I can’t remember if I had mentioned it in previous posts, but Step Out Buffalo decided to ply their trade in Bloody Mary Fests down the thruway in Rochester. I’ve posted at least one drink I’ve had in Rochester, but despite having several friends there, and going to college half hour away, I have not spent all that much time in the next big city down the canal. When the Rochester fest was announced I bought tickets right away, put in for a vacation day, and made plans to have a great afternoon.
The fest was held in the Main Street Armory, which turned out to be SOB’s best venue yet – a big open space that could set up the bars with enough space to accommodate the crowd, with the other vendors in the middle. There was room to walk around and there weren’t big lines running into other big lines, which made for a much more pleasurable experience than Buffalo’s fest at Riverworks this year. 10 Rochester bars participated, and it was the same format as the Buffalo fests – one ticket per bar, and vote for the best overall, the best garnish, and most creative. They scrapped the fancy online voting they used in Buffalo for good old paper ballots in fishbowls, guaranteed to work (since I wasn’t able to get the online vote to work in Buffalo, this was a good change).
After tickets went on sale, SOB decided to offer designated driver/bloody mary hater tickets for $5 like they did for the first Buffalo fest, so I got one of those for J, leaving me with an extra regular ticket. I knew that someone I was friends with in Rochester liked bloody marys and finally I realized who it was. Nan! So I invited her to join us, and we had a great time.
So in the order in which we tasted them, I present the Rochester Bloody Mary Fest (all vodka once again provided by Tommyrotter Distillery):
1. The Revelry
Ingredients – Whole peeled tomato, celery & cucumber juice, hot sauce, curry tincture, Japanese seven spice, Sal De Gusano
Garnish – Sal De Gusano rim, Thyme, Basil
The cucumber taste was immediately noticeable, so for me that’s usually a no go. That said, it wasn’t too bad. It was definitely the spiciest of the 10 offerings, and it had a good balance of salt to the other flavors. It may have been Nan’s favourite.
Ingredients – Tomato juice, horseradish and worcestershire, thai basil, black pepper, celery salt, lemon, cayenne, Old Bay
Garnish – Chorizo meatball, pickled purple cauliflower, pepper jack cheese cube.
If there was an award for prettiest Bloody Mary, Orbs would win. They just looked gorgeous. I liked the meatball, it had some spice to it, but the drink itself was primarily flavored with horseradish. It was quite strong, and the mix was very sweet.
3. Honeoye Boathouse Grill
Ingredients – Mr & Mrs T’s Mix, worcestershire sauce, A-1, lime, lemon pepper, celery salt, old timer’s horseradish
Garnish – Thai chili shrimp, fried ravioli, chicken cordon bleu ball, wild garlic boneless wing on one skewer. Shrimp, olive, pepperoni, pepperoncini, cheese and pickle on another skewer.
The Boat House definitely had the biggest garnish (but not the craziest, stay tuned) at the fest. J took the Thai shrimp on the skewer, and the plain shrimp in the drink and he said the Thai shrimp was delicious. We had eaten before we left Buffalo, so I wasn’t hungry, and add in all the drinks and I couldn’t finish my garnish. The drink was very sweet again, with a good tomato taste, and it was better than just plain Mr and Mrs T’s. Their sign mentioned 2 other garnishes, a Hawaiian Shrimp skewer with the Thai shrimp, blackened shrimp and pineapple, and an antipasto skewer with spinach artichoke crustini, but I don’t think they were serving either of them. Everyone had the skewer that we got.
4. Cub Room
Ingredients – Fresh horseradish, lemon and lime juice, red wine and cacao nib reduction, house steak sauce, house habanero hot sauce, celery salt, tumeric, Worcestershire, chipotle peppers, kosher salt, black pepper, tomato juice
Garnish – Bacon blue cheese and date meatball.
Like Orbs, the Cub drink’s main flavor was from horseradish. It was a bit watery, and despite the long list of ingredients on their sign, it didn’t taste like much. I don’t know how that’s possible, now that I’m looking at the list, but it really didn’t have a strong flavor and I didn’t find it spicy. The meatball was a classic style meatball, and wasn’t bad.
5. Blu Wolf Bistro
Ingredients – Beef stock, green tomatoes, pork rub, tomatillo, garlic oil, hot sauce, cucumber, lime, green peppers, pineapple, jalapeno, roasted garlic, horseradish, baby spinach, cilantro, celery seed, black pepper, dark chili powder, cayenne, Worcestershire
Garnish – Wild boar, cream cheese jalapeno popper, CRAWFISH!!!
