7 Places to Build Your Own Bloody Mary

For some strange reason, when it comes to Bloody Marys, everybody is an expert. "Everybody likes to argue about who makes the best Bloody Mary, so I decided to throw it back at the customer and let them do their own thing," explains Parnell Egan, owner of the West End Tavern.

Not only did Egan birth the do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar in Cleveland, he very well might have pioneered the entire concept. While working for the Victoria Station restaurant chain way back in the '70s, Egan decided to turn the salad bar into a Bloody Mary bar during weekend brunch, thus making morning drinking acceptable. "They say you eat with your eyes. Well, you drink with your eyes, too," he says. "And the Bloody Mary bar gave customers something to talk about at the table — and it started to bring them in."

When it comes to the beloved Sunday ritual of the Bloody Mary bar, people are so set in their ways that Francesca Harris had to steer devotees to something new the only way she knew how: by telling little white lies.

As beverage manager of Flats-based craft rum bar Portside Distillery, Harris jokes that more often than not she was greeted with, "Rum? In my Bloody Mary?"

"I started just asking them the infused flavor they wanted and wouldn't bother telling them it's rum until after they tasted it," she laughs.

Bloody bars like Portside's have been spreading across the city, and behind each one is somebody like Harris or Egan who is eager and willing to hand over the reins to do-it-yourselfers. Here's a rundown of well-stocked options for day drinkers.

Portside Distillery

983 Front Ave., 216-586-6633, portsidedistillery.com

When available: Browns home games 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Price and Pour: $8 for 2 ounces in a 14-ounce glass

Garnishes: Celery, pickles, lemon, lime, sport peppers

Liquors: Rum infused with cucumber, olive, jalapeno and even hops.

Quote: "You look at Bloody Marias, they have tequila. Blood & Sand is made with Scotch," says Harris. "Rum is becoming a nice little trend."

Sterle's Country House

1401 East 55th St., 216-881-4181, sterlescountryhouse.com

When available: Sundays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Price and Pour: $7.50 for 2 ounces

Mixers: Local Pope's Bloody Mary mix

Garnishes: Downtown-based Randy's Pickles, pickled red onions, banana peppers, mustard seeds

Hot sauces: Pope's line plus sauces picked up at neighboring AsiaTown markets

Vodkas: Absolut Peppar for a little kick, Tito's, Grey Goose, Stoli and Belvedere

Quote: "People just love Bloody Marys," says executive chef and GM Jeff Jarrett. "It has such a following and it's almost like a Cleveland thing too. You can go to other towns and they have them, but the ferocity of people wanting them is never as much as it is here."

The Red Lantern

17446 Lorain Ave., 216-331-1458, redlantern.us

When available: Saturdays 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Price and Pour: $6 for 1.5 ounces in a Mason jar

Mixers: Housemade original and herb. Seasonally, tomatillos and cucumbers become a "green" variety.

Garnishes: Smoked jerky from Fligner's Market in Lorain, thick-cut bacon, pepperoncini, banana peppers

Vodkas: In-house infusions of Tito's Vodka such as habanero-bacon, dill, lemon-garlic

Quote: "We moved into the Kamm's Corners area, which has a lot of history and nostalgia," says owner Cory Rowland. "We wanted to do something that no one else was doing at the time."

Touch Supper Club

2710 Lorain Ave., 216-631-5200, touchohiocity.com

When available: Saturday and Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Price and Pour: $4 to $8 (depending on call) for 1.5 ounces served in your own shaker. "We let you be your own bartender."

History: Touch has offered its Bloody bar since 2005. After a one-year hiatus due to remodeling, they've expanded the bar to both upper and lower levels due to popular demand.

Garnishes: Pickled egg, charcuterie stems, kimchi

Hot Sauces: More than 100, including bacon, habanero and Dave's Original Insanity Sauce

Vodkas: House infusions of tomato-basil, potato-bacon, wasabi, mango, horseradish, jalapenos

Quote: "We're going to start right where we left off with the Bloody Mary bar," says owner Robert Ivanov. "But this time around, we've really upped our game."

A Bar and Kitchen

850 Euclid Ave., Ste. 110., 216-644-8954, abarcle.com

When available: Sundays 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Price and Pour: $10 to $12 for 1.5 ounces in a pint glass

Mixers: Housemade concoction

Garnishes: Corned beef, eggs, Slim Jims, salami, bologna, pepper jack cheese

Hot sauces: House-blended mix with Frank's and habanero

Vodkas: Paramount, Tito's, Absolut, in-house pepper-infused

Quote: "It's Sunday morning, people have gone out the night before," says owner Clarence Wilson, who's seen a recent uptick in the morning-after elixir. "Sometimes there's nothing better than a nice Bloody Mary to bring you back to a normal state."

West End Tavern

18514 Detroit Ave., 216-521-7684, westendtav.com

When available: Saturdays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Price: $5

Pour: 1.25 ounces in a 15-ounce goblet

Mixers: Red Eye, Tabasco, Sacramento, V-8, Clamato, and a housemade variety

Garnishes: Celery, carrots, cucumber, green onion, lemons, limes, celery salt, garlic powder

You have what? Skewers with olives, peppers, cherry tomato and summer sausage

Quote: "Bloody Marys are perfect for Saturday morning," Egan says. "Tomato juice goes down easy and the drink takes the edge off."

Market Rocky River

1137 Linda St., 440-799-4292, marketbeer.com

When available: Sundays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Price: $7 regular, $8.50 for Hail Mary

Pour: 2 ounces in pint glass, 3 ounces in 23-ounce glass (Hail Mary)

The set up: An old lumber cart retrofitted with 36 cold stations for garnishes

Mixers: Jimmy Luv

Garnishes: 16 types of olives, five types of Smokies, three types of bacon, three kinds of horseradish, cheese and fruit

Hot sauces: 24 ranging from avocado and mango to Pain 100%

You have what? Pepperoncini stuffed with cream cheese, bacon and chives

Quote: "I saw a place in Chicago doing something similar, but it was a poor attempt," says owner John Owen. "So I went to the West Side Market and made deals with five different vendors."

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About The Authors

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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