BEST BLOODY MARY (2001)
These days it seems that most joints have forgotten that divinity lies deep within a bloody mary, not in all of the ancillary food fixings stuffed in as an afterthought. In other words, what is in theory a cocktail is too often presented as an appetizer. So, purists take heart: Elegant simplicity can be found at the St. Paul Grill, in the lobby of the Saint Paul Hotel. Though bartenders at this particularly stylish joint are loath to give away the "secret recipe" that was concocted by staffers ten years ago, one can glean certain subtleties that make this one whup-ass of a mary. The tomato juice, though it comes from a can, is augmented nicely by hints of the standards: garlic, celery salt, and a dash of Worcestershire. More important, because this is a cocktail, it's all about the booze, which is a top-shelf pour of Finlandia vodka. Add a crisp pickle spear and a simple green cocktail olive--nothing more--and the end result is a refreshing but fortifying drink (for an affordable $5). After a couple of rounds one recent evening (they really aren't just for breakfast), it seemed appropriate to move on to some serious drinking. And that's what a true mary does, really--send you off into the night to come, rather than close the book on the previous one.