Pittsburgh knows how to have fun when it comes to food and beer festivals like Picklesburgh and Beerfest, and now the city hopes to have a bloody good time with not one — but two! — bloody mary festivals, celebrating the tomato-and-vodka-infused drink.
First, there’s Bloodys & Brunch: A Bloody Mary Festival on May 20. Then, just a month later on June 24, Pittsburgh’s Sunday’s Best Bloody Mary Festival comes to town.
In preparation for these festivals — and for your regularly scheduled Sunday brunch plans — here are 8 of the tastiest bloody marys in Pittsburgh.
Called “Our Famous Bloody Mary,” Blue Dust’s creation includes Uncle Jerry’s Top Secret Bloody Mary Mix.
“Our bloodys have developed quite the cult following!” said Stephanie Dickson, Blue Dust bar manager. “What keeps people coming back is our no-nonsense-straight-no-frills mix made from the best ingredients and our in-house infused vodkas. We make horseradish vodka, pickled vodka and smoked garlic gin in house.”
Blue Dust also purchases Old Bay-infused vodka from Philadelphia Distilling company. You can’t hate the deliciousness, even though it comes from Philly.
Carmella’s Plates & Pints
When it comes to curing a hangover, why not support the same neighborhood that probably gave you the ailment in the first place?
South Side’s Carmella’s Pints and Plates has become a brunching touchstone on East Carson Street, with its brunch plates like hanger steak and eggs and, of course, breakfast drinks like the bloody mary.
Carmella’s concoction includes house-infused peppered-bacon vodka, an olive, house-made tomato juice, cooked shrimp and a gherkin pickle.
With Pittsburgh’s Primanti Bros. sandwiches packed with eclectic ingredients, Commoner head bartender Alex Dando asks, “Why would a true, Pittsburgh bloody mary be any different?”
The Commoner’s bloody mary bar boasts a plethora of seasonal mixes and infusions, pickled veggies, hot sauces, mini grilled cheese sammies (think of it as like the alcoholic tomato soup and grilled cheese pairing), pancakes, and a selection of breakfast proteins (you know, to make it healthy).
However, even though Dando serves as head bartender, he’s not the only self-proclaimed expert, with guests allowed to play an active role in their drink creation.
“Everyone is convinced they can make the greatest bloody mary ever, so why not let the guest earn their apron, so to speak.”
Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood might be one of the city’s best-kept secrets, along with Hough’s $8 bloody mary bar every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Our bloody mary bar has certainly taken off in the last year,” said Cassie Roach, marketing and events coordinator at Hough’s.
House-infused vodka options include horseradish, bacon, tomato-basil, dill pickle, Old Bay and, of course, regular Tito’s Handmade Vodka, plus add-ins like deep-fried bacon, assorted cheese, green olives, artichokes, pickles, Slim Jims, pickled veggies, an array of hot sauces and spices.
Customers can customize their drinks and also their glass rims, with lemon-pepper, Old Bay, celery salt and black pepper garlic options.
“To complete the overall bloody mary bar experience, wash it all down with a mini beer back of PBR,” suggests Roach, referring to a taster-size pour.
For those bloody mary enthusiasts looking for some kick in their drink, look no further than Kaya, which incorporates culinary traditions from the Caribbean Islands, South America, the Pacific and more.
“I think what makes our bloody marys one of the best in the city is that our mix has a perfect blend of viscosity and spiciness,” said Matthew Plummer, Kaya beverage manager. “It tastes great with both vodka and tequila. We house-infuse Espolon Blanco with habaneros for those who like it hot.”
Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grille
When it comes to the right drink creation, the more the mary-ier at this Strip District restaurant.
“Our bloody mary recipe is made in house and contains more than 33 ingredients,” owner Luke Wholey said. “We start with a V8 blend and add all kinds of good stuff [like] Guinness beer, honey, Sriracha and Cajun spice.”
This drink is like a whole meal in one breakfast beverage, and it almost looks like it’s smiling at you.
Meat & Potatoes
For bloody mary devotees, the bloody mary bar at Meat & Potatoes allows you to take the reins and personalize your beverage.
This might be the most lauded bloody mary bar in the ’Burgh — it’s like a sundae bar for breakfast drinks — with its house mix, your choice of vodka and liquors, cheeses and meats.
Or, The Whale
Or, The Whale serves the “Iron Knees Bloody Mary” during brunch, fit for a sailor obsessed with a more adventurous take on the bloody — which fits well considering the restaurant’s Moby Dick inspo.
This one has Ketel One Vodka, Laphraoig Islay Scotch, chili oil, tomato juice, celery salt, black pepper, chef’s hot sauce, horseradish and capers.
Like Ishmael, your thirst might end with this whale.
Mark your calendar for these bloody mary festivals
Your $30 general admission includes access to unlimited bloody mary samples (!!!) from bars around the city, spices to personalize your drink and a mimosa bar (perfect for non-bloody mary enthusiasts going along for the ride). Participating bars and restaurants include Black Forge Coffee House, Blue Dust, The Modern Cafe and Fl. 2.
Where: The Stage at Karma at 1713 E Carson St. (South Side)
When: May 20, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
How much: $30
Pittsburgh’s Sunday’s Best Bloody Mary Festival presented by Winslo6 arrives at Heinz Lofts with 13 bars and restaurants serving up unlimited samples using Ketel One Vodka. There will also be local vendors, music, a photo booth and food trucks for everyone to enjoy. Plus, you can cast your vote for your favorite to help crown the People's Choice - Best Bloody Mary.
Where: Heinz Lofts at 300 Heinz Street Courtyard (Troy Hill)
When: June 24, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
How much: $20-$60