Posts Tagged ‘travel’

A trip to Columbus

As eluded to in my last post, we took a quick trip to Columbus, Ohio to stay at The Doghouse – Brew Dog’s newly opened beer themed hotel. Brew Dog is a Scotland based brewery who has offered Kickstarter type private equity sales to raise money for their various projects. J initially bought in years ago on their 2nd offering because he wanted the special beers mailed to him, and a membership card with his photo on it. No one knew that Brew Dog would take off as it did, and, well….just google it. As they expanded their brewery, they made the jump across the pond to Columbus, where they opened another brew house, and an attached hotel. J bought into the hotel fundraiser as well, and received 2 free nights at the hotel in return.

The hotel is outside of Columbus, but you could stay in the hotel with the attached restaurant and be perfectly happy. We upgraded to the Brewmaster’s Suite, which featured a big garage door window looking down on their sour beer facility, an in room tap, and 2 (two!) beer fridges (including one in the shower). You received free welcome beers upon arrival, and while the restaurant and bar closed at 10, the fully stocked lobby bar remained open for hotel guests only until 1 or 2am. With fun art on and around the building, a large dog park across a little stream, and adjacent to bike paths, it was a nice spot and we enjoyed our 2 nights there.

With our one full day in the area, we went into Columbus to visit a few other local breweries and check out the Short North Arts District, which had a place called Philco with a bloody mary I wanted to try. So after lunch at a brewery and stumbling upon a really cool duck pin bowling bar, we went out to find it.

“Philco” bloody

We sat at this old fashioned bar, which didn’t appear to have a cocktail menu, and ordered a bloody. It had a lot of visible pepper in it, but it was pretty watery with a strong sriracha sauce taste. Garnished with an olive, lime, and little pickle there may have been some pickle juice in it. At first I was kinda disappointed. There wasn’t a whole lot of tomato flavor, plus the liquidity of the drink, and I wondered why it had been on a list of bloodies to try in Columbus. But as I drank it, it actually grew on me and I ended up being pretty satisfied.

By this point we were kinda full of lunch still, and flights of beer and cocktails, so we walked around the neighborhood and made it down to the North Market. I really wish I was hungry because there were so many awesome looking food vendors of every kind of ethnicity, plus other booths selling other mostly food items to buy (salsas, hot sauces, jellies, etc). Even though I was full, I couldn’t pass up getting some Jeni’s ice cream, so I made some space in my wooden leg that’s reserved exclusively for ice cream and dug in.

After stopping into another brewery we made our way back towards the car, and I realized the bar we went to first WAS NOT PHILCO! I could have sworn I had seen the sign, and that was the place, but I was mistaken! The place we first went to was called Press Grill! Well, they DID both start with a “P”!

Having found Philco, which was just a few doors down from Press Grill, we had to go in and try the bloody. Omg, so full! Philco is an upscale old diner, with a few booths and counter service. They were closing soon, so I was very happy I had realized we had been to the wrong place just in time.

The real Philco bloody

Garnished with a Gorgonzola olive, lime and a spiced rim, I forced down the olive because I feel bad leaving fancy stuffed ones in the glass. Gross. The real Philco bloody had a proper thickness and a decent amount of spice. Made with a house mix, it had a solid classic flavor with a hint of pickle juice tang.

Olives, bleccchh.

For $9 the drink was kinda small, but the bartender gave me the extra in a small glass, like places will do with milkshakes, so I forgive the price (though I don’t know if that’s normal behavior, so don’t expect it).

Bloody Mary with a Blood Mary chaser.

Even though we really only had one full day in Columbus, it looks like a pretty neat city. I had passed through the area many years ago en route to Cincinnati, purely because of taco trucks (it’s where I had my first, and best, al pastor, which I wanted to get again but didn’t have the time), and visited the zoo, but there is so much else to discover. RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni, Nina West, is from Columbus and there were photos of her and references to her all around the Short North district. A friend (Hi Scott!) is moving there soon and had mentioned several places to check out, had we had the time, including a bar he thought I’d like, Oddfellows, which we did make it to. Crazy art on the wall, pizza food truck outside, and we walked right into weekly trivia. Loved it. I wish Columbus wasn’t a solid 5 hour drive, because I’d love to check out more of the area.

In local Buffalo bloody news, there have been a few new bloody destinations in the area I hope to get to soon…if I can ever get up early enough for brunch!

Twelve Whiskey Barbecue

Last October we headed to Arizona for the Phoenix Taco Fest, and this year we decided to go down to Pittsburgh for their first Taco Fest at Hop Farm Brewing Company. Because who doesn’t like tacos? (Admittedly, I did not like tacos or Mexican food until the last 10 years. But you can forgive a child for not being an adventurous eater, right? Now, I’d say it’s probably my favorite style of food.)

I contacted a friend in Pittsburgh to let her know that we’d be in town, and she sent me a photo of a wonderful looking, massive bloody mary, and plans were made to meet at Twelve Whiskey Barbecue for brunch.

Jesus. Christ.

Jesus. Christ.


Look. At. That.

A different view of the magnificence.

