At its simplest, a Bloody Mary is vodka and tomato juice served over ice in a highball glass, but it is rarely simple. Bloody Marys are one of the most varied and complex cocktails out there. Ranging from the two base ingredients to a complex menagerie of spices and garnishes, from not hot at all to so spicy it takes your breath away. The drinks have become associated with hair of the dog for being a good hangover cure. That’s not true as only water, rest, and electrolytes will help hangovers, but the following Bloody Marys will definitely get you up and running again.
I reached out to our Facebook and Twitter followers for suggestions along with Google to build a list of places to visit for this. I received so many suggestions we had to narrow down the list to a reasonable number for round 1. The following 6 places were suggested more than any others.
First Place – Oakley Pub & Grill
Oakley Pub & Grill also serves their Bloody Marys with a beer chaser. The Bloody Mary is so hot that some folks may need Bud Light to help ease the burn. Another suggestion was to add the beer towards the end, but the bartender said the Bloody Mary already had Guinness in it. The Bud Light did help ease the burn a wee bit but not much. Overall an interesting idea that stood out from the rest of the crowd.
Second – The Famous Neons Unplugged
Out of every suggestion, we received from Twitter and Facebook it was abundantly clear that most thought Neons had the best Bloody Marys for miles around.
Neons packs an aggressive amount of garnish with 2 pieces of meat, an olive, a strawberry, a banana pepper, a yellow bell pepper, and a chunk of spicy mozzarella. This comes with a huge piece of celery just like The Eagle. The Bloody Mary here packs a moderate heat, good spice character, and plenty of tomato juice. Those in our group who had Neon’s Bloody Mary before thought it was a little off today but remained confident that Oakley Pub & Grill’s was superior.
Third – The Eagle OTR
Two words folks: candied bacon. Beyond being beautiful, the Bloody Mary at Eagle brings a nice blend of spices, Guinness, Clamato juice, and then a plethora of garnishes. The candied bacon at The Eagle began an interesting discussion of how much the garnish matters in the quality of a Bloody Mary.
We realized it was wise to eat now and The Eagle’s grilled cheese was amazing. Slices of apples along with apricot sauce on the side introduced my tongue to new levels of how awesome grilled cheese can be.
Fourth – Taste of Belgium
Queen City Drinks frequent writer for all things spirits Ginny Tonic along with a variety of other folks all strongly suggested we stop by Taste of Belgium. Their Bloody Mary was noticeably spicier than Oakley Pub & Grill but not necessarily hotter. Quite a bit of pickle juice and horseradish. Garnished with a lime and two olives. A lot more vinegar/pickle juice flavor than we found anywhere else.
Fifth – 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab
They give you a mix of Clamato juice, vodka, and a variety of spices along with what tastes like shrimp cocktail sauce. The bar has a great many hot spices, horseradish, pickles, olives. Initially, we didn’t realize it was Clamato juice and thought that they used a shrimp cocktail sauce, especially since she asked us if we were allergic to seafood when we ordered the Bloody Marys. The use of Clamato juice creates a nice difference from the others then you decide how hot you want it at the Bloody Mary bar.
Sixth – Habits Cafe
Habits gives you a glass of ice with a double shot of vodka then lets you at their Bloody Mary bar.
This was our first stop and we thought the Bloody Mary bar would make it hard to compare to other places since we made them ourselves, but I enjoyed my mix. We all agreed that we don’t know how to make great Bloody Marys but enjoyed the experience of making our own. The group concluded that we’d rather make our own bad Bloody Marys then have a bartender make us bad ones.
One of us ordered another and asked the bartender to make it for us. They made it with more A1 than any of us used and it was a touch hotter. Overall I’d say it is closer to the average Bloody Mary you get at any bar around the area.
What Makes Good Bloody Marys?
In the end, there was division among the ranks as to which place should be first. The divide was created on the question of how much attention needs to be paid to the garnish. Does the garnish matter at all or is the beverage itself of prime importance? I campaigned for something like a 60/40 split drink/garnish. I was out voted and my friends said the drink had to be of prime importance hence why Neons was second instead of The Eagle.
Personally, I preferred the Clamato-based juice at The Eagle over Neons’ tomato base plus the candied bacon pushed The Eagle to second place for me. There was no doubt that Oakley Pub & Grill was by far the favorite of the day, though, just a switch up for second and third.
Rounds 2 through ?
I got far more suggestions than I actually expected to receive so we were not able to hit everyone. This is why I’m saying “6 of the best Bloody Marys in Cincinnati” and not “The 6 Best Bloody Marys in Cincinnati.” My friends and I have resolved to visit more of these places as time allows and one day soon declare “The Best Bloody Marys in Cincinnati”
- City View Tavern
- The Littlefield
- The Anchor-OTR
- The Vogue Cafe
- Zip’s Cafe
- Keystone Bar
- Tavern on the Hill
- Tellers of Hyde Park
- Maribelle’s Eat+Drink
- The Comet
- Moerlein Lager House
- Arlin’s Bar & Restaurant
Do you have anywhere that needs to be added to that list? What’s your favorite Bloody Mary around town? Are you a Clamato fan or is it tomato juice or nothing? What’s your stance on the drink/garnish debate? Let us know in the comments!