Dining and Drink

Madison's bloody-good beverages

Wisconsin's bloody mary options run the gamut

It’s the Sunday Funday drink, the hair of the dog, a meal in a mug and a convincing effort to drink your daily dose of veggies. Wisconsin’s bloody mary options run the gamut from impressive brunch companions to no-frills build-it-yourself buffets. Here’s a few we can’t get enough of.

“The Milwaukeean”
Café Hollander
Six bloody marys on the menu hold their own, but we’ve got to give it to The Milwaukeean for being everything we want in a bloody. A house mix and Great Lakes Distillery’s Rehorst horseradish-infused vodka give it a bite, while a pickle, a thick cut of bacon, a white cheddar curd and Lakefront Fixed Gear beer earn this bloody mary a seat at the royal table. The drink even comes in its own can-shaped glass bearing an old-school design. “It deserved its own cup,” says Ileana Rivera, beverage director of Lowland’s Group, the parent company of the Milwaukee-born restaurant Café Benelux and sister restaurant Café Hollander, which has locations in Madison, Milwaukee, Brookfield, Mequon and Wauwatosa.

“25-Ingredient Bloody”
Short Stack Eatery

Two stops are necessary here: One stop for late-night pancakes followed the next morning by a downright delicious bloody made with Tito’s vodka, pickled veggies and many more ingredients—25 more, to be exact. Short Stack Eatery’s staff will gladly recite every single one of the 25 items that make up this bloody, but they’ll never tell you the secret to adding them all together. We do know one thing that helped make this drink the 2016 gold-winning Best of Madison Bloody—a house-made sriracha salt-rimmed glass. That’s some nice spice!

Nitty Gritty
This is one of those bloody marys that acts as a substantial meal, no entrée necessary. A full liter of house mix is blended with Reyka vodka, but the real meal is in the garnish. While a sausage link, a slice of cherrywood-smoked bacon, a beef stick, a cheese curd, a pickle and an olive already put this drink in top-heavy territory, the pièce de résistance is the addition of a mini-version of the famous Gritty burger. You might want to go easy on the beer chaser to save room for this feast.

“Beet Bloody”
The deep red-violet color of this specialty bloody at Sardine is brought to you by beets that have been steeped in vodka for seven to 10 days. The bar manager says the addition of beet works perfectly with the savory spices and flavors of the bloody, is true to Sardine’s farm-to-table style, highlighting the delicious produce sources from local farmers. They say it’s easy to make, but there’s a process. To create the infusion, beets are first roasted and then steeped before they’re strained and mixed with house-made bloody mary mix. It’s a fancy-schmancy sip to complement a delicious lakeside brunch.

Other Best Bets: Turn these honorable mention bloodys into a checklist. (And invite us, will ya?) Alchemy, Anchor Inn (Edgerton), Big10 Pub, Cento , Cooper’s Tavern, DLUX, Eldorado Grill, Genna’s Lounge, Graze, HotelRED, Hubbard Avenue Diner, Mickey’s Tavern, Paul’s Neighborhood Bar (Middleton), State Street Brats, Weary Traveler Freehouse, 5thQuarter (Verona).

If They Don’t Have It, Bring It Yourself

Wisconsinites are known to be particular when it comes to the right construction of a bloody mary. With so many ways to make them, it’s more of an art than a science. “A bloody is not on my list if it is made out of a bottle mix,” says Madison Magazine’s resident bloody mary queen, Cindy Morris. “I have been known to carry my own cans of Sacramento and celery salt if I am going to a place where I know they use a bottled mix. I am high maintenance when it comes to my bloodys.” We’re with Cindy on this one.

The Drink Dictionary

This good ol’ Wisconsin boy literally wrote the book on bloody marys. Raised in Wisconsin (arguably bloody mary headquarters), Brian Bartels authored “The Bloody Mary: The Love and Legend of a Cocktail Classic, with Recipes for Brunch and Beyond” which includes more than 50 recipes and a history of the classic drink.

Andrea Behling is managing editor of Madison Magazine.

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