August 8, 2022

Bloody Mary Festival

About 5 years ago, I was asked to be a judge at the Twin Cities Bloody Mary Festival competition. It was one of my favorite “Foodie” days. The event was at the Union Depot and when I arrived, I was given a score card. I was asked to rank Bloody Mary’s on multiple fronts, including taste, presentation, and the use of garnish. I even recall there being a distinction between original and traditional Bloody Mary’s because, let’s face it – Bloody Mary’s can take many forms, and that’s their beauty.


The “original” Bloody Mary contains seven ingredients: vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, celery salt, Tabasco, and lemon juice.  This is where the “original” Bloody Mary may start, but from here, there are so many different options, and like many classic drinks, it has inspired several variations. What about a Bloody Caesar? Made with Clamato (clam juice and tomato juice) instead of straight tomato juice or the Bloody Maria that uses Tequila as its base spirit – how does the use of a piney gin impact the flavor profile of a Bloody Mary?  

If these questions stir your soul, as they do mine, you will want to high tail it to The Bloody Mary Fest at the Union Depot in St Paul on October 8, 2022.  General admission tickets are $52.50 with an additional upgrade option for VIP entry, giving you 45 minutes extra time in the hall before letting the masses in.  There are multiple different sessions to sign up for when you buy tickets.  I like that they do it this way, as it allows for a thoughtful reset for the vendors between rushes to get their samples and garnishes just right.

Here you are likely to meet Charles Lovejoy from renowned Twin Cities company Love Joy’s Bloody Mary Mix vying for a shot at the title of Best Bloody Mary by the Judges or the Best People’s Choice Bloody Mary. Also, at the Twin Cities Festival will be Kickled Mary, the pickley Briney Bloody Mary mix that is a huge favorite of the pickle lovers in my house and always a contender. 2Dads raises the stakes on Bloody Mary’s by pitting the thick mixes against the thinner varieties. Brian Collins and Greg Ehrich are proud to showcase their light, easy-to-drink Bloody Mix that doesn’t need any of the “rigmarole,” as they say.

If Instagrammable Bloody Mary garnishes are what you crave – the garnish inspirations alone are worth the price of admission to the festival. When you talk about what to put in the garnish, some folks are simply a lime wedge and pickle spear with maybe a pimento-stuffed green olive, while others make custom meat sticks and blocks of cubed jalapeno smoked cheddar cheese to amp up their skewer. One year No Neck Tony’s in Stillwater used the original lemon white chocolate disk and a whisp of cotton candy as part of their garnish, and I recall it being delicious. You may find Shrimp pickled with preserved lemon as quickly as you could discover deep-fried Blue Cheese stuffed olives or a slice of grilled cheese or stuffed chicken wing on a skewer.

This year I’ll be at the festival from about 12-6, selling and signing copies of the “True North Cabin Cookbook” and passing out recipe cards for the “Burntside Bloody Mary.” When I asked my family about some of their favorite cabin recipes, we initially omitted the Bloody Mary. My niece Brittany Johnson promptly noticed the omission and insisted that we include the recipe with our secret store-bought ingredient.  Give it a try, and feel free to drop me a line anytime to chat about your favorite Twin Cities Bloody Mary mix or spot. Make sure and stop by to see me at this year’s Twin Cities Bloody Mary Festival.