The Bloody Mary is a contradiction in a glass. It’s both a hangover creator, and a hangover cure. It clears the mind while fogging the senses. It’s one of your five-a-day, and one of your 21 units per week. And despite being so seemingly simple, it’s not easy to create a truly great example of one -- but here are 10 London spots that manage it:
With chef mastermind Mark Hix pulling the strings here, it's no surprise this place makes the list. Grab a seat along the long bar beneath the massive Damien Hirst installation, and down a couple of the signature Marys all made with Mark's dizzyingly tasty special mix.
This ridiculously gorgeous restaurant & bar has a real respect for the Mary. Running with the rule that several is better then just one, it’s rolled out a lineup of four, from the vodka Classic, to the gin-loaded Snapper, to the tequila-laced Maria -- but the star of this show is the Sunshine Mary, made with the ginseng spirit Kamm & Sons and yellow tomato juice.
If you happen to find yourself south of the river and in need of a restorative, head to PKD. Here you'll find half a dozen Mary variations, including the Bloody Marly with jerk seasoning-infused rums and the Mary Queen of Scots with haggis-infused Monkey Shoulder plus Laphroaig.
Bloody Marys find their current spiritual home in the brunch culture of NYC, so it’s no surprise that this Big Apple transplant has some pretty excellent ones. Sure, the classic Mary is great, but the Umami Red Snapper has a one-two punch of umami gin plus Plymouth gin to give it a unique, savory taste.
This bite-sized deconstructed Bloody gracefully straddles the line between food and drink. A self-contained bubble of strained tomato juice forms a "yolk," that sits in the white of house-made horseradish vodka. Trust us, it's incredible.
Fitzrovia & Exmouth Market
This seafood shack likes to do simple things, but to a higher standard. Not just content to let you wash down its crustaceans with standard Bloody Marys, it went next-level and made a house Clamato juice (making this really more of a Bloody Caesar), loaded it with vodka & spices, then topped the whole thing off with an oyster to chase.
This award-winning Bloody -- the Mezcallywagg -- is pumped full of delicious mezcal, peppercorn-infused tequila, lemon, thyme syrup, charred red pepper, spices, tomato juice, and a Laphroaig spray. Oh, and the bar itself is hidden in a Breakfast Club, so if you truly are hungover, you might want to make a pit stop there first.
More dignified then just a pint of sanity restorer, this elegant number is served in a damn chalice with celery foam and a unique mix of spices. While it traditionally comes with vodka, this place is more than happy to play into different spirits, so get busy with tequila, gin, or whatever catches your fancy. It’s a drink The Connaught spot take a lot of pride in -- ask the head mixologist, Ago Perrone, about the development, it's a great listen.
It’s always nice to see a restaurant understand that sometimes a Bloody Mary is close to a religious experience. The five “Hail Marys” include the standout Bloody Bull, made with beef stock and spicy beef jerky.
These guys pretty much win at everything they touch: meat, hospitality, and, naturally, cocktails. There are several variations, depending on which location you’re at (or even which bartender you get), but the classic you’ll find at all of them is pretty much the dictionary definition of a perfect Mary.
Sign up here for our daily London email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the capital.
Haley Forest is a London writer who thinks going without a Mary is a bloody shame. Follow her at @HCForest.
1. Tramshed32 Rivington St, London
2. The Gilbert ScottSt. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Kings Cross
3. Powder Keg Diplomacy145 St. John's Hill, , Wandsworth
4. Balthazar4-6 Russell Street, London
5. 69 Colebrooke Row69 Colebrooke Row, London
6. Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack21a Foley St, Fitzrovia, London
7. The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town12-16 Artillery Ln, , London
8. The Connaught BarCarlos Place, London
9. The Newman Street Tavern48 Newman Street, London
10. Hawksmoor Bar157B Commercial Street, London
After you enter the Tramshed through its massive doors, a large sunlight-filled warehouse space opens up before you, but your focus will quickly change once you take a bite into one of their steaks, chickens, or other meat-o-tastic options.
The Gilbert Scott is a restaurant, bar, and gin garden in London. Yes, you read correctly: a gin garden.
This Clapham drinker/diner sports ornate Victoriana, portraits of the young queen, gramophones, leather-bound seating, a huge conservatory, and a map of the colonies from back when the sun never set on them, hegemony we're obviously being punished for by its never rising on us.
This Parisian-styled NYC import, Balthazar, is a French brasserie decorated with dark wood and red leather banquettes. Located in the heart of Covent Garden and housed in an old theatre museum. Directly next door is their bakery, serving house-made artisan bread, a wide selection of homemade pastries, salads, and sandwiches all available to grab on the go.
Officially called "the bar with no name,” this small-but-perfectly-formed space is helmed by Tony Conigliaro, godfather of the London cocktail scene, who’s decked it out with a classic ‘50s-Italian-Riviera feel. The drinks themselves all feel timeless, yet there’s plenty of science going into their creation, with ingredients and methods developed in a lab by Broadway Market, including the Manhattan Steel Corp., a Manhattan twist with "Dry Essence."
In a Fitzrovia corner spot blessed with plentiful windows, the former popup's nautical decor -- rope walls, caged-brass light fittings, that sort of thing -- is centerpieced by a chalkboard map of England that pinpoints where exactly all the daily changing menu items were caught. Regular bounty includes whole brown Devon crab, pan-fried dabs w/ razor clams, and Scottish scallops w/ Yorkshire chorizo that'll cause a pleasant surprise when it goes by ee gums. Hit the cocktail bar to find the Nemo (gin/ sherry/ radish), a locally distilled vodka Mary w/ an oyster on top, and a Blacker Velvet: prosecco topped with porter & chocolate bitters -- though if you keep topping everything with chocolate, no one will need a map to find you.
Upon telling the helpful staff at The Breakfast Club that you are there "to see the Mayor,” you may then climb through a Smeg fridge and down some stairs into a brick-walled haven of booze. Keep an eye out for the Irish Garden, a blend of Ban Poitin, yellow & green Chartreuse, mint, cucumber, apple juice, celery bitters, and lemon juice. Remember when you leave to try and keep a straight face -- despite the fact that the exit takes you through the My Little Pony toilets.
Drinking at this elegant hotel bar is a ritzy experience, and though the menu features a unique spin on every classic cocktail, you're here for the martini trolley. All of the bitters and vermouths are made in-house, and once you order your martini, the bartender will wheel the cart over to you and mix it table-side. It's all about details at The Connaught, so take in the mirrors, plush banquettes, and silver accents, and try not to let your tab bring you down.
Settled on, of all places, Newman Street, Tavern's up-classed pub vibe comes via its dark varnished wood fittings, high ceilings, and Sheffield silverware, and is matched by behind-the-scenes impressiveness including their own bakery, butchery, wine cellar & raw bar, which result in middle white suckling pig w/ beer onions, on-bone Dover sole, and a spelt-accompanied crown prince squash -- bound to happen when Kate tries to squeeze into her old dresses.