And the award for most horrifying Bloody Mary goes to *drum roll* Blu Wolf Bistro!!! IT’S STARING AT ME!! IT HAS 8 LEGS and CLAWS!!! Holy crap. I can handle peeled shrimp, but not ocean critters that still have their exoskeletons on (plus a friend once told me crawfish taste like garbage). I was never going to eat it, but had I wanted to, I wouldn’t even know where to start! As for the drink, it was the first green bloody of all the fests. It had a half spiced rim, and itself had a good amount of spice. It was a tad thick, and I can’t say I loved it. It was strong on the tomato flavor, where as my homemade green mix made mostly from tomatillos was tart and better in my opinion. This mixture might be better suited for a gazpacho.
6. Bitter Honey
Ingredients – Tomatillo, peach cordial, habanero, lime
Garnish – chili salt, habanero coin, dehydrated peach, lamb jerky
Right after the first one, we had another green bloody mary. This one made entirely of tomatillo, I find it hard to consider it a bloody mary. It was delicious, but it tasted like lemonade. It was fruity and sweet, not at all savory even with the meat chunk. I couldn’t detect any spice to it, and maybe they ran out, but the only part of their listed garnish that we got was the lamb jerky. It was refreshing, and I had a 2nd one before we left to reset my mouth from all the tomato, but if I had ordered this expecting and really wanting a savory bloody mary, I’d be sad. It’s totally marketable, but just under some other name.
7. Roam Cafe
Ingredients – House made fresh tomato/veggie juice, fresh horseradish, celery salt, cracked black pepper, hot sauce, steak sauce, Worcestershire
Garnish – Pork belly, pickled pepper, Hoisin cucumber
So even though this drink had an evil cucumber garnish, it was my favorite of the fest. They made the entire mix fresh from scratch with all local ingredients, and you could tell. It tasted nice and fresh with a good balance of flavors. It tasted a bit meaty, and it didn’t have a ton of spice, but it was a solid offering, and it was my vote for Best of Rochester.
8. Black Button Distilling
Ingredients – Original mix, tomato juice, cucumbers, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, horseradish, fresh garlic, Worcestershire powder, habanero puree, soybean oil, lemon juice, dried onion
Garnish – Pepperoni, cheese curd, olive
Having just had Black Button’s mix at their Buffalo location, I don’t have much else to say about it. I still don’t love it, and I still can’t quite pin point why, except for the cucumber. If you want more, check out the full review.
Ingredients – Yellow tomato puree, ground tortilla, onion, garlic, bay, corienader, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, salt, sugar, kimchee spice, Worcestershire, horseradish, olive brine, celery seed, dijon, sriracha
Garnish – Chorizo deviled egg
I feel like I would have enjoyed this one more had I drank it earlier in the fest, as by the end you get pretty tired of drinking bloodies (yeah, I know!!). It was a thick orange color and featured a deviled egg that was nicely flavored, apparently with chorizo, but I thought it was from chili powder. The drink itself had a smoky flavor, as if from smoked paprika, but that wasn’t in the ingredients list either, ha! It wasn’t very spicy, but it had a decent flavor.
10. Hogan’s Hideaway
Ingredients – Smoked tomato puree, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, olive juice, salt, pepper, lime juice, dijon, Tabasco, smoked ice
Garnish – Smoked bacon crumble, smoked salt rim, kale chip
Sourced from all local ingredients, and smoked this one was a close 2nd on my favourite list from the fest. They use heirloom tomatoes, and while it smelled smoky, it didn’t translate into the drink too much. It was spiced from the horseradish, but I didn’t get much pepper spice from the Tabasco. It might have had too much salt, but it could have just been salt that fell into the drink from the rim. I would do without the kale, as the chip didn’t hold up and just got soggy, and then got in the way of my drinking.
The official winners were:
3rd – Blu Wolf Bistro (my vote, I think)
2nd – Nosh
1st – Bitter Honey
3rd – Blu Wolf Bistro
2nd – ORBS Restaurant and Bar
1st – Honeoye Boathouse Grille (my vote)
Best Bloody Mary:
3rd – Orbs Restaurant and Bar
2nd – Black Button Distilling
1st – The Revelry
(My vote was for Roam)
As a whole, Rochester had a great bunch of bloodies to offer. I liked that it was an open space with room to move, but they didn’t have the “distractions” of the Buffalo fest, like the pinball or craft groups. They had a photo area with props, but no dedicated photographer taking photos there, just people using their phones. If SOB combines the larger space of Rochester, with the added fun of Buffalo, next year’s Buffalo fest could be the best yet!
Until next time, Cheers!