Born during the 1920s, the bloody mary began its career as a humble equal-parts mix of tomato juice and vodka. Morphed by time and ingenuity, today's bloody marys range from practical (both Fado and Red Door Alehouse offer self-service bloody-mary buffets, replete with arrays of sauces and accompanying veggies) to the fanciful (Moe Bar features roast beef—infused vodka, while Bottleneck Lounge uses bacon, salami, and cheddar). Whether you're sharing an awkward morning-after breakfast with a total stranger, drinking yourself into brain damage, or simply looking to get your daily fix of veggies, bloody marys remain the perfect brunch treat, a fact I reveled in while tracking down five of Seattle's favorite marys.
At my table at Linda's (707 E Pine St, 325-1220, $6), a young man who had his butt tattooed describes the experience as unexpectedly relaxing, while a pretty girl in a fur hat stares into space. As usual, Linda's is crowded. "People love our bloody marys," the bartender says, "because they're so basic." Indeed, the recipe is simple, but the results are delicious: a mixture of Demitri's prepackaged seasoning, vodka, lemon, and tomato juice poured over ice. Condiments include a lime wedge, a green olive, and a dangling handful of pickled green beans; during brunch, celery salt encrusts the rim.
The bartender at Skylark (3803 Delridge Way SW, 935-2111, $7) begins by hand-muddling ice with two hefty slices of lemon, one chunk of lime, and a single green olive. Next comes a good pour of vodka and the spiced juice mix, which is made in-house every morning. Shards of citrus peels drift and settle in the murk, and a fruity zest corrupts the mary's classic meaty flavor. I glance at my companion and notice the many drops of mary dew, gleaming like teeny rubies, that cling to his whiskers.
At Smarty Pants (6017 Airport Way S, 762-4777, $6), each mary is made from scratch. The bartender starts with ice-muddled lime and vodka, then patiently adds horseradish, celery salt, black pepper, V8, hot sauce, and Worcestershire. Just beneath the bloody mary's surface, a fat green pepperoncini, shriveled and dead, floats suddenly toward me. Every sip is crisp and salty, and the fresh spices build a pleasant heat without being overbearing.
The bloody mary recipe of Cafe Venus and Mars Bar (609 Eastlake Ave E, 624-4516, $6) is detailed and intimate, and begins with a house-made gazpacho soup, prepared from scratch. Absolut Vodka Peppar brings a kick, and crumbling loads of horseradish sink slowly to the glass's bottom, clogging my straw every time I sip. The cocktail comes adorned with green olives, lime, and house-made sweet-pickled green beans. The effects are wonderfully glaring: the shock and strength of the first taste makes me cough, and by the drink's end, a band of thick and peppery heat enwraps the back of my throat.
For my final bloody mary, I visit the Ballard mainstay Hattie's Hat (5231 Ballard Ave NW, 784-0175, $6) at midday, and a torpid song—acoustic, long, and embedded with shrieking harmonies—sets a tone of solemnity. A server cusses, then burps, as she walks past, and a man announces with a mirthless smile that today is his birthday. Thrillingly, the bloody mary I'm served at Hattie's is easily the best in town: Its spices, delightfully snappy, present a perfect combination of horseradish and Worcestershire, and the tomato juice is rich and thickly weighted, like folds of red velvet.