A different view of the magnificence.

Presenting the Big Azz Bloody. Where do I even start with this thing? Well let’s start with the price. $15. $15!!! For all of that!!! That seems totally completely reasonable! Considering I didn’t need to order any food to go along with it (well I ordered 2 fried eggs because it was breakfast and all), it was a cheaper brunch than usual all things considered.

Served in a larger than normal mason jar, this thing was loaded with goodies. For the big stuff, there was a full grilled cheese cut into 4 triangles (as it should be!), a chicken finger, a slider, and waffle fries. For the little stuff, there were 2 slices of sausage, a pickle, olives, jalapeno slices, a celery stalk and cocktail onions.

A close up look.

A close up look.

I was really so overwhelmed by the garnishes, that I don’t have a lot to say about the drink itself. My immediate reaction to the first sip was that it was very tomato-y. There was a bit of spice to it, and it was definitely drinkable. (They also offer an ordinary bloody mary that I would imagine contains the same mix.) As expected, putting hot garnishes on a cold drink, they did not stay warm, but that’s ok, they were all good.

I am almost sad that the drink was such a meal, because I’d have liked to try some of the dishes on their brunch menu, but I just knew I would not need to be eating anything else with this massive cocktail. And as it turned out, by the time Taco Fest rolled around later that afternoon, I was still not hungry, so add that to the rain (because, of course), and long lines at the event, the fest wasn’t that exciting. :/ I managed to stuff some tacos into my face, and they were decent, but by then it really started to pour so we just couldn’t enjoy it. There is potential there, as every Taco Fest has potential, but it just didn’t do it for me this time around.

Lake Placid take 3

The 2nd part of our vacation brought us back to the Adirondacks, and this time we stayed in Saranac Lake. It’s still near Lake Placid and the High Peaks, but I had not stayed there before. We wanted to hike another High Peak, but I was nervous about my stamina (rightfully!) and we decided to do our first of the Saranac 6 peaks instead – Ampersand. Not a High Peak, but it was more difficult than the one we did last time, Cascade Mountain, and boy am I sore, still, 4 days later. It probably didn’t help my legs that we also did a 7+ mile rail bike ride the next day, which was super cool.

The peak of Ampersand Mountain

The peak of Ampersand Mountain

I was not expecting to have any bloody marys on this leg of the trip either, even if my favorite Bloody Bar is in Lake Placid, but I was wrong.

On our last trip, we thought there was a definite lack of places to sit outside and have some drinks with a nice lake view. The main street in Lake Placid goes right along Mirror Lake, with plenty of restaurants lining both sides, but while many/most of them have large windows to look at the lake, few seemed to have patios. Well that has changed now, with the Top of the Park, exactly what we were looking for.

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Or look at that view!

Or look at that view!

Top of the Park had a great cocktail menu, a nice bourbon list (according to J) and a good mix of small plates. A few drinks options had captured my interest before seeing the bloody mary, and having to go for that (well at least, go for that one first!)

How pretty is that drink??

How pretty is that drink??

Definitely the prettiest bloody mary I’ve had in a long time, just looking at it made me excited to try it. Clearly it was made with care, garnished with a dilly bean, sun dried tomato, lemon, olive, and a bacon straw (that you can’t see). The garnishes were nicely placed and not just plopped into the drink, plus they were creative! Bacon and beans aren’t entirely unusual, but make the bacon into a crispy straw, and it’s a nice touch. The mix had a lot of visible pepper, and had a nice tomato flavor. It was pretty mild, but I didn’t ask for it spicy, and I wonder what they would have added if I had. It might have wrecked it, if it was a vinegary hot sauce. It was a good drink in a fantastic location. We proceeded to try a number of cocktails off their menu, and a few plates, and would definitely return there again in the future.

I thought that night in Lake Placid would be our only time in town, but we wanted to buy a few sweatshirts, so we drove back the next day. Enter my favorite Bloody Bar, The Breakfast Club. I’ve reviewed them twice before, so I didn’t think I needed to go back, but alas we needed breakfast, and there they were, drawing me in with their menu of bloodies…The struggle is real.

The Asian Mary

The Asian Mary

This time I went with the Asian Mary. I couldn’t remember if I had tried it on our very first trip there, I think I may have, but nothing wrong with revisiting it! Made with their house mix, the drink is made “Asian” with the addition of soy sauce, sriracha, and wasabi. Garnished with lemon, lime, celery, olive and pickled ginger with a salt rim, look how pretty this one was too! Again, the drink wasn’t just some booze and tomato juice poured into a glass with some citrus. It was very spicy and a tad sweet, with a hint of nose burn and from the wasabi. Delicious. Another great offering from The Breakfast Club.

Lake Placid, the reigning Queen of vacation bloodys!


Vacation time again, and this time for real. We didn’t have ideas for anything super huge and exciting to do, but we figured we’d go to Boston to visit J’s sister, and then make our way to the Adirondacks since we had to cancel our trip there in June. So that was the plan of attack, but it turns out his sister was going to be in Berlin. Jealous! I want to be in Berlin! We stayed at her place anyway, took care of her cats (one giant, one tiny), and played tourist for a few days.

