The Best Bloody Marys in Los Angeles
Creative and modern twists on the classic brunch cocktail
Weekend brunch is practically a sport in LA, and the Bloody Mary is undoubtedly the queen of cocktails during that meal. Paris bartender Fernand Petiot supposedly created the drink in 1921 at the city’s famed New York Bar and imported his recipe to Manhattan, where word of the tomato-based vodka cocktail spread. The drink supposedly name checks Mary, Queen of Scots, who burned Protestants at the stake in the 16th Century for refusing to convert to Catholicism. Thankfully, the blood red drink is far less gruesome. Many restaurants treat the drink like an art form, carefully crafting house-made mixes and garnishes. Discover some of LA’s best, most unique Bloody Marys.
The hard-charging h.wood Group runs some of LA’s hottest nightclubs and has made food and drink more of a priority at restaurants like Mason, SLAB and Alice, a modern American establishment at 1 Hotel West Hollywood. Bar director Justin Campbell draws from the seasons for their Farmers Market Bloody Mary. He infuses Absolut Elyx vodka with Fresno chiles for heat and builds balance with market tomato juice, lemon juice, chipotle, celery seed, shiro dashi, and Worcestershire. He also drops Tajin right in the drink instead of on the rim. Each Bloody Mary comes garnished with a celery stalk and speared gooseberry, Fresno chile, market tomato and mushroom. Campbell aims for sweet, savory, umami, and crunch in his cocktails, and this Bloody Mary hits every mark.
Belcampo - Santa Monica
Santa Monica is L.A.’s only Belcampo Meat Co. location with a full liquor license, and co-founders Anya Fernald and Todd Robinson make the most of the opportunity. They tasked vaunted bartender Josh Goldman to create a destination cocktail program, and he delivered. For the house Bloody Mary he fat-washes Aylesbury Duck vodka with bacon and porcini powder. Clarified tomato juice and black pepper tincture join the fray, along with a celery ice cube. House-cured Belcampo bacon is baked to a crisp with black pepper and Demerara sugar and rests on the rim of a Collins glass, supporting tiny edible flowers. Goldman also created a vegetarian version called the Snapping Turtle that eliminates meat, but still delivers bite with horseradish oil and herbal infused vodka.
Connie and Ted's
Connie & Ted’s, a modern New England inspired seafood house named for chef Michael Cimarusti’s maternal grandparents, is another successful venture with front of house maestro Donato Poto and a great place to grab weekend brunch. Their Bloody Mary pairs beautifully with their oceanic comfort food, featuring a punchy base and celery-bay leaf infused vodka. The icy glass touts several garnishes: a skewered pimento-stuffed olive, a lemon wedge, and cocktail onion, plus a celery stalk as big as a small cactus.
Esters Wine Shop & Bar
Talented wine pro Kathryn Weil Coker, husband Tug, and their RC Family partners have made Esters Wine Shop & Bar a neighborhood favorite for imbibing and light, drink-friendly bites. On weekends, the Bloody Mary is a mainstay during their “boozy brunch.” General Manager Christian Flaherty recently revamped the cocktail program, including their Esters Bloody Mary. The latest version is light, but flavorful, featuring vodka and a blend of market tomato and lemon juices, cucumber, jalapeño, soy, sesame, and rice wine vinegar. The combination achieves harmony on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass. Fragrant fennel pollen provides the finishing touch, along with a skewered lemon wedge and green olive.
Genghis Cohen is an intentionally kitschy Fairfax Village staple that dates to 1983 and is better known for live music than for Americanized Chinese food. Marc Rose and Med Abrous from The Spare Room bought the business in 2015 and recently unleashed top bartender Yael Vengroff on the cocktail program. She created noteworthy “foo foo drinks” for boothgoers and people at the moody bar. Her Bloody Mary is quite savory and packs some kick, teaming green chile vodka with tomato juice, dill, garlic, ponzu, and hot mustard, with furikake lining one side of the glass. Each Bloody Mary comes garnished with a skewered pimento olive, cucumber, and squeezable lemon to uptick the tang.
