Willie Nelson's pre-noon cocktail anthem "Bloody Mary Morning" is, like so many of the old crooner's best, a song of lament and loss. But it offers a solution to having been left in the night by a lover or eaten alive by a city: Mix some vodka with your favorite spices and vegetable juice and voila! You're on the winning side again. We visited three Santa Fe eateries that feature bloody marys prominently as an antidote to poor (or good) life choices, and came away with a wide array of choices for any palate. Whether you like 'em spicy, briny, salty or somewhere in the middle, Santa Fe has you covered on the best breakfast drink in creation. And if you prefer to do your morning drinking alone, we have some suggestions on how to make the perfect bloody mary at home.
1) Atrisco Café & Bar
DeVargas Center, 193 Paseo de Peralta, 983-7401
To our unending delight, the bloody experience at Atrisco began when the bartender produced a large, nondescript, plastic, screw-top jar from a cooler. It contained the restaurant's semi-famous mix, which we learned is not prepared daily, but as-needed. The goodness came in a flute-style glass—an odd choice, which left the bottom of the drink as essentially a shot of Tito's vodka (your call on the brand) and some pepper—rimmed with salt and garnished with lemon, lime and two olives on a plastic sword. This one was long on heat, made with Tabasco sauce, and had great flavor and thickness. It was a little short on the clam and maybe a touch light on Worcestershire sauce. It's not blow-your-brains-out hot, but of the three we sampled, this one had the most pop and character. We happily drank it as an afternoon meal with no actual food as a pairing.
2) Rio Chama Steakhouse
414 Old Santa Fe Trail, 955-0765
The venerable old powerbrokers' haunt also features a pre-made mix behind the bar, only at Rio Chama, the vodka is already on board. A skewer-sized stick graced the pint glass as a garnish, complete with a pearl onion, a cornichon, a cucumber, one olive, a celery stick, a lime wedge and a piece of lemon. This bloody mary is the salt-and-brine fiend's delight. Soy sauce nearly took our taste buds over, but the onion powder helped toss in some balance. Midway through, we mixed in a little of the horseradish that came alongside our prime rib sandwich, and that provided just enough spice to get us easily to the bottom of the glass. Low on heat, long on disparate flavors, and just enough vodka in this one.
3) Harry's Roadhouse
96 B Old Las Vegas Hwy., 989-4629
As an early lunch, this bloody mary along with a catfish po'boy was pretty close to perfect. We didn't see the bartender assemble it, but the clam juice was up front straight away, mixing nicely as we got further down into the concoction with a heavy dose of black pepper and Marie Sharp's hot sauce for proper hotness. Lots of bloody aficianados will tell you that if the drink is properly made, it doesn't matter what kind of vodka was used. In this case, the old saw held true—we didn't care a bit that Smirnoff found its way into our gullet. This version of the classic won't turn you red, nor will it put enough NaCl in your system for a week. But there's just enough of both to make us want to drive all the way to Harry's again, and maybe even skip the po'boy.
4) If you're drinking at home
For years, we've promised anyone who would listen that we'll never reveal our personal bloody mary recipe. In the interest of the DIY spirit—and the notion that, if you want something done exactly right, you should do it yourself—consider the promise broken. Here are the ingredients of the perfect homemade bloody: Spicy Hot V-8, Tito's vodka, blue cheese-stuffed olives (and a bit of brine from the jar), celery salt, fresh ground white and black peppercorns, Frank's RedHot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, one lime wedge, fresh horseradish, one strip of bacon. The proportions are up to you. Enjoy!