill pickle spear, lemon wedges and dried sausage. Some establishments have even upped the ante by making the drink a meal by including massive garnishes like skewers of ribs, miniature hamburger "sliders", grilled or fried shrimp, kebabs, sandwich wedges, fruit slices and even sashimi.
We talked to several bars in the region and came up with this list of the ones we liked the best.
St. Nicholas Brewery: This Bloody has a bit of a bite. Start with one and a half shots of Vodka, add a dash of pepper, splash of lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, pickle juice, olive juice and a dash of hot sauce. It’s finished off with bloody mix. The glass is garnished with a celery salt rim, lemon and lime wedges and green olive skewers. On Sundays the brewery offers a brunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a Bloody Mary bar that you can load with all sorts of garnishes.
The Cellar: It has been the most popular drink since the beginning of time (not literally, but pretty close). They start with a shaker glass filled with ice and add two shots of vodka. To this they fill the glass with Bloody Mary mix and finish with a healthy shake of celery salt. It’s given a good shake and poured in a tall glass. It come with the standard skewer of a salami slice, olive and cheese cube. You can also have your choice of a pickle spear or a celery stalk to make it complete. I bet you can’t have just one.
Brews Brothers Taproom: Here you can get a very tasty Bloody Mary but manager, Mary LaReau, prefers to keep her recipe top secret. Go try one for yourself!
17th Street Barbecue: Owner Mike Mills and his daughter, Amy Mills have included the Magic Mary recipe below in their new cookbook Praise the Lard.
Other honorable mentions include: The Grotto at Newell House and Tres Hombres in Carbondale, Giant City Lodge in Makanda, Jack’s Meat Market in Murphysboro and Just Sues in Evansville.
— Life & Style in Southern Illinois