The Bloody Mary cocktail started simply: tomato juice mixed with vodka. Fernand Petiot, a bartender at New York Bar in Paris claimed he invented the drink in 1921. Others over the years have challenged Petiot, insisting to have invented the classic brunch beverage themselves. No matter! Today, Bloody Marys are nuanced, surprising, and more often than not, over-the-top. For the Bloody Mary enthusiast, these are the top Chicago spots to visit.
Cherry Circle Room
Bar, Hotel Restaurant, American, French, Pastries, $$$
Located in the historic, chic Chicago Athletic Association, the Cherry Circle Room offers gourmet food and drinks. The restaurant also won a James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant Design, so you know you’re in for a stylish treat the moment you walk in. Paul McGee, the beverage director at Land and Sea Dept., the design group heading up Cherry Circle Room, approached the cocktail menu with a healthy balance of tradition and innovation. Their Bloody Mary is called a Red Snapper (a name rumored to have been the drink’s first official title). However, instead of featuring vodka as most Bloodies do, this one uses gin and sherry. There’s also tomato, spices, and smoke bomb sea salt for an added burst of flavor. Pair the Red Snapper with the Smoked Sturgeon Benedict for a delicious, and elegant, brunch.
Fountainhead is a low-key neighborhood tavern known for its carefully selected beer list and amazing rooftop garden. To give you an idea of the beer options, the bottle list has three pages dedicated solely to Belgian and Belgian-style ales, but why drink beer when there’s a fantastic Bloody Mary on the menu? Fountainhead mixes up the perfect combination of intense flavors and textures for their brunch cocktail. Using North Shore vodka (distilled in Green Oaks, Illinois) and a homemade mixture of roasted poblano, spices, roasted tomatillo, and a healthy dose of horseradish, this Bloody Mary is full of rich flavors. Served in a glass rimmed with celery salt for an added kick, patrons also get to munch on olives, pickles, and an enormous kabob with cheese and meat. It’s an appetizer and a cocktail all in one.
Uncommon Ground has two locations in Chicago, both with four star certification from the Green Restaurant Association. This means their delicious food and cocktails are not only good for the environment, they are better for you than most food around town. The Edgewater location is home to the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country; the original location in Lakeview has Greenstar Brewing, the first certified organic Brewery in Illinois. When it comes to Bloody Marys, Uncommon Ground devotes this same love and attention to their recipe. Choose either Prairie vodka infused in-house with garlic, ancho chile peppers, bell pepper, and sweet onions, or tequila infused with ancho chiles for their cocktail. The spirit is then topped with a spicy homemade mix featuring locally made Co-op Sauce. The topper? A veggie skewer. Another topper? A draft beer back for just $2.
Vegetarians and vegans flock to this Wicker Park hipster haven for comfort food with a vegetarian twist. Favorites at Handlebar include the fried avocado tacos, served with cabbage slaw, tomatoes, queso fresco, refried beans, and house-made ranch. A majority of the menu can also be prepared vegan upon request, plus there are many gluten-free options. Handlebar also adds a slight twist to the classic vodka-tomato juice Bloody Mary. Instead of a splash of Worcestershire sauce, which many bartenders reach for first to add a rich flavor, Handlebar tosses in some Guinness. They then top it off with a cornmeal-breaded, deep fried pickle.
This bar and restaurant mixes up the typical nightlife scene in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Patrons can eat delicious pub food (or amazing brunch options on the weekends) while playing one of 65 vintage arcade games. Plus, the Bloody Marys are insane. Along with pickled veggies like green beans and asparagus, the skewer sticking out of the glass includes meat, cheese, and a full White Castle slider. It’s called the Slip ‘n Slider. A word of warning: Don’t stop at the skewer! The basil and garlic-infused vodka mixed with a homemade tomato concoction with lashings of Sriracha and horseradish is just as tasty – if not more so – as that slider.
Longman and Eagle received a Michelin recognition of excellence in 2016 and held a Michelin star from 2011 to 2014. This Logan Square establishment knows what it’s doing when it comes to food, cocktails and hospitality. They have a small B&B upstairs to stay in if you book in advance. Their menu emphasizes local and seasonal ingredients, playing on the complexity of what would seem like simple dishes. Their brunch menu includes three different tomato-based cocktails. Though each is prepared with house-made Bloody mix and garnished with a lemon, a lime, mini pickles, and a chunk of cheddar cheese, the flavors vary greatly. The Bloody Mary is made with vodka, the Bloody Larry with whiskey, and the Bloody Maria with tequila. You can find Bloody Marys everywhere, and Bloody Marias many places, but the Bloody Larry? Now, that’s something you’ve gotta try.
In the heart of River North, this Asian fusion restaurant is a hip space with a cross-cultural menu, blending cooking techniques and flavors from all over the continent. The vast menu has dim sum, Asian grill items, poke bowls, and signature sushi. If you order the Sunda Sumo Mary at brunch, be careful not to mistake it for a large table decoration or a family-style dish to share. This 32 oz. monster is topped with just about anything one could imagine on an Asian-fusion menu: thick Applewood bacon, tocino grilled cheese, steamed duck bao, braised pork belly, lumpia (Indonesian spring roll), crab sushi, Chinese broccoli, takuan (pickled, Korean daikon radish), and wok-fired shishito peppers. Too much for you? Opt for the Bloody Mary bar instead, which is a cart rolled up table-side full of tasty garnishes you can pick yourself.