Our first day, we bought tickets for a whale watch and a visit to the New England Aquarium. The day was a little chilly for a speedy boat ride, and we were warned that the seas were pretty choppy. We got about a half hour into the ride, out of Boston Harbor, and the captain decided it was too rough and they were going to have to cancel the trip. *sadface* So we turned around and headed back to shore, refunds for all, no whales for anyone. The Aquarium was nice though, with a big penguin exhibit in the center, and lots of tanks of crazy ocean life.

One of my favorite South Park moments: Cartman singing Poker Face in Whale Whores episode

One of my favorite South Park moments: Cartman singing Poker Face in Whale Whores episode

We had no real plans for the evening, and after dinner we headed out to a Buffalo Bills Bar to watch the home opener. Now, I really don’t care at all about football but it was something to do. That specific bar was PACKED though, so we went around the corner to find a place, and stumbled upon The Fours (apparently America’s best sports bar). I wasn’t planning on having a bloody mary, but it presented itself in front of me, as a drink called the Flea Flicker, so I guess I had to!

The Fours Boston

The Flea Flicker

The Flea Flicker – Kettle One Vodka, Housemade Bloody Mary Mix, Guinness Floater, Spicy Salt Rim – $11. The drink had an olive garnish with a lemon and lime plopped in the drink. There was no real spice to it and the tomato flavor was not super evident, somehow. There was a smoky hint to it, and a little sweetness from the Guinness. It wasn’t bad, definitely drinkable, but it wasn’t great.

In prepping for the trip, of course I googled the best bloody marys in Boston, but nothing really jumped out as a “must have” drink. I was fine with not trying any during our visit, but in the end I did want to get brunch before leaving for Saranac Lake on Saturday, so I re-googled the list and settled on trying Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, near Harvard. It wasn’t far from where we were staying, easy to get to on the subway so we could get back to the car and hit the road, and had one of the more interesting ones on the list.

The Maria Basilico

The Maria Basilico

Russell House Tavern featured 4 different drinks on the menu, your standard house bloody, one made with mezcal, one with aquavit, and the one I chose: The Maria Basilico with Basil-Infused Vodka, Meletti Amaro, Cucumber, House Bloody Mary Mix for $11. At first taste the drink was super thick and pulpy, the mix had a lot of visible debris, and was almost chewable, but it became more tolerable after a good stir. It was very spicy, with hints of basil flavor and citrus, with maybe a tad of horseradish. Garnished with cucumbers, which I ignored, it was a decent drink, but it wasn’t as super out of the ordinary as I was expecting.

As a whole, from the internet lists of “best of Boston” and the 2 drinks I had, the city can surely step up their game. I was expecting all kinds of crazy offerings featuring lobster, or other seafood, for garnishes. J’s sister had another recommendation for a place, with a “menu” of vodkas, mixes, and garnishes to choose from that perhaps would have been a better choice but it was just too far away for our purposes this time. Guess we’ll have to visit again!

Washington DC!

In the middle of last year my friend Cassie moved to Washington DC for a new job, and my first thought was 1. I should go to a Sabres/Capital game in DC some time, and 2. DC has a Bloody Mary Fest!! I had my first random vacation week booked for the end of April, and their Fest is some time in the spring, but I waited, and waited, and waited, and WAITED for them to announce the date hoping it was magically during the week I already had off, or if not, a week I could switch to, but I finally gave up and booked a flight to visit her. What takes them so long to figure it out?! Ugh.

But I wasn’t going to let the lack of a Fest deter me from having a selection of DC’s Bloody Marys. I asked the Bitches who Brunch on Twitter for recommendations, googled the hell out of it, and gathered a list of places to potentially try. First up was Founding Farmers.

The Bitches pointed me in the direction of last year’s Fest winners, which included Founding Farmers with their chicken and waffle garnish. Whaaaaat? Unfortunately when I tweeted the restaurant about the garnish, it was something special only for the fest, but their menu looked so good we went there for breakfast my first day in town before heading down to the Williamsburg area for the day.

Founding Farmers Bloody Mary - no chicken and waffle garnish :(

Founding Farmers Bloody Mary – no chicken and waffle garnish 🙁

For $12, Founding Farmers bloody featured their house made mix with habanero infused vodka, and is served every day, not just for brunch on weekends. It took a little while for me to get my drink, our food had already arrived, but the waitress claimed it was because they had made a fresh batch of their vodka and she wanted to make sure I had the new stuff. Ok, cool. There was only a lime for garnish, with a spiced rim and visible spice in the mix. It was really delicious, a bit tart, a nice pepper taste, and a tiny bit of smokey habanero flavor. The heat level was purely from the infused vodka, with no hint of any vinegary hot sauce thankfully. Very good, I recommend it if you are in the area of one of their 3 locations.

After breakfast we drove to the Williamsburg area to try to see the load of giant President heads sitting in a field, which we failed at, and to visit the Historic Jamestowne site (not the Jamestown Settlement museum and reenactment site, which you reach before you get to the National Park, and probably tricks everyone like it tricked us. Luckily they gave us a refund when we realized we were not where we wanted to be. It’s probably a perfectly nice place to visit, but we wanted to see the actual colony that they are still conducting archeological digs at.)