Raphael Lunetta and his Divide + Conquer business partners Daniel Weinstock and Mike Garrett run twin concepts near Santa Monica College. Weekends bring brunch and House-Charred Bloody Marys to more casual Lunetta All Day. Each Collins glass hosts a fiery blend of vodka, charred tomato and tomatillo, dill, white pepper, black pepper, horseradish cream, garlic powder, and Tapatio. Each glass comes with a spicy Tajin rim, skewered pimento olive, lime, and charred cherry pepper, plus a purple orchid garnish.
Hotel Per La
NoMad, the deluxe hotel brand from Sydell Group, Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm that originated North of Madison Square Park in Manhattan, opened in Downtown LA in January 2018. At the small bar located off a grand dining room with towering octagon-patterned ceiling, bar manager Dave Purcell executes a vision that Make it Nice Hospitality Bar Director Leo Robitschek set forward in New York. They serve five different kinds of Bloody Marys for weekend brunch, and even offer a flight for truly thirsty individuals.
The most traditional Bloody Mary features Absolut vodka and base of tomato juice, house pickling liquid, celery salt, black pepper, and Tapatio, plus Worcestershire. This version comes garnished with pickled radish and cucumber. Caesar incorporates Clamato and comes with a Castelvetrano olive and lemon wedge garnish. Sherry subs in Amontillado Sherry, beets, and hot pepper for a far different base note and sports a lemon wedge. Bloody Bull features reduced pan drippings from NoMad’s famous chicken for two, adding richness. This glass also hosts Castelvetrano olives and a lemon wedge. Finally, Michelada is a light, refreshing version that skips vodka and tomato in favor of Peroni lager with piment d’espelette, orange and lime juices, red pepper vinegar, red pepper juice. Each glass comes garnished with Tajin, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.
Plan Check Kitchen + Bar
Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, a local micro-chain of industrial chic gastropubs, features fun riffs on recognizable comfort foods, and takes their beverage program seriously. For weekend brunch, they serve a vodka based Bloody Mary made with spicy, gritty house mix, two pitted and skewered green olives, and lime garnish, with chile salt rim on one side of the pint glass. Bloody Marys, Micheladas, and Mimosas are all available bottomless.
Chef Neal Fraser and wife/partner Amy Knoll Fraser transformed the old Vibiana Cathedral rectory into Redbird, an awe-inspiring culinary destination. They serve a “classic” Bloody Mary, but bartender Tobin Shea found clarity by creating a more unique Modern Mary. Clarified tomato juice works harmoniously with clarified lemon juice, tangy white balsamic, fennel, basil, spicy pepper vodka, and fizzy soda water. A celery stalk garnish adds fibrous crunch to the drink, which arrives in a Collins glass.
Rossoblu is the Bologna-inspired Fashion District follow-up from Sotto co-founders Steve Samson and Dina Samson. At brunch, their Brodo Mary enriches clarified tomato water with pork and chicken broth that's typically used for the restaurant’s signature tortellini in brodo. She provides a choice of spirit. How about smoky Verde mezcal? Vodka, gin, and tequila are also options. Rossoblu tops each Collins glass with some of the savoriest garnishes imaginable: silky prosciutto and green olives.
Sunday Hospitality, the group behind popular Sunday in Brooklyn, recently opened their modern diner Sibling Rival at the base of The Hoxton, a new Downtown LA boutique hotel. A planter-lined patio and plush booths both provide great forums for enjoying cocktails from Director of Bars Brian Evans. Sunday Bloody Sunday name checks a legendary U2 social justice anthem and takes the Bloody Mary in nontraditional directions. Mezcal melds with tomato juice, lemon juice, sambal and Worcestershire to form a cocktail that delivers spicy punch. Each Bloody Mary comes garnished with skewered lemon, celery, red pepper, an olive, and generous horseradish shower.
The Tasting Kitchen
At The Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney, Justin Pike created three different Bloody Marys for weekend brunch, and two remain on the menu. House Bloody incorporates vodka, aged tomato juice that rests for a full week to intensify flavor, and horseradish. A salt-and-pepper rim hosts a lemon wedge. Garnishes consist of a celery stalk, skewered olives and caperberry. Petite Mary balances vodka with crisp celery juice, citrus, salt, pepper and a tangy sumac-lined rim. Who knows - if customers ask nicely, maybe Pike will make his spicy 1920s style Bloody Mary.