This artsy space in Noble Square offers diners just about anything they can dream of in terms of New Mexican cuisine. Flo is a hip favorite among locals, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch. The dishes are large for a great price; there are also many vegan and vegetarian options. Variety is also the name of the Bloody Mary game. Patrons can chose from three different spirits and three different spices to make their ideal beverage. Flo offers vodka, tequila, or a house-infused bacon bourbon – a delicious, salty twist on the classic Bloody Mary. Then, the choice becomes Cholula (a classic Bloody Mary spiked with Cholula hot sauce), Chile Rojo (spiked with New Mexican red chilies), or Chile Verde (spiked with green chilies and jalapeños). With nine unique combinations, diners can never claim boredom during brunch at Flo.
When in Andersonville, Hamburger Mary’s is a must-visit for perfectly cooked burgers, a variety of patties, and numerous toppings. The franchise began in San Francisco, and this Chicago location offers up drag shows on some nights and open-mic stand-up sets on others. With a motto like “Eat, drink and be… Mary!” this spot is the perfect place for brunch. The Mary’s twist on Bloodies includes pepper and lime-infused vodka in a homemade tomato mix, a go-to for anyone who loves spicy cocktails. There’s also a Gazpacho Bloody Mary, made with cucumber-infused vodka, muddled cucumbers, and cilantro, for those itching for something cooler on the tongue. Finally, the Michelada, a Bloody Mary mixed with Andersonville Brewing’s own Gangster Ale beer.
Located in a European beer hall, The Publican is full of eclectic menu options inspired by ‘farmhouse fare.’ Reservations are essential here, as this place is extremely popular for brunch. The brunch menu offers all kinds of meats, including pork, duck, chicken, and lamb. This is also a restaurant that plans ahead; The Publican lets its Bloody Mary mix marinate for 24 hours to three days before it is ready to serve. After the many flavors (horseradish, anchovy, lemon, lime, Sriracha, Worcestershire, hot mustard) have settled into harmony together, the mixture is poured over chilled Modest Vodka from Wisconsin and topped with pickled onions or mushrooms. A dash of house-made celery bitters also goes in, for a final flourish.
This has been one of the most popular dining destinations in Logan Square for nearly a decade. The brunch has become one of its main attractions, particularly because of its delectable Bloody Mary. Chili paste and lemongrass are the secret ingredients in the spicy, flavorful Classic Lula ’99 Bloody Mary. According to some sources, this hot spot used to make a similar cocktail with gin instead of Modest Vodka, its spirit of choice today. They may make this old version upon request. Still, you can’t go wrong with the current iteration, garnished with a simple skewer of olives, peppers, and caper berries.
With ducks hidden around every corner, almost everything served at The Duck Inn is cooked in duck fat. Duck meat is also used to enhance dishes, like the turkey wings. The restaurant even uses Aylesbury Duck Vodka in its Bloody Marys, a crisp, clean spirit with a hint of spice. This vodka is a perfect complement to the puréed San Marzano tomatoes used as the cocktail’s base. The Duck Inn keeps this brunch classic super simple while providing complex flavor. The tomato purée is mixed only with spices blended in-house and fresh lemon juice. The result is an elegant alternative to some of the crazier Bloody Marys found around Chicago.
Near The Green Mill in Uptown, Fat Cat is a casual place to hit up for brunch on the weekend. Yes, there is a regularly rotating draft beer list with 16 unique brews, but since their Bloody Mary won Best Bloody Mary in 2014, it would be silly not to order one. Fat Cat’s Bloody Mary mix is spiced with Sriracha and BBQ sauce. The kicker might be the lardon garnish: A large chunk of fatty bacon glazed in brown sugar and more Sriracha sits on a skewer over a salty rim. Sweet and savory, with a dash of fresh lemon and lime: this Bloody Mary is one for the record books.
The paintings on the walls and the amazing Art Deco space would give the impression that Tweet was an art gallery if it weren’t for the spectacular and varied brunch offerings. The Uptown favorite fuses Scandinavian, Latin American, and American dishes to create a unique dining experience. It’s also the best place for spicy Bloody Mary enthusiasts. Served in tiki goblets, each of Tweet’s four specialty Bloody Marys is made with Absolut Peppar vodka and simply garnished with celery, carrot, and olives. Try the Classic (just a little kick), the Wasabi, the Smokin’ Hot (Sriracha), or the Ecstacy (a blend of all three). A fifth option is simply the Ecstacy with Effen Cucumber Vodka instead of Absolut Peppar. These aren’t for the faint of heart, so get ready for a spicy good time!
Since 1994, this infamous Wicker Park BBQ joint has been offering up delicious ribs and jazz music, seven nights a week. The meat is smoked in-house daily, and even though it’s known around the country for having the best BBQ in Chicago, vegetarians can still enjoy quinoa burgers and delectable salads. Brunch is served family-style, and for an additional $16, you can slurp bottomless Bloody Marys. Each cocktail is made with Smoke Daddy’s signature Bloody Mary mix, a blend of Smoke Daddy BBQ sauce, curry, orange peel, Worcestershire source, saffron, and more, and served with a pulled pork garnish wrapped in brisket. For an extra $1, brunchers can upgrade to jalapeño or cucumber-infused vodka.