Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners were announced a while back, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're continuing to round up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories. Bon appétit!
People keep telling me that Bloody Marys are a morning drink--early afternoon at the latest. And it's not just my friends who give me crap for ordering the tomato and vodka cocktail at any time, day or night. It's the bartenders, too. Try asking for a spicy Bloody Mary at 11 p.m. and see how the server reacts.
It's cool, though. I don't mind the looks and odd reactions so long as I have a little something spicy and boozy to drink. And while working on this list and tasting Bloody Marys all over town, I had an excellent excuse to order my favorite drink.
If you do searches for the origin of the Bloody Mary online, you're likely to find a number of different stories, some claiming it was invented in Paris by a guy named Fernand Petiot, others that a chick named Mary at a bar called Bucket of Blood created the cocktail. Whatever the origin, the drink appears to have evolved since the early 1900s into something spicier and more complex than the initial mix.
These days, bars and restaurants attempt to top each other by making the spiciest mix or topping the drink with the most outrageous garnish. Here are the best of these "hair of the dog" cocktails in Houston.
Best New Kid Cook & Collins 2416 Brazos Cook & Collins, which opened in January, is named partially for the Tom Collins, a popular gin cocktail, but it's the Bloody Mary that has brunch fans raving. It's only on the brunch menu, and for $10, you get Tito's vodka mixed with Zing Zang and as many extra spices and hot sauces as you need to get your drink to the right heat level. Most impressive, though, is the garnish: A slice of thick and crispy bacon, a poached shrimp, a pickled green tomato, a single bleu cheese stuffed olive and celery are all skewered and shoved into the top of the glass. Thank goodness there's a straw.
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Best Bloody Mary Bar Cadillac Bar 1802 Shepherd Every Sunday, Cadillac Bar has not only a brunch buffet, but a veritable Bloody Mary buffet as well. For $4.99, you get a glass with house vodka (prices go up if you want something a little fancier), and then you're on your own to choose from Zing Zang, Tabasco, Mr. & Mrs. T or tomato juice as the base for your drink. From there, you have the option of nearly a dozen different hot sauces and garnishes like pickled asparagus or okra, celery, green beans and olives. Of course, part of what makes a Bloody Mary great is the artistry that goes into it thanks to the bartender. Here, you're on your own. Good luck.
Best Customizable Brick & Spoon 1312 W. Alabama Like Cadillac Bar, Brick & Spoon, the new-ish brunch hotspot on Alabama, allows drinkers to customize their Bloody Marys, but these ones are made by legit bartenders, not people like me who just like to drink. The bartenders give you a "Big Spoon Bloody Mary" menu, and you check off boxes for what you'd like in your cocktail. The drinks (which are doubles with 2.5 ounces of vodka each) start at $10, and some of the add-ons are extra. I don't know about you, but I'm totally willing to pay extra for a beef straw and seafood deviled egg. Who needs lunch with a drink like that?
Best Over-the-Top Mojeaux's Louisiana Drinkery 2024 Rusk Speaking of drinks as meals, Mojeaux's takes the cake for most outrageous (and filling) Bloody Mary in Houston. At $18, it's more than just a drink. Homemade Bloody Mary mix and Ultimat vodka are garnished with olives, multiple cubes of cheddar cheese, three large boiled shrimp, a Slim Jim, pickled okra, celery and the piece de resistance, a breakfast sausage slider. This treat is only available on Sundays, and according to Houstonia at least, it's about the only reason to hit up Mojeaux's for brunch.
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Best Seafood Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen 4611 Montrose This isn't your grandma's clamato-laced bloody mary. The seafood flavor in the famous Bloody Danton comes from a not-so-secret-but-highly-sought-after ingredient: Gumbo. Instead of boring Bloody Mary mix and clamato, Danton's strains its famous gumbo and uses that as the base for the cocktail. Mix that with a little vodka and some vinegary garnishes, and you have the perfect drink to ease you into the loud music at the weekly Blues Brunch on Sundays.
Best Bacon Mary Brooklyn Athletic Club 601 Richmond Increasingly, it's become a trend to mix the hip meat with spicy tomato sauce and vodka and call it a drink. Some bars and restaurants have gone so far as to use bacon-flavored vodka in their Marys (not tasty), but BAC keeps it classy with the simple addition of bacon and a good, smoky mix to give the idea of cured meat without overwhelming the palate. BAC uses Nueske's bacon in the drink (and in a number of dishes) and garnishes with all things pickled.
Best Homemade Mix Beaver's 2310 Decatur Speaking of bacon-infused vodka, it's an option at Beaver's but the house-made Bloody Mary mix is so good, you might just want to drink it on its own. Oh who are we kidding? Bring on the vodka! And then top it off with a zesty blend of tomato juice, bruised celery, Worcestershire sauce, crushed garlic, lime juice, wasabi and Beaver's special Big Daddy's hot sauce. Choose from a number of garnishes, but it's best to drink this Bloody Mary with as few frills as possible to truly let that great tomato mix shine.
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Best Hangover Cure Down House 1801 Yale At Down House, you can get a Bloody Mary with a house-made mix for $5. Or you can go all out and get the "Big Ol' Bloody Mary" for $9--a "bigger, badder, boozier" cocktail that comes with a beer back. Apparently, serving beer along with a Bloody Mary is a Wisconsin thing, but we're happy to embrace it here in Houston, too, particularly as the beer back is a great way to ease our hungover asses back into day drinking.
Best Value Darkhorse Tavern 2207 Washington On Sundays, when most people need them most, the Bloody Marys at Darkhorse are only $3.50, and they pack quite the punch. They're basic--no crazy garnishes or wild infusions here. Just regular vodka or Absolut Peppar, a super spicy mix and a little love. The bartenders here know that every person likes his or her bloody mary a little different, so they'll add olives or reduce the spice to fit your needs. But really, at $3.50 each, all you need is for them to keep on comin'.
Best All-Around Hearsay Gastro Lounge 218 Travis Bloody Marys are serious business. And trust us, during Sunday brunch, Hearsay Gastro Lounge means business. The restaurant infuses its vodka with jalapeños in-house, resulting in a cocktail that has the perfect amount of heat to balance out the acidity of the drink. It provides just enough spice to simultaneously wake you up and kill that Sunday morning hangover, the way only a truly great bloody mary can.
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