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Food & Drink

Best Bloody Marys 

We've been sampling Bloody Marys around town for the past two years -- talk about dedication -- and have come to a few conclusions. First, a good Bloody Mary requires labor, so tip accordingly. A house-made mix is often the secret to a superior Bloody, as is a complex yet balanced mosaic of flavors. Garnishes are essential, and beyond that, we've found the finest of all daytime cocktails to be an infinitely variable drink. We've had Bloodies with balsamic vinegar, sake Bloodies, tequila Bloodies (aka the Bloody Maria), and Bloody Mary oyster shots. We've had puny, anemic Bloodies served in a lowball with a miserly wedge of lime, and Bloodies so rancid with horseradish a punch in the face would have seemed gentle by comparison. In the end, four Bloodies stood out, so we went back and tried them all again, just to be thorough. In other words, we just love Bloodies. If you do too, these are the places to go:

Club Deluxe

1511 Haight (at Ashbury), 552-6949

Apologies to Zeitgeist, which makes a fine Bloody, but our favorite bar Bloody in San Francisco is the version at (no surprise for true Bloodophiles) Club Deluxe. The mix itself is nothing special, but the garnishes are awesome: a celery stalk, a pickled onion, pickled green beans, and Spanish olives, plus -- depending on what the bartender has on hand -- cherry tomatoes, pepperoncinis, cucumber, and, if you're really lucky, a whole, roasted chicken. We prefer these Bloodies on Sunday afternoons, when cool, silvery light offers a respite from the daytime sun (or fog). Have a few and eat all the garnishes: Not only will you be drunk, you won't need dinner, leaving you with precious dollars to spend on more Bloodies.

Eastside West

3154 Fillmore (at Greenwich), 885-4000,

While conducting our research, we noticed that, in these parts, restaurants tend to make the best Bloodies. If you prefer a classic version with a twist, check out Eastside West: The mix is smooth, garden-fresh, and tinged with a haunting note of horseradish. Garnishes include a pickled green bean, celery seed around the rim of the glass, and (the clincher) a plump, chilled prawn. We prefer this Bloody with brunch at the outdoor tables, but would gladly drink one anywhere on the premises, any time, day or night.

Betelnut Pejiu Wu

2030 Union (between Webster and Buchanan), 929-8855,

Or, if you want something different, stop by Betelnut, where the Bloodies are flavored with Thai basil, garlic, and chilies. The garnishes -- a wedge of lime, a green onion -- continue the Asian theme. It's a clean, sharp, downright invigorating drink, and a must for those who would explore the Bloody's full potential. The chilies may whet your appetite, but fear not: If you're drinking this, you're already at Betelnut, the best Pan-Asian restaurant in town.


826 Folsom (at Fourth Street), 538-0918,

Though the folks who run this elegant little sister of LuLu would probably rather be known for exquisite, French-Asian fare than Bloody Marys, we're the ones writing this newspaper, so too bloody bad. Served in a Pilsner glass rimmed with salt and sesame seeds, this Bloody offers yet another Asian twist courtesy of a mix flavored with wasabi and soy sauce. It's a silky, utterly magnificent Bloody and goes fabulously with Azie's signature Nine Bites appetizer. We've ordered the latter three times (27 Bites in all) and have yet to find a morsel that was anything less than Bloodyriffic.

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