What are the essential elements of a great Bloody Mary? A blistering tomato base, a formidable garnish, a healthy dose of vodka, and the ability to cure a mind-numbingly painful hangover are a start. Chicago’s most extreme Bloody Marys stretch the definition to extremes. Here, a primer
KEY: JUICE GARNISH VERDICT
BIN WINE CAFE
BLOODY MARY FLIGHT
Weekend brunch only; $12.80 for four 3 oz. pours
1559 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-486-2233
Standard tomato-based mix
The generic Bucktown Mary is straight-forward Tabasco and horseradish; Asian Mary has pickled ginger/ wasabi; Italian Mary sports shaved Parmesan, fresh basil, and aged balsamico; Consuela Mary is all about chipotle.
Skip the flight and go for a full-size extra-spicy Consuela Mary.
BLOODY MARY BREAKFAST
Weekend brunch only; $17
2152 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-5555
Prairie organic vodka blended with hand-crushed tomatoes and a host of other ingredients including dill, mustard powder, and homemade sriracha
You’ll need two hands to wield the mighty skewer of salumi, cheese, country pâté, pickled okra, preserved kumquat, pickled carrots, and olives. Served with a 7 oz. Miller High Life chaser
Impressive. This charcuterie on a stick is a gotta-see-it-to-believe-it gimmick that actually works. But more spice, please, unless it’s supposed to taste like a dirty vodka martini.
Sunday brunch only; $8
4518 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-271-6100
Almost everything’s organic: Rain vodka, fresh horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, caper juice, and Gordal olive tapenade.
Why bother with a cocktail onion, lime, and green olive when there’s a dehydrated serrano ham chip to be devoured?
Not even the bar manager knows how to make this top-notch concoction—only chef de cuisine Daniel Jacobs knows. If we had a secret this good, we wouldn’t share either.
UNCOMMON BLOODY MARY
$8; $5 on Sundays
3800 N. Clark St., 773-929-3680; 1401 W. Devon Ave., 773-465-9801
Rain vodka infused in-house with poblano pepper, garlic, sweet onion, and roasted bell pepper blended with tomatoes and stout ale
Skewer changes depending on the season—we got slices of cucumber and green bell pepper.
There’s a reason this Bloody has a loyal following. It’s not spicy; it’s smoky, like grilled veggies hot off the barbecue in the summer.
MAYA DEL SOL
Sunday brunch only; $10
144 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park; 708-358-9800
Negra Modelo beer and Cazadores Reposado tequila mixed with homemade ancho chile sangrita
A skewer to rival The Bristol’s—if not in quality, at least in size—this one has shrimp, ham, cheese, olives, and a whole pickle spear. Insanely spicy, even without the chile flake-salt rim.
Tequila for breakfast? We could get used to this.
MERRY BLOODY MARY
Fairmont Chicago, 200 N. Columbus Dr.; 312-444-9494
Absolut vodka and organic heirloom tomatoes blended with fresh garlic, thyme, horseradish, shallots, wasabi, black pepper, cider vinegar, and freshly squeezed lemon and lime
Pickled green bean and asparagus spear, green olive, and goat cheese–stuffed hot red pepper
Fiercely spiced and mixed fresh daily, this is, hands down, Chicago’s best.
Photography: Anna Knott