In search of the best Bloody Mary

What do you think of when you think of a Bloody Mary? Maybe you think hangover cure? Or better yet, hopefully it brings to mind memories of brunch with family and friends, which you may have even had for a New Year's Day brunch this year. But whatever it brings to mind, you probably think of it in the way of a bright red tomato juice mixed with vodka and a couple of “secret” ingredients that everyone swears makes the best Bloody Mary ever. But the days of the bright red Bloody Mary are beginning to wane as restaurants, bartenders, chefs, and mixologists are all applying their craft to this iconic drink.

Nowadays, when ordering a Bloody Mary, it's becoming more commonplace to receive a drink that is rich, smooth, dark red, sometimes smokey, and usually adorned with a cornucopia of garnishes that can run the gamut, from staple items like celery sticks to the extreme, like barbecue sliders (yes, really). The Bloody Mary has evolved into a craft cocktail genre all its own.

But with so many people putting out what they think is the best Bloody Mary, how do you know where to go? Well I'm here to help with that, at least in giving you the top spots for a Bloody Mary in North Lake Tahoe at Northstar California. Bonus points: I'll even give out a recipe for you to try for yourself.

First things first, I don’t believe that a Bloody Mary is simply a morning drink any longer; it's an all-day beverage. As such, Northstar California Resort has really created a Bloody Mary culture, with a number of restaurants and bars creating their own take on a Bloody Mary. It's serious business, and so much so, that there have even been competitions to see who has the best. So today I'm sharing three of the best places to get a Bloody Mary at Northstar, featuring Summit Smokehouse, Tavern 6330’, and the Cabana Bars.

Zephyr Lodge Bloody Mary

Zephyr Lodge Bloody Mary

Summit Smokehouse

Rich and flavorful, this Bloody Mary brings to mind gamedays, tailgate parties, and backyard barbecues. It has a deep ruby red color, while highlighted by a number of spices and a garnish that aren't overwhelming like so many Bloody Mary cocktails. And that's just what I love about this one, the simplicity of it. The final touch is a candied bacon strip and float of oatmeal stout beer, which I'd never had in a Bloody Mary, yet as I quickly discovered, tastes great. The float of the oatmeal stout adds a smoothness that you don’t normally expect, while toning down the aftertaste of vodka. Of course, the thick strip of candied bacon doesn’t hurt either.

Tavern 6330'

As a great craft cocktail lounge in North Lake Tahoe, Tavern 6330' really took an artful approach to how they present their Bloody Mary. This Bloody Mary is served shaken, not stirred, and rimmed with a house-made blend of spices. The base of the drink, they also create in-house, making for a truly handcrafted Bloody Mary. It’s thick, flavorful, and almost a meal all by itself. 

Cabana Bars

Last but not least, are the Cabana Bars, located in the Village by the ice rink (and at the Overlook), frequently voted Best Bloody Mary at Northstar. This Bloody Mary is simple in its approach, yet full of flavor and spice. The secret? The house-made dark mix, which as you'll discover if you ask one of the bartenders, truly is a secret recipe. It's garnished to the brim with baby gherkin pickles, seasoned baby corns, spicy pickled green beans, celery, and a lime, and then topped off with a jumbo sautéed prawn that clings to the side of your glass. Now that's a memorable Bloody Mary. 

But now as promised, your very own Bloody Mary recipe. 

Dark Mix

What you'll need:

  • 1 mason jar (standard 16 oz.)
  • 1 bottle of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rough ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. horseradish
  • 1 whole lemon, fresh pressed
  • 1 oz. tabasco
  • 1 oz. steak sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 oz. olive juice or dirty martini mix
  • 1 oz. onion juice from cocktail onions

To make this dark Bloody Mary mix, you'll combine all the ingredients (except the Worcestershire sauce) together in a mason jar to create a thin paste. Then fill the rest of the mason jar with Worcestershire sauce, seal it, and shake. Now, you not only have a Bloody Mary mix, but an excellent steak marinade! But all great Bloody Mary mixes also require a great Bloody Mary recipe.

Bloody Mary Recipe

What you'll need:

  • 2 oz. of your favorite vodka (I prefer Tahoe Blue Vodka because of its smooth, clean finish)
  • Several ounces of a red tomato base, such as a good seasoned juice like Zing Zang or Preservation Bloody Mary mix (though tomato juice or Clamato is fine too).
  • 1-2 oz. of your pre-made dark mix.
  • Garnishes, such as a cocktail onion, olive, pepperoncini, lemon or lime wedge, and celery
  • Pint glass or mason jar

To make this Bloody Mary, fill your glass with ice and add vodka. Next, add your dark mix, which I recommend using one ounce to start, and then adding more if you want additional zing. Then fill the remaining space in the glass with your tomato juice. Stir everything together, watching as the mixture gets thicker and turns a darker shade of red. (You should be able to notice the smell of the dark mix blending with your tomato juice.)

Lastly, add your garnish, which can be as simple as celery and olives, though if you're feeling crazy, add a piece of bacon or shrimp. And with that, you now have the best Bloody Mary on your block. Cheers!

Maxx was born and raised in Southern California, moving to Lake Tahoe in 2004 for college, which he worked his way through, eventually earning degrees in business management and entrepreneurship. Throughout Maxx's life, he's always tried to be outdoors as much as possible. Nothing relaxes him more than being 30-40 miles out in the woods making camp. He got into the world of craft cocktails shortly after college, eager to master a new adventure and field of study. That great new adventure was learning the art of the cocktail. For the last few years, he's been designing drinks professionally, and just this summer, Maxx and his wife launched a new microbrewery line called DNA Brewing.