Sometimes, it’s tough being a Bitch. You prefer mimosas, but you have to drink Bloody Marys. These are not real problems, people.
I had committed to judging the Bloody Mary contest for the U.S. Bartender’s Guild– Washington, D.C. at their inaugural brunch event at the St. Regis. I’d never been to one of their events, and was honestly skeptical of the ability of a group of bartenders to pull together all of the moving pieces required for a tasting event. Furthermore, the idea of drinking 19 (yes, 19) Bloody Marys on an empty stomach made me nervous.
Having no other alternative, I put on pink lipstick and a cocktail dress, and hopped on my bicycle to the St. Regis. It was the most beautiful day—a sunny, breezy, early Fall morning. The stunning courtyard at the St. Regis was filled with well-dressed folks in sundresses mingling and sipping cocktails. The courtyard was lined with 19 tables, with charming, gregarious and friendly bartenders touting their concoctions behind each one.
The bartenders each represented a participating restaurants and alcohol brand: Barrel and Clyde Maye whiskey, Trummer’s on Main and Van Gogh Vodka, Zaytinya and Copley gin, Vinoteca, Daikaya and Ilegal Mezcal, Decanter at the St. Regis, Cava Mezze and Absolut Peppar, Cuba Libre and Bacardi, Farmers, Fishers, Bakers and American Harvest; Compass Rose, Tap & Parlour; Barmini by Jose Andres; Wit & Wisdom; Rural Society; Graffiato, Kapnos, and Jack Rose.
The winner of the day was Daikaya’s “Mary Queen of Scots” cocktail, a sparkling cocktail made with Ilegal Mezcal, pickled, charred pineapple and made to sparkle with a carbonation machine. The bartender, Luke, is a friendly, memorable face from my many happy hours at the Penn Quarter spot and very much deserving of his award. Congrats!
The other interesting cocktail was from Cuba Libre, made by bartender Vance Henderson with Bacardi rum. The mixologist whipped up a sweet take on the savory cocktail, with strawberries, and habanero peppers, garnished with shrimp, sugarcane, and flowers.
There were plenty of other unique cocktails: a bacon-wrapped pretzel stick garnished a Jameson Bloody from Jack Rose, Tap & Parlour’s cocktail was accessorized with three sticks of seafood, veggies, and more. Argentine steakhouse Rural Society, appropriately created a chimichurri Bloody Mary with a Morcilla sausage stuffed olive as a garnish. Cava Mezze’s cocktail was made with the restaurant’s infamous Harissa and topped with a lamb meatball.
Arriving all the way from Baltimore, Aaron Jones of Wit & Wisdom in the Four Seasons created a homage to Maryland, with a Blue crab Bloody Mary, with Old Bay, celery salt, smoked tomatoes plucked fresh from the garden that day, and decorated with seashells from Ocean City.
There was honestly not a single cocktail that I didn’t enjoy–despite my delicate constitution at the time. If I had the gumption, I’d attempt to visit each restaurant and sample their Bloody Marys on their home turf.
Also present that day, was Jeffrey Pogash, the author of the History of the Bloody Mary, who provided a little mid-morning education on the subject. As legend has it, the Bloody Mary was created at the St. Regis in New York, so it was only appropriate that its Washington outpost concocted a traditional Bloody Mary, made with Old Bay, gin, and clam juice, garnished with poached shrimp and a lemon slice.
The U.S. Bartender’s Guild will be hosting monthly cocktail events across Washington, and we’ll be sure to attend the next one—and to keep you up to speed.
For more on the U.S. Bartender’s Guild DC Chapter and its upcoming events, check out the website. And, don’t forget to check out Jeffrey Pogash’s book Bloody Mary.
Or, saddle up to the beautiful bar at Decanter at the St. Regis for a Bloody Mary.