Jamestowne, Arlington, Arboretum

Jamestowne, Arlington, Arboretum

Saturday turned out to be the big day – 3 drinks at 3 different places. We decided on trying the Evening Star in Alexandria for brunch, because their bloody features a bit of grilled cheese sandwich and bacon for garnish. The restaurant was really cute, decorated with all sorts of things made from erector sets, and fun shadow box “alternative art”.

Grilled cheese garnished bloody!

Grilled cheese garnished bloody!

Costing $7, this bloody comes in a fancy little glass with their fun little garnish. I didn’t know how big the sandwich piece was going to be, but I thought it was fair, especially for the price (which I thought was fairly cheap.) Upon taking a sip I was immediately hit with pickle flavor, but while I’ve complained about strong pickle flavor before, it wasn’t bad. It was balanced nicely with the other flavors in the drink. There was a decent spice level, nothing overwhelming, and visible pepper in the drink. The garnishes were cold, but that was to be expected.

Bacon garnish is always welcome.

Bacon garnish is always welcome.

I enjoyed the drink, but I can’t really say the same for my breakfast. I ordered the breakfast burrito, which wasn’t at all spicy, was smaller than expected, and didn’t have much of any taste. It came with a salad, which is always a let down hahaha. I was hungry very quickly afterwards, but that turned out to be a good thing.

On the way to the restaurant we drove past Arlington Cemetery, and while the National Arboretum had been the goal for the day, we decided to visit Arlington as well. Very nice, solemn spot, and we had perfect timing to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As a “newer” country, without a monarchy or anything like that, it sometimes feels like we don’t have much heritage or ritual, but things like the changing of the guard makes you realize that we do.

We started the drive to the Arboretum and looking at the map on my phone I realized we’d be driving right by one of the other bloody mary spots on my list – Buffalo and Bergen inside Union Market – and it was one of the ones with the most potential. I made Cassie detour to the market for me 🙂

Union Market was super cool, if not super hipster, with a ton of little food booths. So many choices that looked delicious, I’d definitely frequent the market if I lived near by. But this trip there was only one destination and one thing to be ordered – the Lox’d and Loaded Bloody Mary from Buffalo and Bergen.



Oh holy Jesus, look at that bloody! A bloody mary with an everything bagel sandwich featuring cream cheese, onions, capers and a giant serving of lox, finished off with a lemon and pickle on top, and a large slice of lettuce underneath to keep the sandwich dry (brilliant!!) At $19.50, this is the 2nd most expensive bloody mary I’ve ever ordered but given the fact that the sandwich alone would have been $10.75, it was totally reasonable. After being overwhelmed by the sandwich (which was delicious – first time eating lox, and it was pretty good) the drink had a very spicy, fresh taste. It was clearly spicy from Frank’s hot sauce, which made it a bit too vinegar-y for me, but it was do-able because of a hint of horseradish and bit of pepper. Clearly the best garnish I’ve had in my bloody mary drinking career.

We finally made it to the Arboretum with an hour to explore, so we didn’t get to see that much, but it has a ton of potential for future visits. There are a lots of little paths into the various garden areas, plus with Cassie and I taking tons of photographs of the various flowers and plants, we’d really need all day there.

That night we went to Okra’s in Manassas to see Cassie’s friend play jazz, and since there was a bloody on the menu, guess I had to order it. Called the Proud Mary, it had no description in the menu, but I made sure it was actually a bloody, and the waitress said it was, but spicier. Game on.

Proud Mary keep on burning!

Proud Mary keep on burning!

Garnished with 2 olives and a lime, it had a Cajun garlicky spiced rim. Served in a hurricane glass, the drink had a heavy celery taste, and was not too spicy despite what the waitress said. There was a lot of cracked pepper in the drink, and no vinegar taste. It was drinkable but fairly basic. I ordered the Pasta Diablo, which was delicious, and the jazz was good even though I know nothing about jazz haha.

Sunday we visited the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum in VA, an extension of the museum on the National Mall, which features the Space Shuttle Discovery…!!!…Oh man, it was awesome to see the shuttle in person, plus other legendary air craft like the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, which was ridiculous, and the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb.

OMG THE SHUTTLE! (and the SR-71 and Enola Gay)

OMG THE SHUTTLE! (and the SR-71 and Enola Gay)

Monday I was on my own as Cassie had to work, but I made the most of it even if I didn’t get to have any more bloody marys. I began my day by visiting almost every memorial beginning at Einstein and Lincoln, and ending at Jefferson and Washington before crossing town to go to the National Zoo. According to my fitness tracker I took nearly 28,000 steps and walked 12 miles. I was just about dead by the end and happy to sit on a plane home, even if I did have to go through a torrential downpour to get to the car, including walking through a river to put my luggage in the trunk, and stepping into a virtual pond where the water was over my sneakers, filling them enough that I could pour the water out. BECAUSE IT WOULDN’T BE ONE OF MY VACATIONS IF I DIDN’T GET COMPLETELY SOAKED AT SOME POINT!!!

Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument in the mist.

Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument in the mist.

My fav president FDR, and the Jefferson Memorial

My fav president FDR, and the Jefferson Memorial

I had a great time visiting Cassie, and a few nice cocktails. I’d call that a successful trip.

Bloody Arizona

It was vacation time again! This time it was our “big” trip out west to Tucson and Phoenix. The primary impetus for the trip was the Arizona Taco Fest in Scottsdale. I was supposed to go a few years ago with a friend, but it didn’t work out, so it remained on my list of things to do. Also on my things to do – see inside a missile silo – and Tucson generously provides that opportunity!

Now if you’ve followed along with my vacation history, you’d know that every time I take a vacation it rains. Well this time we were going to the desert, no worries about getting rained on. WRONG. *sigh* We flew into Phoenix and drove to Tucson that night. The following day there was rain predicted, so it was cloudy and we got sprinkled on while visiting Biosphere 2, but it wasn’t bad. Actually, to me, it was quite nice because I don’t mix well with hot weather and sun, so with temperatures in the 80s but no sun beating down on me, I found it to be pretty great. However after the missile silo tour, on our drive back to Phoenix, our plans of going to an Ostrich farm and seeing something called a “goat penthouse” (!!!) were destroyed by big storms, and wind, and dust. Ugh. We also had to skip seeing the weird Domes of Casa Grande. The storms continued on our drive to Scottsdale, but cleared up in the evening for a while. Saturday we toured the beautiful Taliesin West, then visited the Goldfield mining tour tourist trap, where it rained on the drive. Sunday was Taco Fest where it stormed towards the end with a ton of lightning (and it actually made national news for the property destruction). Monday we visited Papago Park and the zoo, where we DID NOT GET RAINED ON, however it rained that night, as well as the next day before we left for home. UGH!

We’re doomed. If anyone wants to pay for us to visit California to help out their drought situation, email me!



I had done my typical googling of “Best Bloody Marys in _______” before leaving, but there wasn’t that much on the intertubes, and what I found all tended to be brunch drinks, so I wasn’t expecting to have any while we were there. But while walking around the 4th street area of Tucson we passed a bar with a bloody mary advertised on their chalk board. Score!

Man I can't wait to get my new cell phone, maybe then photos will look better.

Man I can’t wait to get my new cell phone, maybe then photos will look better.

Che’s Lounge in Tucson had this on offer. A pint glass Bloody Mary, garnished with a lemon, lime, celery stalk, olives, a sweet pickle and jalapeno slices. I asked for it spicy, and the bartender went to town. Wow. Very very spicy with definite pickle juice added. It kept a good tomato flavor in all that spice and pickle. I missed watching it being made, but there was both sriracha and Tabasco on the bar, so my guess is he used both, plus maybe more because my tongue was ON FIRE. All in all a good outing.

One place I had made note of to visit was the Cup Cafe in The Congress Hotel in Tucson, so we caught breakfast there before going to the Biosphere. It only sprinkled on us while we ate outside…

The Cup Cafe, where it only sprinkled on us

The Cup Cafe, where it only sprinkled on us

Served in a pint glass with 2 olives and 2 slices of cucumber…Cucumber…one of my arch-nemesis foods. I haaaate cucumbers. Thankfully the drink didn’t end up tasting like cucumbers. I believe it was a house made mix, and you could see seeds and hot pepper flakes inside the glass. Even with the flakes, however, it wasn’t very spicy. There was some bite from a bit of pickle juice but it was very slight. It was tomato-y and drinkable but not spectacular. I’d take Che’s over Cup’s any day.

I also had 2 drinks in Phoenix, the first one from The Vig, which was also my first make your own Bloody Mary bar!!

Our bartender the previous night let us know about The Vig’s brunch, which featured the make your own bar, so after realizing we could still make brunch after visiting Taliesin we headed out to the Arcadia neighborhood.

Before and After

Before and After

For $4 you got your pint glass of vodka and access to their Bloody bar which included 2 mixes, 18 bottles of hot sauces, and various spices like smoked paprika and chipotle powder. Garnishes included your typical lemons, limes, and celery, plus pickled beans and asparagus, pickles, and bacon. One of the mixes looked fairly plain, whereas the other had seeds and bits of pepper so I used that one.

See those white streaks? Yeah, that's rain. It poured!!

See those white streaks? Yeah, that’s rain. It poured!!

I added some chipotle powder, and a green jalapeno based hot sauce to the mix. Threw in some lemon and lime, a few pickled beans, and a strip of bacon. I wouldn’t necessarily say that my concoction was fantastic, but it was fun.

The last drink I had was at The Duce. I had found this multi-media bar on a list of things to do in Phoenix, and it turns out it was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. The Duce is a bar, restaurant, boxing gym, and clothing store with shuffle board, corn hole, ping pong, a dj, sports on tv, a soda fountain and chess. Yeah. Multi-media. It was a very fun looking place with a lot of things to do, from just sitting at the bar and having a drink, to playing games, and it was family friendly with a lot of different aged children running around. They served food from an old silver trailer, and I had their famous “mac n cheese muffins” which were fun and tasty. I wasn’t expecting to have a Bloody here, as we really just went to see what it was about, but they had a fancy drink menu that featured the Bloody I had and also the Bloody Schlamm Hamms – a bloody made with Schlitz and Hamms beers.

