Just when you thought the strangest additions to a Bloody Mary were strips of crispy bacon or a garden of pickled vegetables, two Siouxland bars decided to up the ante.
Two weekends ago, while bartenders at The Marquee were assembling the tomato juice and vodka cocktails to thirsty customers, someone had the bright idea of topping it off with a White Castle slider and a Bing bar from Sioux City’s own Palmer Candy.
That was in addition to the olives, dill pickle, asparagus, pickled okra, beef stick, hard boiled egg and the slices of citrus and cocktail shrimp propped onto the glass rim lined with bacon salt. Oh, and underneath all of that was a spicy Bloody Mary.
The Marquee is no stranger to making Bloody Marys. Every Sunday, part-time bartender (and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City’s entertainment manager) Brad Streeter would fix his “Street Heats,” a one-day-a-week Bloody Mary special made with fresh-fried bacon strips; Streeter himself would man the griddle and cook the bacon on-site.
“He would put in deviled eggs and fresh bacon and all this stuff — and it was really good!” said Kelly Quinn, co-owner of The Marquee.
The slider and Bing topped Bloody Mary was the result of Streeter’s absence — his schedule prevented him from tending bar at The Marquee. When Quinn took over, co-owner Mitch Martin worried that customers would be disappointed about not having their Street Heats. Quinn took it upon himself to make his own cocktail concoction, proclaiming, “I’m going to put sliders on my Bloody Marys!”
Quinn proudly posted a photo of his creation, further attracting customers to this bizarre drink. But the madness didn’t stop there. One particular customer came into the bar and music venue asking for Quinn’s newly made Bloody Mary with a slider on top. Sioux City’s Classic Rock 99.5 radio host Big Daddy mentioned to Quinn that it could be a “Sioux City original” if he had put a Twin Bing or something on top.
Aha! Quinn called Martin and asked that he go buy a package of Bings; the Bloody Marys would be incomplete without them.
“You got the drink, you got the lunch and you got the dessert,” said Quinn. “The next thing you know I post that picture on Facebook and two random people came in and said, ‘We gotta try these Bloody Marys that we keep hearing about!’ And then more people would come in.”
The Marquee’s spruced up $6 libation circulated on social media that very weekend, garnering hundreds of reactions from friends and a keen interest from another fellow bar owner.
“So then Rick Swanson came walking in,” Quinn said of the Crash! Boom! Bang! Whiskey Hole owner. “I said what’s going on and he goes, ‘Keep seeing all these pictures about your Bloody Marys! But mine are…’ Blah blah blah!”
Swanson spoke of Crash! Boom! Bang!’s Bloody Mary bar that allowed guests to customize their own drinks with all kinds of fun, edible add-ins like deli meats, rotisserie chicken, fancy cheeses and even tater tots.
After an exchange of friendly trash talk and a bit boasting, Quinn and Swanson decided to make their own Bloody Mary challenge involving Crash! Boom! Bang! and The Marquee — Quinn even added his second bar, Marty’s Tap, into the competition.
“We both were posting our own homemade food deals — he’d post something and then I’d post something,” said Swanson. “We decided to have a competition for the most amazing Bloody Mary.”
Emily Martin, a co-owner at The Marquee, watched the ensuing craziness as Quinn and Swanson discussed the details of their challenge.
“It was fun to watch it explode between the two of them,” she said. “I was sitting there wondering how far everyone was going to take this thing.”
LET’S HAVE A CHALLENGE
“We’re going to have a contest,” said Quinn. “It’s going to be about a month long or maybe three weeks. We’ll have cards for people to vote.”
The rules and regulations are rather loose at the moment, but both bars do have to use the same size glass and must have a way to drink the Bloody Mary without deconstructing it. The contest is based on aesthetics and taste.
With that in mind, Swanson is setting the standard as to what a real extravagant Bloody Mary looks like. It’s not enough to just have a Bloody Mary topped with a White Castle burger and a Sioux City-made candy. Swanson was thinking something bigger.
And that’s exactly what we were greeted with. Sitting on top of Crash! Boom! Bang!’s Bloody Mary was a watermelon carved by Sioux City artist Luke Schroder. The image depicted a person’s face; in his mouth was a straw, the only way it could be drunk. But there was more.
Affixed to the watermelon face were garden fresh tomatoes and cocktail shrimp. Placed atop the melon was a pork loin, a t-bone steak, a whole rotisserie chicken, a half pound of smoked gouda, cheese curds, pickled veggies and what looks like the contents of an entire charcuterie and cheese board. All of which was held together with a three-foot-long sword.
This just got ridiculous.
However, Mac Dolan, co-owner of Crash! Boom! Bang!, said there’s been a trend of “big Bloody Marys” in the bar world for the past few years.
BLOODY MARY WEEKENDS
While Crash! Boom! Bang! and The Marquee are settling their friendly contest, the customers are the ones who reap the benefits.
Both bars include their own Bloody Mary specials on Sunday. At Crash! Boom! Bang!, Swanson and Dolan offer guests a self-serve Bloody Mary bar. The visiting cocktail drinkers can add their own spices, sauces and other additives to their liking. Meats, cheeses, vegetables — you name it.
“You can come in and build it however you want,” said Dolan.
“And we have a dessert bar that goes along with that,” Swanson added. “We got some macaroons, some small pastries and candy and stuff like that. Something spicy and something sweet. And we also have Mimosas at the same time.”
Although the Bloody Marys at The Marquee are made to order, Quinn’s other establishment, Marty’s Tap, serves its own Bloody Mary bar to customers on the weekends and has done so for nearly a year.
What’s to like about these spicy, tomato-y drinks? Swanson said they make a good weekend morning beverage.
“Or if you’re hungover from the night before,” he added.
The Marquee’s Emily Martin agrees.
“I think they’re awesome,” she said. “A Bloody Mary is one of those drinks that you can have at any time of day, but it’s a perfect one to have in the middle of the afternoon. It has the reputation of being the ‘next-day’ drink.”
Customers can be mighty particular about their Bloody Marys. Emily Martin said it's a drink that can be heavily modified and allows people to be creative in their recipes. For instance, she prefers to have a spicier Bloody Mary but would also drink a tangier blend.
Emily Martin is excited to see how the competition will fare with the two bars. And with Swanson kicking up the contest with an extra bit of flair, one can only imagine how these contest Bloody Marys will look.
“It’s not just a drink anymore,” she said. “It’s an experience.”