Chico State's reputation as a party school precedes just about everyone still in attendance today. Even now I get people who ask me if I'm a partier because I attend Chico State, and while I'm not the biggest party person on campus, I do enjoy a stiff drink now and again...particularly of the tomato and vodka variety.
Ah, yes. The Bloody Mary. The perfect boozey blend of tomatoes, spices, tang, and whatever veggies they can put in, on, or around the glass. The garnish can be a huge decider on whether or not this beverage qualifies as breakfast. While some members here at CSU Chico Spoon prefer a milder Mary, I personally believe: the hotter, the better.
On this journey to find the perfect Bloody Mary in our small Chico town, we hit up six of the biggest bars and restaurants in downtown to ensure we found the best beverage available. We graded the Chico Bloody Marys on a four point scale- overall flavors, garnish, cost, and spiciness
In sixth place, comes Riley's Bloody Mary. This glass of tomato drink really hit us the wrong way. Obviously made from a pre-bought mix, it was the worst drink of the day. The flavors mainly consisted of artificial seasoning and too much Worcestershire. We ordered this one mild for our spice-a-phobic Spooner and even she said this was way too mild. After dumping a significant amount of pepper in this drink, in an attempt to make something drinkable after spending $5, we resigned to defeat. We took our olive and left the beverage there. Our advice on Riley's: Stick to beer.
In fifth place, we have Franky's. At this bar, we also ordered a mild Bloody Mary. This was also obviously a pre-bought mix, but the ingredients seemed more balanced than at Riley's. The $6 drink was tomato forward with a definite citrus backing. We played on that by adding in extra lime that had been placed as garnish. Although this one was drinkable, we still felt that the flavors in the drink came across as artificial.
Ranking just above Franky's, comes the refreshing Bloody Mary from Two Twenty in the Hotel Diamond. We were not given the option to have a spicy beverage here, and what we got was far from heated. This refreshing drink came in at a whopping $8. Despite the lightness of the Bloody Mary, it was definitely salt forward and seemed to have very few ingredients in comparison to the others of the evening. The garnish was a modest celery stalk and an olive. Overall, it was nice to have a super minimal take on this classic cocktail.
Third place goes to 5th Street Steakhouse. My first reaction to the initial sip was simply...steak. I couldn't describe it in any other way. Although there was no spiciness in our extra spicy Bloody Mary, there was a strange smokiness. It was obvious after a few sips that this was far from a store bought mix. The pepperiness and smoke came through heavy and gave an insanely new take on the drink. We had to request the attendance of the bartender, Katie, to get the inside info on this special drink. Surprisingly, the secret ingredient was A1. While this beverage came in at $7.50, the unique experience of this drink (and the pickled green beans) were worth every penny.
Duffy's was my personal favorite, but because of the insane heat and price of this Bloody Mary, we had to give it second place. Green beans, asparagus, olives, and lime ushered me into my first sip. I felt like my tongue had been shocked in the best way, and my throat tingled from the heat. The $6 drink was vinegary and citrusy giving it an almost sour, tangy quality that was very refreshing. This really is a great beverage for those looking to kick up their heart rate. After speaking to the bartender, we learned that this drink also had A1 steak sauce, a ton of Tabasco, and fresh lemon. Duffy's was also the only Bloody Mary that had a thicker texture which we all found very appealing.
1. Joe's Bar
The best Chico Blood Mary of the night rightfully goes to Joe's Bar. The mild was perfectly mild without being boring. There is a hint of horseradish and pepper flavor rounded out by rich tomato-ey goodness. The garnish was very elaborate: lemon, lime, pickled cauliflower, olives, celery, carrot, and a pepperoncino. Coming it at $4 ($2.50 if you have Joe's word of the day from Facebook), this Bloody Mary was a steal. This was money well spent and an overall enjoyable experience for us at CSU Chico Spoon.
All of these bars and restaurants are within walking distance of one another in downtown Chico. With so many good choices in such close proximity to one another, it's important to know what you're getting on a college budget. If you love this classic cocktail, make sure to drop in to one of our top choices on your next trip to Chico.