The Duce!

The Duce!

$12 and served in a mason jar, the drink was made with a local homemade mix and featured organic vodka, organic lemons and limes, olives, a pickle and a mint leaf. The mix was pretty liquidy while still having chunks of pepper in it. There was a hint of garlic, and a bit of pickle juice flavor and mint, and it was spicy without having asked for it. It was quite good, but it was $12…

The Duce

Now I have been known to spend a bit of money on a Bloody Mary but The Duce was a bit too much for me. I’m fine with craft cocktails being $9 or $10, but when I have to break a $20 every single time I order a drink, that’s too expensive. Add to that the fact that in Arizona, tax isn’t included in the price, so it was even more than the price listed on the menu. I just wasn’t used to that. In NY an $8 drink is an $8 drink. Then the clothing store featured army surplus items turned fashion for ridiculous prices. A white thermal shirt with black dye on the bottom for $137? No. Just no. At least the games were free.

The Duce was very fun, I kicked J’s ass in corn hole – my best corn hole game in years, but if I lived in Phoenix I just couldn’t afford to hang out there.

I wasn’t able to catch a green Bloody Mary like the one offered at Windsor before heading for home but that’s ok. Have to leave something for next time right?

We headed home after 6 days away, and came home to…*drum roll*….rain.

Seneca Lake Vacation

Like I mentioned last post, J and I were on vacation, and decided to head down to the Finger Lakes to get away for a few days, try some wine, and do a bit of hiking in Watkins Glen. And like I mentioned, the weather was a bit crap, but we made the most of it and it ended up clearing up about mid way through day 2, and we had a great time.

The view from Lamoreaux Landing, the view from our rental, and sunset on Seneca Lake

The view from Lamoreaux Landing, the view from our rental, and sunset on Seneca Lake

I lost track of the number of different wineries along Seneca and Cayuga lakes that we stopped at but we also stopped at 2 distilleries – Finger Lakes Distilling and Myer Farm Distillers. NY state law only allows 3 samples of spirits per day, so while they both had a big selection of spirits to try, we had to choose what we wanted carefully. J stuck mostly with whiskeys and bourbons, and I stayed with vodka and gin, even though I don’t drink gin.

Finger Lakes Distilling would ask how you usually drank each spirit and would make you a mini cocktail in a shot glass to get a feel for what it would taste like in a non-sampling situation. So when I said I drink my vodka in a Bloody Mary our sampler guy explained that their Vintner vodka was made with grapes, and this gave it a taste that wasn’t very suitable for a Bloody Mary, but that they made one with their whiskey if I wanted to try that. Sure thing! He made my little Bloody, complete with a bacon salt rim, and it was pretty decent but strange. I’m not a whiskey fan, so I can’t say I’d order it that way, but he was right about their vodka not being right for a Bloody either.

Which leads me to the only full size Bloody Mary I had during the trip. On our last day we stopped in Watkins Glen to go to Wildflower Cafe/Rooster Fish Pub/Rooster Fish Brewing. Rooster Fish is a craft brewery (of which we went to a few) with a flight on offer inside Wildflower which J wanted to try. He got a flight, and I got their Mary Mary Mary.


$10 and served in a pint glass with a lemon, lime and olive garnish and bacon salt rim, they usually made the cocktail using a spicy mix, their Tripel Witch Belgian beer and Vintner Vodka, however they were out of the beer, so they used their Summer Sky hefeweizen instead. The mix had visible horseradish for spice and flavor which was not overwhelming. As the sample guy at Finger Lakes Distilling said, the vodka has a strong grape taste which along with the beer made for a very sweet flavor, with a smoky hint from the bacon salt rim. It wasn’t bad, but it was different. I definitely would follow his lead and avoid using Vintner vodka for a Bloody, though it was quite good in the mini cocktail he made for me in our tasting – cranberry bitters with cranberry juice and vodka.

And now for something completely different. The best $7 I’ve ever spent.

IMG_20150603_145518478 copy

GOATS! I love goats! We found a brochure for Lively Run Dairy and just had to go. Lively Run is a goat farm, dairy and cheesery with tours and tastings every day. The tour runs at 2pm for $7 and includes a cheese tasting, but we were late. We were also the only people there, so even though it was 2:15, J asked if we could do the tour and they let us. Oh. My. God. They show you a video about the cheese making process, and then you get to go meet the goats, and depending on the time of year that could include bottle feeding baby goats. Seriously, it was the greatest. There were 5 babies still taking a bottle, and a whole group more who swarmed us anyway, it was awesome. If you are in the Seneca/Cayuga lake area, you have to go. The cheese was good too!

