Eye-Opening Elixirs

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Garnishes galore fill these over-the-top bloody marys, local versions of the breakfast beverage of choice after a night out.

By Sharon Stello


Following a night of celebrating, imbibers may be looking for a way to revive themselves the next morning. A bloody mary is the traditional eye-opener, a cocktail made with vodka, tomato juice and additions like Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, horseradish and hot sauce, garnished with items like a stick of celery and olives.

But some establishments take this drink a step further, embellishing the base with other ingredients and sometimes going a little overboard with the toppings. For example, Farmer’s Table in San Diego serves its bloody mary in a pitcher capped with a whole roasted chicken. While not quite as crazy, Laguna Beach restaurants have a few over-the-top renditions of this favorite morning drink that are worth a try.


Reunion Kitchen & Drink bloody marys_credit Sharon Stello
From left: the Bunny Mary, the Bloody Flight and the Jim’s Bloody Mary | Photo by Sharon Stello

Reunion Kitchen & Drink

Diners have three options when it comes to bloody mary interpretations at Reunion Kitchen & Drink. Choose from the vodka-based Jim’s Bloody Mary, garnished with a Slim Jim and bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper; the Bunny Mary, which subs carrot juice for the tomato base; and the tequila-filled Maria Verde, which gets its hue from cucumber, green apples, yellow tomatoes and roasted tomatillos—or order a Bloody Flight to taste the trio. “I’ve always been a fan of a good bloody mary and Jim’s has everything that I love without ‘over garnishing,’ ” says restaurant owner Scott McIntosh. “The Slim Jim was added to pay homage to one of our original bartenders, Jim, who passed [away]. The bacon-wrapped jalapeno just made sense and is our No. 1 selling appetizer.” Jim’s has been on the menu since McIntosh opened Asada at its former site and was later added to the lineup at Reunion. The Bunny Mary, garnished with a baby carrot, jalapeno ring and wedge of candied ginger, and the Maria Verde—both incorporate chile liquor for extra zing—debuted recently to expand the brunch offerings. (949-226-8393; reunionkitchen.net)


Sealnne Steak Tavern_Bloody Mary_courtesy of Selanne Steak Tavern
A bloody mary with a house-made mix and a salted cilantro rim is served at Selanne Steak Tavern. | Photo by Selanne Steak Tavern

Selanne Steak Tavern

Perhaps not quite as top heavy as the others, any drink that comes garnished with a succulent shrimp is instantly elevated to the next level. Such is the case with Selanne Steak Tavern’s bloody mary, which also features a lime wedge, cocktail onion and green olive gracing the glass. But even with these extras, a tasty bloody mary comes down to the drink itself. “The key to a great bloody mary is in the mix,” says Chad Sisco, general manager at Selanne Steak Tavern. “We make our own house bloody mary mix, which uses San Marzano tomatoes and other special ingredients, and then combine with Tito’s [Handmade] Vodka and fresh lime. We give the glass a salted cilantro rim and garnish it with a fresh prawn, which our guests love. The result is a flavorful and savory cocktail with just the right amount of spice.” (949-715-9881; selannesteaktavern.com)


Bloody Mary_credit Robert Hanson
A snow crab claw tops The Cliff Jumper. | Photo by Robert Hanson

The Cliff

Top-heavy with both a snow crab claw and poached shrimp—as well as a celery stick, pickled carrot, asparagus, spicy dilly bean, olives (stuffed with blue cheese on request), crispy bacon and both lemon and lime wedges—The Cliff Jumper is one bold bloody mary. “This is a drink and an appetizer. You don’t see a lot of appetizers on breakfast menus and this is one way to do both,” says Andrew Turula, general manager at The Cliff. “We already had a great bloody mary, but needed an eye-catcher that would be equally as impressive as our view.” The drink itself brings together Absolut Peppar vodka and Major Peters’ bloody mary mix for a tasty blend, but it’s the grand garnishes that grab the most attention. “Guests are always impressed,” Turula says. “Nearly everyone takes a selfie with it. As soon as the first one is sold every day, nearly every other table will order one. … When people see it, they have to try one.” (949-494-1956; thecliffrestaurant.com)


The Ranch at Laguna Beach Harvest bloody mary
Harvest’s bloody mary features a savory strip of bacon among the garnishes for a morning drink that will make you rise and shine. | Photo by The Ranch at Laguna Beach


Popular during weekend brunch and a staple on the Harvest morning menu since The Ranch at Laguna Beach opened in 2016, this take on the classic bloody mary starts with a blended base of tomato and lime juice, cucumber, red bell pepper, garlic, clove, cilantro, salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish, with an added kick from Sriracha. This concoction is then mixed with vodka when preparing a guest’s drink in a Tajín-rimmed glass, all garnished with thick-cut bacon, an olive, cocktail onion, cucumber slice, celery stalk and lime wheel. Additionally, Tabasco is provided to make it even spicier if desired. “The inspiration behind this version … [is] a consistent product that isn’t overly processed while providing fresh and natural flavors,” says RJ Bear, the resort’s food and beverage director. “… Guests do seem to really enjoy the bloody mary to get their morning started.” (949-715-1376; theranchlb.com)


Big Bad Maria Beachcomber bloody marys_credit Alex Serna
The Big Bloody Maria, which includes tequila instead of vodka, is topped with a jumbo shrimp, longaniza sausage, pepper jack cheese and more. | Photo by Alex Serna

The Beachcomber Cafe

Just up the road from Laguna, and situated right on the sand at Crystal Cove State Park, The Beachcomber Cafe serves up a true stunner: the Big Bad Bloody Mary, offered for more than a decade. “We always had a great bloody mary, but wanted something over-the-top,” says General Manager Chris Seevers. “Being [that] the restaurant is in a 1940s historic cottage, we put it in a one-quart Mason jar to give it that ‘old time’ drink look.” It’s garnished with a Jonah crab claw, grilled jumbo shrimp and a fresh vegetable garden of olives, pickled carrots and green beans, gherkins, celery stalks and limes. The Big Bloody Maria, which swaps the vodka for tequila and is topped with a jumbo shrimp, longaniza sausage and pepper jack cheese, was added to the menu about three years ago. “Both are very popular—always in the top five,” Seevers says. “[It’s] hard to find a table without at least one during breakfast.” The reaction, Seevers says, is “always a ‘wow’—and a ‘wow’ from every other table. Guests are quick to take a picture … and send it to their friends.” (949-376-6900; thebeachcombercafe.com)

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