All Photos by Garrick Ramirez
In addition to being an excuse to gather friends over sunny weekend brunch, what makes Bloody Marys so fun is that everyone has their own version. Life-changing choices—horseradish or Tabasco, pickle juice or clam juice—lend proudly distinct spins to the delightfully complex sipper. Plus, we’re not sure who first decided to throw an entire salad bar into a pint glass, but there’s no going back once you’ve been served a fully-loaded Bloody Mary with delicious munchables such as pickled asparagus spears, spicy cherry peppers, and salty strips of bacon. Below, we’ve listed what we think are some of the best Bloody Marys in town. See if you can make it to the end without rearranging your weekend plans.
The Sand Bar
The Bloody Mary is the unofficial drink of the Capitola Esplanade. Each day, sunny restaurant patios overlooking Capitola Beach and Soquel Creek fill with lively crowds nursing Bloody Marys with colorful toppings. At The Sand Bar—a soulful spot with genuinely friendly staff and killer waterfront views—the owner’s tangy-spicy homemade mix is so good, you’d be happy sipping a virgin version of this sumptuous Sunday staple. Plus, you can top it off with your choice of a prawn or a strip of bacon that’s so fresh it’s practically sizzling. The comfortable beach town hang welcomes families during day, but transforms into a rollicking, rock n’ roll bar in the evening when you’ll enjoy live music every Friday-Sunday starting at 7:30 p.m.
Coasters Bar & Grill at Boardwalk Bowl
The Big Lebowski fans know The Dude’s drink was a White Russian, but had he made it to Boardwalk Bowl, he would have surely changed his order to their Bacon Bloody Mary. With a delicious house made mix, crispy strips of bacon, and a garden of pickled veggies drizzled with hot sauce, it’s sure to knock down all your pins. Enjoy it over a few frames or take it to the front patio overlooking the action at Main Beach and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Linger into the evening and you can belt out “Proud Mary” at what is considered the best karaoke in town!
While you’ve likely enjoyed a crab cocktail or clam chowder bowl from the bustling outdoor fish market at Stagnaro Bros., the real secret is the Bloody Mary served in their adjacent restaurant. Docked at the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf, the ocean liner-inspired structure features a shipshape upstairs lounge with the only outdoor, second-floor seating on the wharf. For decades, their Marine Mary has put wind in the sails of many happy landlubbers. Rumor has it that the owner nabbed the recipe from—where else—a cruise ship, and brought it back to the wharf where he made it a Stagnaro’s staple. Topped with prawns, it’s like an adult shrimp cocktail in a pint glass. The wait staff will recommend pairing it with their seafood lasagne, but we think it does just fine with a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Back Nine Grill & Bar
Situated next to the renowned Pasatiempo golf course, the clubby Back Nine Grill & Bar tees up a solid Bloody Mary. A convivial crowd cheers on big screen sports at the bar, but we prefer sinking into the comfy leather couches around the fireplace. If you need more nourishment beyond the olive-pepperoncini-celery garnishment, choose from a menu of bold grilled dishes such as a BBQ Chicken Salad, Flatiron Steak, and the whiskey-glazed Outlaw Burger. Just be sure to get the crispy, seasoned onion rings!
Zelda's on the Beach
With specialty Bloody Marys and a sprawling outdoor deck plunked on the sands of Capitola Beach, Zelda’s should be on the short list of any brunch lover. Their best-selling drink is the Spicy Mary, a fiery mix of Stoli Hot vodka with all the fixings. Want less heat and more meat? Ask for their Belvedere Bacon Bloody Mary. The secret to both versions is their handmade mix which they guard closely despite many pleas to purchase a bottle. Add a few crowd pleasing dishes such as the eggs bennies or huevos rancheros, and you’ve achieved brunch nirvana.