Russian bar vs Russian bar – NYC

One more time, J and I went to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. I couldn’t not go after they announced that the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell, was reprising the roll. !!! It was something I didn’t think I’d ever see, and now that I have, my life is complete. He was phenomenal, even performing injured, in a knee brace! Gah. So good. If I lived in NYC I’d go catch him again for sure.

I digress.

So I tried to pre-plan more than the previous 2 trips, and figure out a place I’d like to go for a Bloody, and places for us to eat dinner so we weren’t all “I dunno” when it came time to eat. Browsing on Yelp, I came across the Russian Vodka Room, which just so happened to be across the street from our hotel. How convenient! Reviews and a glance at their website told a story of several different house infused vodkas, and specifically a horseradish infused vodka. My friend Carolyn had recently linked me to a horseradish vodka, which definitely sounded good for making Bloody Marys but the big liquor store in the area didn’t carry it. Now was my chance!

After the show we made our way to the Vodka Room and met my friend Anthony for a few drinks. J had the Sweet Doggy (Red Grapefruit Infused Vodka, Red Grapefruit Juice, Brown Sugar Rim, Mint), Anthony tried shots of their Peach & Apricot, and Ginger vodka, and we all split a flight including Cherry, Strawberry, Cranberry for sure, then maybe Pineapple and Red Grapefruit (we can’t remember and neither could the bartender), and I made J also get the Garlic Pepper and Dill against his will. And of course, I had the Red Bastard – the horseradish vodka Bloody Mary.


A lemon and lime garnish for $10, holy moly, that horseradish vodka was good. Super strong flavor in a basic Bloody mix. There didn’t seem to be any additional spice from hot sauce or pepper, just the infused vodka, in which you could see little bits of horseradish floating around. It was a simple drink, but full of flavor. Definitely recommended if you’re a horseradish fan.

Once we got the flight, and had all tasted the Garlic infusion, I added that to my drink (J was pretty disgusted by it I think haha I thought it was really good). It was half gone already, so it ended up turning into mostly a garlic drink. A small bit would be a nice addition to the Red Bastard, but perhaps not a full shot, because it was very very strong. The other flavors were decent, especially the Strawberry, Cranberry and Ginger. The 2 we couldn’t remember what they were, were not obviously any flavor, one seeming to be just vodka, the other just indistinct. I’m not a big Cherry fan, but J is and he liked it.

It just so happens that there was ANOTHER Russian bar across the street. While the Vodka Room, which is advertised as a restaurant and piano bar, and did indeed have someone playing piano, was dark and cozy, fairly classy with some Russian art, the bar across the street – Russian Samovar – also a restaurant and piano bar, was the opposite. And while the probability of us having missed a large section of the place is high, we didn’t see any part of it that looked like the photos on the website, and it was a bit dive-y. Nothing wrong with that, by the way, I’m just totally shocked looking at their website because it looks so very classy, and well, it wasn’t. They did have a piano, but no one was playing (it was after midnight for the record), they had modern pop music on and Bruno playing on tv. Both bars had giant jugs of their infused vodka around the room, with Samovar decorating them with military caps.

The infused vodkas offered were mostly the same between the 2, with Samovar having some additional ones like Tarragon, Pear, Plum and Coriander to name a few. It was late-ish so we didn’t try any of them, J just getting a Cherry vodka and soda, which tasted like cough medicine, Anthony getting one of their mixed drinks on offer, and of course, I got their horseradish Bloody Mary – the Bloody Dasha.


Garnished with lemon, lime and 3 olives for $12, it might have looked nicer because of the garnishes, but it didn’t hold a candle to the Russian Vodka Room’s drink. There was more tomato taste than horseradish, you could barely detect the horseradish at all. It wasn’t anywhere close to being awful, but I had just enjoyed an almost overwhelming horseradish vodka drink, so it was a disappointment. It was so subtle, it might be better for someone looking for just a tiny extra something in their Bloody Mary, whereas the Vodka Room’s drink would be for the hard core spice/horseradish fan.

If you’re asking me which one I’d go back to for a Bloody Mary, it’s definitely the Russian Vodka Room. But to be honest, I’d probably walk across the street to Samovar after to try some of their other flavors and drinks too. I’m equal opportunity!

NYC Again

J and I returned to New York City again, to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch…again…We couldn’t help it! They announced that Michael C Hall was going to be staring, I couldn’t miss that. And then, of course, they announce that the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell himself will be returning to the role, so yep, we’re heading back again in March.

But that’s ok, I got to try a few more Bloodies. This was another quick overnight trip, and this time we drove so we didn’t have all that much time in the city, and not wanting to drive anywhere, we stayed in the general midtown area. I didn’t research any places to go ahead of time, and once we got there and I did some Googling, most places that turned up were brunch places, or not within walking distance.

The first Bloody Mary was courtesy of The Carnegie Club – a cigar bar. Blech! One has to make sacrifices for their others.


Pass. $12 in a Tom Collins glass. Garished with 2 olives and a lemon. It was plain tomato juice with some hot sauce. It had no flavor at all, but it did have a lot of vodka. The photo does look like it has some kind of seasoning in it, like pepper, but it really had zero flavor, so it might as well not been in there at all. No thanks.

