Bloody Hell

This is no sweet love hangover. This is the real deal. And it’s bad. Baaad. Inevitably, all that December partying catches up, and suddenly—if not literally—it’s the end of the world as you know it. Now, believe it or not, I’ve been there. More than I’d care to recount, actually. But even in my densest personal brain fog, I’m able to remember that help is just a pint glass away with the perfectly executed Bloody Mary.

For something so simple (spiced tomato base, vodka, veggies), it’s remarkably easy to screw up. Arriving crowned with a hipster obstacle course of blue cheese-stuffed Tater Tots or house-brined heirloom parsnips, an overworked Bloody Mary only prolongs the pain. Get all that decorative stuff out of there, and consider foremost the tomato-y base: It should be tangy, boozy and to your liking—this is what will put you back to rights. (The tasty pickled eats are just there to reintroduce solids.)

My personal savior is the Bar + Bistro Bloody Mary ($9; named Best Bloody Mary in 2012 by this magazine). Thick and ice-cold, this one boasts a scratch base with a murky bog of minced garlic and clams at the bottom, a nod to the Bloody Caesar. The subtle hit of protein combined with the pepper, spices and horseradish is like a bucket of cold water to the soul. Bar + Bistro owner Wes Myles says he was inspired to make this his joint’s signature brunch beverage after a 20-hour Bloody Mary binge south of Rosarito, Mexico. Chewy, complex and smoky, Myles says, “There is no need for any other food or drink.”

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Legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire is in the house to debut his 2013 tasting menu. Known for his sense of whimsy and innovation while at the same time emphasizing local ingredients, Gagnaire offers two seatings on Dec. 31. The first features four courses, including spiny lobster fricassee with mango étouffée and poached filet of sole with baby oysters. The second seating includes those and adds a starter of Ossetra caviar and a Gagnaire’s New Year’s Stew.