The May Group was excited with the decision to get together and review the classic Bloody Mary cocktail. The question arose one day on where one would find the best Bloody Mary or Bloody Mary Bar in Grand Rapids. After googling the subject there was little to be found, so May Group Realtors took it upon themselves to do the dirty work and set out to find a great place to have a Bloody Mary. What better way to spend an entire Sunday than to taste and review the best of the best Bloody Marys in Grand Rapids?! We had to set some criteria for the review and with a little research, it was decided that each location we went to would be judged based on taste, presentation, garnish, spice, texture and what would a bar be without the atmosphere.
In addition to the review criteria, there had to be some research done on what restaurants to visit and who had a Sunday Bloody Mary bar. We narrowed it down to O’Tooles, Stella’s, Grand Rapids Brewing Co, Rockwell’s, Birch Lodge and a night cap at Farah’s. There are other places that offer Bloody Marys, but we set out to find a place the offered a make your own bar. This was not an easy decision considering all the options that Grand Rapids has to offer, but to be fair and make it through the day we had to narrow down the list somehow. Here are the bloody mary pictures that we captured at each location:
First, taste was a big one to judge and since we were judging Bloody Mary bars we were making our own concoctions. We decided to give extra points to those locations that infused their own vodkas. The infused vodkas were key to what we thought made the best Bloody Mary. They added a unique flavor behind the cocktail and the vodka alone was pretty amazing. Grand Rapids Brewing Co and Rockwell’s offered the flavored vodkas. At GRBC you could find vodka’s infused with bacon, horse radish. At Rockwell Republic they offered vodkas infused with cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, red pepper, habanero, dill and ghost pepper chilies. While Rockwell’s had the largest selection, GRBC flavor infused vodka’s taste and flavor could not be beat.
Between the 5 locations, we had a variety of garnish options that helped to make the presentation of each Bloody Mary. Grand Rapids Brewing Co won on the garnish selection offering a wide range of options including some homemade pickled cauliflower and spicy pickles that really set them apart. There were no crazy options like cheeseburgers or chicken wings that you tend to see places adding on but the offerings were the basics at their best.
Presentation was based on how we garnished our Bloody Mary, however Rockwell’s won with their large scallions that topped off the drink with an extra flare. If one was feeling adventurous the scallions could also double up as a straw. Just be sure to bring along mints unless you prefer a nice oniony scent to your breath. Like I mentioned earlier there was no over the top items like chicken wings but the simplicity of the basics keep this classic cocktail known anywhere.
The judging of spice was based on offerings and which Bloody Mary bar provided the best selection. Even though one of our group members made a killer spicy Bloody Mary at O’Tooles the selection at Rockwell’s beat out the competition with the extra option to use jalapeño or ghost pepper infused vodka.
Now onto the atmosphere and how each bar created a Sunday Bloody Mary to revisit. This plays a big role into your Sunday morning. Most people are out watching football, having brunch and/or recovering from the night before. For us we were not struggling from the night before but were out to watch the Bears and Lions. Yes we have fans of both at the office and luckily both won that day. Every bar we went to had the games on except Stella’s which has a more hipster vibe that plays The Jetson’s, Star Trek, Ren and Stimpy and Wipeout. They also have vintage arcade games and their famous giant stuffed burgers which we tried and definitely recommend. Also, don’t forget chronic fries with a secret spicy seasoning.
Now back on track, O’Tooles was our first stop and the busiest of the day. There was a good atmosphere and crowd for watching games and drinking Bloody Marys. Our next stop was Stella’s where as mentioned we had a break from the games and the music was at a good volume for having conversation. The bar is definitely chill and had a laid back feel which was good for ordering up some burgers.
Eager to get back to watching the games we headed to Grand Rapids Brewing Co. Make sure you go to the back room where you will find the games on and the Bloody Mary bar set up. This place really had the best atmosphere. The games were on and not too loud. We could talk and hear each other and the service was amazing. This is a place we all agreed we would go back to. Next up was Rockwell’s and this place was packed! We waited shortly for a table and began building our Bloody Marys. The music was loud and football was on everywhere but the quality was not great. Luckily the Bloody Marys were really good and lots of garnishes to top them off. By this time we not only had Bloody Marys but many other beers and cocktails.
Trying to end the day we decided to visit Farah’s for a nightcap, well in this case a late afternoon cap where we could get tequila shots and 50ȼ wings. This place was busy, games where on and there was a good mix of fans watching the games. This is more of a dive bar so no need to dress to impress. Since we slowed down our Bloody Mary tour we missed the Bloody Mary bar and our last stop to Birch Lodge. Don’t fret--we still made a visit to Birch Lodge a few Sundays following our Bloody Mary bar tour previously. We did not want to miss out on an opportunity to visit Birch Lodge which offers Bloody Marys AND a free taco bar with purchase of a beverage. They have good football viewing however it was very loud. This is definitely a low key dive bar but has the added perk of free tacos. If tacos and loud music are your thing, Birch Lodge is a must visit.
Finally! The judging was done, the votes were in and Grand Rapids Brewing Co was the winner of offering the best Bloody Mary bar in Grand Rapids. This Bloody Mary stood out because of the garnishes offered and the amazing infused vodkas. The atmosphere was great and our waitress Megan was the best. You’re guaranteed a fun time for Sunday brunch and amazing Bloody Marys.
Monday morning came around and the recovery was visible as we tried to get back into the work week……and then again on Tuesday. With lots of coffee and some comfort food we made it through.
Here is a map and details of our tour if you’d like to try one out yourself:
O’Toole’s Public House
448 Bridge Street Grand Rapids, MI 49504
12-2am $3 Svedka Bloody Mary
Grand Rapids Brewing Co.
1 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
11-3 Brunch and $4 Well Bloody Mary bar
45 S Division Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
SATURDAY & SUNDAY AFTERNOON Bloody Mary bar $6 happy hour menu offered 12pm to 5pm (includes drink specials)