The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 5 Bloody Marys

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For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2011 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.

Well, good morning, sunshine. You look like you could use a little hair of the dog. And a Bloody Mary is just the trick.

Unfortunately, it's often hard to find a suitable Bloody Mary in Houston. Too many restaurants skimp on the ingredients, subbing in watery tomato juice or flaccid celery sticks. Just as many skimp on the spice. And an increasing number of restaurants keep trying to jazz up what should be a straightforward, hearty cocktail meant for rejuvenation. I understand; the Bloody Mary has been called the world's most complex cocktail for a reason, and that reason is the fact that there are so many possible permutations of the beverage.

I don't want a sake-based Bloody Mary. I don't want a Bloody Mary filled with bacon. I just want a regular damn tomato-and-vodka cocktail with some salty, crunchy garnishes to take my mind off the gnawing pain in my head and a healthy kick to wake me up.

5. Shiloh Club

Like the No. 3 entry on the list, this neighborhood-y dive bar makes its own terrific in-house Bloody Mary mix. In addition, the Shiloh Club also makes its own pickled green beans with habanero peppers as a garnish. The combination of garnish and mix and a glug of well vodka makes for a wholly delicious yet unpretentious drink that kicks like a mule and doesn't hit you where it hurts -- in the wallet.

4. Cadillac Bar

It's hard to beat the Bloody Marys at the Cadillac Bar on Shepherd -- because you make them yourself as part of the Cadillac's elaborate Sunday brunch buffet. The bartender pours some vodka over the rocks and hands you the glass. Then comes the most ornate do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar you've ever seen: several varieties of tomato juice cocktail, celery stalks, pickled okra, baby corn, olives, cocktail onions, pickled peppers, fresh peppers, bottled pepper sauces, Worcestershire, celery salt, lemon and limes too. In fact, the only important ingredient missing from the line-up is horseradish. Horseradish isn't Tex-Mex, the bartender says. If you think horseradish is critical to a perfect Bloody Mary, you better bring your own.

3. Mugsy's

Mugsy's serves its Bloody Mary as a perfect blend of spicy and hot. The homemade mix doesn't go overboard on the tomato juice, and the hint of Worcester sauce gives it a meaty taste that many mixes regretfully forego.

2. Danton's

This super-spicy cocktail is made from the restaurant's gumbo, strained and mixed with vodka in a glass rimmed with a spicy salt mixture and crowned the Bloody Danton. If that doesn't sound amazing to you, good. More for me. I need a little kick and a little cheekiness in my morning cocktails, and there's nothing kickier than peppery gumbo and vodka.

1. Flora & Muse

The stately Bloody Mary at Flora & Muse isn't necessarily the kind of heavily garnished, Clamato-based cocktail that you gulp down as a hangover cure. This charming European-style bistro in Memorial's CityCentre development offers an elegant twist on the standard cocktail. Served in a long-stemmed glass chalice -- the same curving sides to it as a Stella Artois glass, sans the gold rim -- this Bloody Mary is subtly spiced and wholly invigorating on a Saturday morning, whether you're hungover or not.

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