When did Bloody Marys morph from a combination of vodka and tomato juice (or if you were feeling creative, Clamato) to over-the-top concoctions that include ingredients like “smoke,” Sriracha, and house-infused booze, with garnishes that look like the bartender cleaned out the fridge and stuck everything on a skewer? In the current craft cocktail culture, where every drink is a minimalist work of art, Bloody Marys can seem a little retro. Well, there's nothing wrong with a little retro on the weekends.
If you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul, finding a place that offers a great Bloody Mary, whether it’s a build-your-own project or put together by a bartender, is no harder than finding a place that’s open for weekend brunch. Here are some suggestions for our suburban brethren. If you live near one of these spots, you’re lucky. If you don’t, gas up the car, point it in any direction you choose, and liven up your weekend with one of these brunch-worthy Bloodys.
Maple Tavern, 9374 Deerwood Lane N., Maple Grove
With its volleyball courts and nightly drink specials, this is a place where you’ll find lots of locals, even though it sits all by itself just off Highway 81, far from the glossy shopping mecca that is the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes. Despite several recommendations, Maple Tavern didn’t look very auspicious from the outside. But inside, the friendly attitude and wood paneling will make you feel like a welcome outsider at a small-town bar where everyone else is a regular.
The good folks at Maple Tavern obviously take the weekend Bloody Mary ritual seriously. There are two house-infused vodkas on offer, one a fresh-tasting cucumber version and the other a pickled pepper flavor that packs just enough heat without it taking over. There are a variety of tomato juices to choose from as well, and a trio of salts to rim your glass.
The house-infused vodkas were impressive, but what put this build-your-own bar over the top were a collection of house-made tinctures that really let you play with your flavors. Small bottles of colorful liquids labeled “smoke,” “hot,” and “olive” let you get creative and customize your drink. Of course, the selection also included the usual suspects of accompaniments: carrot and celery sticks, olives, pickle spears, cheese and meat sticks. There were also fried goodies, including jalapeno poppers and mozzarella sticks, which were fun, but didn’t fare well sitting out of the fryer too long.
For $7.50, you get a generous pour of vodka and get to play mad scientist with a lot of fun ingredients. It's definitely worth the trip to the eastern edge of Maple Grove.
Tavern on France, 6740 France Ave. S., Edina
At the dinner rush or on weekends it seems like most of Edina has decided to descend on this large, rather generic restaurant. Part of the reason is that Tavern on France offers something for everyone: kid-friendly options for families, a bustling bar scene for after work, brunch on Sunday. Perhaps in a continuing effort to be everything to everybody, Tavern on France offers “build your own” options on its menu, including a personalized burger, salad, pizza, and Bloody Mary. The beauty of this system is that while you get to put everything you like and nothing that you don’t into your drink, it doesn’t involve any actual tinkering on your part. You simply fill out the checklist at your table and the bartender does all the work for you.
The building blocks of the drink are your choice of vodka (Absolut, Absolut Peppar, Stoli, or Skye) and the house-made mixer. Then go as crazy as you want with the add-ons; categories include meats and cheeses, veggies, and spicy additions. If you like it hot, choose the Peppar for your spirit, pepper Jack cheese, pepper-stuffed olives, banana peppers, and Tabasco, green Tabasco, horseradish, or Sriracha (or if you’re a masochist, get ‘em all — it’s your digestive tract). If you like things a bit more refined, opt for the classic pimento-stuffed olives, celery sticks, and pickled asparagus.
No matter what you put in your customized Bloody, it’s a good deal at $8. The build-your-own option is offered every day, not just on weekends, which makes it nice for those mid-week meltdowns when you just want your meal in a glass.
Lucky’s 13 Pub, 1352 Sibley Memorial Highway, Mendota
You can visit Lucky’s 13 in three other Twin Cities suburbs, but this location is the original, sitting squatly on a corner on the sleepy main drag of Mendota. Based on the lack of traffic on the street, you might wonder if they really need the extra parking lot on the opposite corner. The answer to that would be yes. Yes, they do. The large bar and comfy booths fill up fast at this rustic sports bar on game days and during happy hour.
The restaurant is proud of its BLT Bloody, which doesn’t refer to the flavor of the drink, but to the quarter of an actual BLT sandwich that graces the glass. If you’re curious but noncommittal, the $8.95 Bloody Mary flight is a genius idea. You get four distinct takes on the Bloody Mary: the traditional, zippy but not spicy, and dressed up with a beef stick; bacon, a bit smoky and featuring a rather soggy piece of bacon floating in the glass; horseradish, which had a nice tingle to it; and jalapeno, which went way beyond tingle and into “it burns” territory. You’ll want to drink the flight in the order it is presented. If you start with the jalapeno version, you won’t be able to distinguish any of the other flavors. Each drink is about six ounces, so you can sample without getting sloppy.
Floyd’s Bar, 1758 Arboretum Blvd., Victoria
OK, this is way, way west, but worth the drive. In case you’re asking yourself, “where the hell is Victoria,” the answer is “not too far from the Arboretum," as you might guess from the address. If you live in the metro, it’s probably too far to drive home after more than one of the bar’s legendary Weekenders.
Your only choice here is which vodka you want. Other than that, when you order a Weekender, you get a Weekender. But boy howdy, you will be happy. The mix itself is fresh and flavorful, but not too bold for those who like “Minnesota spicy,” and the vodka pour is generous. However, it’s the skewer that tops it all off that makes a Bloody Mary at Floyd’s special.
That skewer includes a couple kinds of cheese, pepperoncini, salami, shrimp, and a garlic clove for good measure. And because they can’t fit everything on a stick, they add celery and a beef stick directly to your glass, all for $8.50. It’s no wonder that as you look around the crowded room, almost everyone is enjoying a Weekender. You’ll be surrounded by bikers, sports fans, soccer mom, bros, all happily enjoying the same drink. But only on the weekend, as the name of the drink implies.