From its rumored genesis in early 1920′s Paris, to its present day incarnation, there has never been a more complex drink than the Bloody Mary. It sounds simple — tomato juice, vodka, mix and serve. But for all of its simplicity, this traditional recipe has become merely a jumping off point for bartenders to create their own variety and push this seemingly simple cocktail into its next evolution. These places push that boundary and do it well.
31621 S. Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
It’s indistinguishable whether or not this place’s Mexican Kitsch is purposeful or accidental. Either way, it’s barely noticeable once you exit the rather small eating area and head to the patio. Modestly dressed, this cocktail is simple. Your choice of vodka mixed with a mildly spicy tomato juice put into a glass and served with a lime and a straw. The drink itself does not shine. However, where it reaches its full potential is with the celery salt they place on the rim. This ingredient brings out the flavors of the drink and elevates every other element, making this Bloody Mary truly remarkable.
31752 Los Rios Street
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Some of the best Bloody Marys can be made at the house — the Ramos House, that is. The authentic Mexican restaurant supplies such a bold offering in the Bloody Mary category that there are not one, but two ways to attack it. You can drink through the straw punched through the middle of it, or you can opt to eat your way to the libation beneath. This drink is ornately topped with chives, basil, pickled green beans and a Scotch quail egg. All that dressing comes with a price you may be surprised to pay at a professional sporting event. Is it worth it? Of course!
23730 El Toro Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Truth be told, there are only two things bartenders can do to make a Bloody Mary their own; flavor the mixer with increasingly exotic additives or flavor the alcohol. Bru has gone the way of the latter with their Bloody Mary offering. The Square One cucumber vodka blends seamlessly with the Ballast Point Bloody Mary mix (which is all to rarely seen in a restaurant application), but the best counterpoint to the liquid in the glass is the chili-lemon salt
around the rim. It’s this element that pushes this drink from fantastic to transcendent.
361 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
At Las Brisas, the application is simple. Two parts Vodka, three parts mix, a cucumber sliced on the bias for garnish and two olives to top it off. It seems that the rule at this restaurant is “Don’t get in the way of the view,” as it should be. Perched on cliff overlooking Main Beach in Laguna, it would be a disservice to the clientele to make anything but the breathtaking scene the focal point of the meal. When your cocktail knows its place, and bows to the majestic surroundings it’s never a bad drink.
911 Ocean Avenue
Seal Beach, CA 90740
If you’ve ever felt like your Bloody Mary contained a little less shrimp than you desired, The Hangout has the Bloody Mary for you. Their playful turn on this classic beverage doesn’t stop there. To complement the bacon-salted rim, it is also served with a full strip of bacon to boot. Soli Elit vodka, and a refined house mix round out the ingredients here. The Hangout version of the Bloody Mary couldn’t be taken seriously if served at another restaurant with less character, yet here, it’s at home.
Follow Josh Calvert on Twitter @JoshCalvert10.