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Bloody good fun: A guide to Tampa Bay's bloody mary bars

When it comes to Bloody Marys, not a lot people rate them as so-so. Most divide into two teams: those who believe that any day that starts with a Bloody Mary is a good day, and those who would rather drink dirty bath water out of an old sneaker. • For the sake of this article, we're pretending that everyone cheers for Bloody Marys or, at least, has an appreciation for a drink known to treat hangovers. We trolled for places where you can make your own Bloody Mary from a smorgasbord of mixes, garnishes and spices. Just in time for spring, here are some of bloody good ones and descriptions of each. (Here's a fuller report on another bar we visited, Wahoo's on the Island.)

Beak's Old Florida

When Beak's added Sunday afternoon hours in January, they brought in all the traditional brunch fare, from biscuit sliders to omelettes. To kick it up a notch, they added a Bloody Mary bar, which starts at $4.95 per trip for well liquor. The Florida kitsch restaurant offers several tomato juices, including a homemade mix containing no MSG. The garnish list grows weekly, depending on the whims and creativity of the bar staff. In addition to lemons, limes, capers and Old Bay spice, there is pickled cabbage, okra, asparagus and green beans, plus five kinds of olives. Wrapped cheese sticks and mini sausages help make the drink double as meal. Available 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 2451 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 321-9100; beaksoldflorida.com.

Cafe Alma

One thing makes this Bloody Mary bar extra special: tomato-flavored vodka. This St. Pete cafe serves Three Olives tomato vodka as a gift to anyone who has been ridiculed for craving a drink better suited for vampires. (Or so we're presuming.) The vodka makes the Bloody Marys so flavorful, you might forget there's alcohol in it. And that's just the beginning. Cafe Alma's fixings bar has items you won't find elsewhere, from mushrooms to pickled zucchini, which makes the $8.50 cost more palatable. Twenty kinds of pepper and hot sauces satisfy any heat level. Available 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. 260 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 502-5002; cafealma.com.

Gaspar's Grotto

Bloody Marys are the grog of choice at this pirate-themed bar in Ybor City. Sunday brunch includes live music on the patio and a Bloody Mary bar. Guests receive a 3-ounce carafe of vodka to build upon at the bar, festively decorated with skeletons and an ice cooler disguised as a treasure chest. The garnishes aren't out of the ordinary, but you can rim your glass in salt. The buffet and raw bar is $23.95 per person, which also includes unlimited champagne and mimosas. Add an entree, and it's $29.95 per person for the Booze Cruise Brunch. If your partner can't stand Bloody Marys, the bar has a slew of fruit juices for mixing with the vodka, from grapefruit to guava. Those on a liquid diet can get a trip to the Bloody Mary bar a la carte for $3. Available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. 1805 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City; (813) 248-5900; gasparsgrotto.com.

Latitudes

It touts itself as having the Best Bloody Mary Bar on the Beach, and at $3 a trip, it's hard to dispute. This waterfront restaurant offers a big spread for a small price. Aside from the traditional garnishes, it has individually wrapped Slim Jims, pepperoni slices, asparagus spears, and fresh green and red peppers. The bar doesn't skimp on the mixers, either. It has Clamato juice, low-sodium V8, Spicy Hot V8, and Mr. and Mrs. T's Bloody Mary Mix. If the well vodka doesn't wow your taste buds, you can order a call liquor for a buck more. Available 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. 13205 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach; (727) 398-4103; latitudesmadbeach.com

Marchand's Bar and Grill

There are two ways to sip a Bloody Mary here on a Sunday. You can go super big with the brunch, which runs $52.95 per person and includes live piano music. Or you can pretend to hobnob with the rich and sit at the bar. Either way, you'll have to pay $8 for a Bloody Mary. Marchand's at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort does build-your-own Bloody Marys in fancy pilsner glasses rimmed with Old Bay spice. Ask for the vodka and fill the glass with the basic offerings, plus large shrimp, artichokes and salami-wrapped olives. If you're on a budget, don't go hungry. Brunch beckons with oversized crab legs, carved meats, and unlimited champagne and mimosas. At that price, you'd think they'd throw in a Bloody Mary, too. Available 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays; 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 824-8072; marchandsbarandgrill.com

Timpano's

It's all about presentation at this Hyde Park Village chophouse and martini bar. The vodka (Finlandia is the respectable well) is served in a small carafe accompanied with a glass of ice. The carafe holds enough liquor for two Bloody Marys, unless you like them super stiff. And that's a bonus because, at $9 a pop, Timpano's Bloody Mary bar is the most expensive we found. It's also the most attractive. Asparagus, onions, capers, cucumbers, chives and other fixings are chopped and served in a pretty glass dish. Big blue-cheese stuffed olives and Sriracha add to the classiness. Available 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 1610 W Swann Ave., Tampa; (813) 254-5870; timpanochophouse.net.

Bloody good fun: A guide to Tampa Bay's bloody mary bars 03/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2011 1:38pm]

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