After The Carnegie Club I was starving, so Google-ing “late night eats in NYC” brought us to Empanada Mama. Holy moly! A whole menu full of empanadas stuffed with all sorts of deliciousness. And they happened to have a Bloody Mary on the menu. I honestly didn’t want it, a margarita sounded much nicer but J made me.


$7 served in a rocks glass. Garnished with just a lime. There was visible pepper and spice, in a house made mix. It was very tasty, though a bit chewy due to all that spice. It didn’t mix well, the spice kept sinking to the bottom and I had to stir it up each time before I drank any. It had a citrus bite to it and a good spice level, and I didn’t even ask for it spicy (I forgot and the server didn’t ask). It’s hard to pin point a specific reason why it was so tasty, but it was good. Though I still think a margarita would have been delicious 🙂

We also stopped into an Irish Pub across the street from the Belasco Theatre right after we left Hedwig, and figuring they wouldn’t have had a Bloody Mary, I ordered a Guinness. J then asked where we could get a good Bloody, and the bartender said they had one. And not just a crap one like you’d guess, but a house made mix. Color me disappointed in my Guinness, but I didn’t want to have another drink there. The bartender let us taste the mix, which had a lot of potential (although straight mix in a glass was like drinking Ragu haha). Perhaps in March we’ll have to stop in and try it (and figure out what the name of the place was).

St Louis Days 3 and 4

The last day and a half of my stay in St Louis had to bring us to the other Rooster location, as I had to have the Bloody Fairy. When I saw this listed on their website, there was no choice. If I had no other drink on this vacation, it had to be this one. I can’t say I was looking forward to it, or that I thought it was going to be delicious. But there was no way I could pass it up.

A Bloody Mary made with absinthe.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

I have a bit of history with absinthe. I am attracted to the history of the drink and the myth that surrounds it. I invested in a bottle while it was still illegal, and I struggled to find a way to successfully drink it, as it is rather difficult to choke down. The traditional way, with water and a sugar cube (do not light it on fire you noobs!), is still quite wretched. I’ve had an absinthe frappe in New Orleans. I had it in a layered shooter style drink with sambuca and baileys in Kiev, called a Hiroshima (I really ordered it for the name haha), and I’ve drank it straight. It’s just difficult to drink. I really couldn’t imagine what it could possibly taste like mixed with a tomato base. But I knew I couldn’t pass it up, because when would I ever see an absinthe Bloody Mary again?

So we made it to Rooster downtown right before it closed so I could order the Bloody Fairy. The bartender questioned my choice, asked if I liked licorice flavor and I assured her I knew what absinthe was. She said she was making sure because the Bloody Fairy was the most often sent back drink on the menu.


The small size was $5, with a salt and chili powder rim. This time I got the 2 olive and peperoncini garnish with a lemon stuck in there that was missing from the day before. This drink definitely wins the award for Most Unusual Bloody Mary in the world. There is such a strong taste of absinthe it drowns out almost all of the tomato taste from their 17 ingredient house mix. It was not at all spicy, as it seems their house mix is not spiced (they offer a Bloody ‘ell spicy Bloody that I didn’t have the opportunity to try), and I’m not sure adding spice to the flavor of absinthe would be a good idea. It was just so bizarre! So much herbal licorice flavor! Strangely it wasn’t bad though. I really didn’t think those flavors would mix well, but it turns out it might be the only tolerable way to drink absinthe. It definitely has been the best absinthe cocktail I’ve had.

The bartender was surprised I drank it all, she can’t even stand the smell of absinthe when she’s mixing them!

Later on that day we swang by Barrister’s, also on the Best Of list I found before I traveled. Also known for their Make Your Own bar during brunch, we had to settle for a bartender made drink since it was Wednesday.


Served in a pint glass with a salt and chili rim and 2 olives, a lemon and lime garnish, they use a house made mix which was very thick and chewy. There was visible pepper and not at all vinegary. The spice lingered quite a bit and clearly was not from a generic hot sauce like Frank’s. It tasted good, but was just so thick and chewy it was like drinking spicy pasta sauce. I couldn’t quite get past it, it was just far too thick for me. As the ice melted and it got less chewy it was more enjoyable. But I couldn’t order one from there again knowing how thick they are.

My last Bloody Mary in St Louis was nicely prepared for me by my aunt’s personal trainer Kelly. She mentioned my quest to him while working out, and he claimed he made the best one in St Louis and invited us over to give his a try.


(My aunt with Kelly….I mean Kelly’s dog)

Kelly starts with a large jug of Mr and Mrs T’s bold and spicy mix, removes a bit and adds in some of Mr and Mrs T’s horseradish mix, and mixes in some creamy horseradish and even more raw horseradish from a jar. He shakes that up, adds in bacon bits and svedka vodka and voila. Garnished with peperoncini and blue cheese stuffed olives (I passed on the olives), the Bloody had a good taste and spice level from the horseradish. It had a good liquidity and wasn’t chewy at all, and after the last one, that was a welcome change. He said he made them strong and he wasn’t lying, we needed lunch after that! Thanks Kelly!

1 2