My love affair with Bloody Marys began young — with visions of my mother, beginning every ‘fancy night’ with a ‘Bloody Mary: hold the vodka” (the woman doesn’t drink. Smart lady). While it took me years to figure out she was just drinking spicy tomato juice (she insists it’s ‘more complex’ than that, lolz), I quickly fell in love with its sweet, spicy, savoury taste. Done right, it can taste like Sunday morning heaven. Done wrong, and it’s like drinking a can of chopped tomatoes (I’m looking at you, Dishoom). I’ve spent 8 years in London, drinking my way through brunch spot after brunch spot to discover London’s best offerings. The 5 best Bloody Marys in London, ranked and photographed, for your spicy tomato pleasure.
Frankly, I could make this list the top 10, the top 20, or more. I could make this list worldwide (best one I’ve ever had? New Orleans). But this could easily end up becoming an Odyssey of Mary, which no one will want to read. I’ll cap it at 5, mainly because, well, I’ve spent 8 years drinking the bloody (ha ha) things, but I’ve never once taken a photo of one.
This fact only came to me as September approached, and I realised I had not one picture to accompany my Bloody Mary quest. So, again, for journalistic integrity, I have insisted on ordering a Bloody Mary everywhere we’ve been in the last 3 weeks. Quite literally, I’m drinking one as I write this. Which could explain why this is a bit more rambly than usual (Barber & Parlour make them strong, friends).
So, take it with a grain of salt, because there are a lot of good Marys in this city, and I am only coming up with the ones I’ve had recently. I’d love to have fellow Bloody Mary Aficionados (its a club) contribute to this list. We can turn it into a guide for locals, tourists and lovers of London food everywhere.
Do you love the Mary as much as I do? Let me know your favourite spot to guzzle its sweet spicy nectar in the comments below.
The 5 Best Bloody Marys in London
There is a slight preference for East-based locations here. This could be because East London establishments are more inclined to serve the liquid Ruby Goddess, it being a somewhat hipster incarnation. Or, it could be because I live in Shoreditch, and mama needs her morning juice. You decide.
1 | For a Solid Classic: Barber & Parlour (Shoreditch)
So I wouldn’t normally rank a Bloody Mary because of the olive selection, but Barber & Parlour’s buttery, melt-in-your-mouth olives that adorn the top of this mary are my one exception. This is my go-to spot for a classic, hits-all-the-boxes Bloody Mary. Case in point: I am drinking one as I write this (it’s a Tuesday at 5:30 pm. Whoops). It’s spicy without being too spicy; it’s tomatoey without tasting like a V8, and it’s balanced the sweet-savoury combo perfectly. You can’t beat a classic.
2 | For that taste of American Freedom: The Blues Kitchen (Various Locations)
Picture the scene: it was Election Night 2016. The Blues Kitchen, packed, brimming with hopeful smiles, the smell of a Hilary victory thick in the air. Stag and I, full of hunger and excitement, hear rumours of free buffalo wings and creep inside. Pressed up against the bar, we delve into a small bowl of sweet, sticky goodness, and even without blue cheese (the sacrilege!), I’m licking my fingers. Not satiated of that spicy punch, I order a Bloody Mary. To my delight, it was sublime, the closest I’ve had to a proper Bloody Mary like the one we had in New Orleans. As the night wears on, the bloody marys become more of a medicine, a lifeline, a best friend to help ease me into the Dark Dawn of a New Age that is President Trump.
3 | For Variety: HotBox London (Spitalfields)
If you’re a Bloody Mary lover bored of the status quo, then get yourself down to HotBox London pronto. They have not one, not two, but FIVE types to tickle your taste buds. All of which arrive in a glass tankard that means business and that really do taste interesting. They even offer a ‘liquid brunch:’ 2 hours of bottomless marying for £25. Goodbye Saturday.
During our last visit (there have been a few….), we ordered the Spiced (a ‘chilli salt and pepper rim’ concoction) and the Green (chimichurri and jalapeno, but not too spicy). We have yet to be brave enough to try the Red — gin, passata and port, of all things — but there’s always tomorrow.
4 | For perfection: Hawksmoor (Various Locations)
I still remember the first time I had a Hawksmoor Bloody Mary (and a Sunday roast, to be precise). It was 2012, at their Spitalfields branch (my favourite). And I still remember it, vividly. That kind of lasting impression can only mean one thing: perfection was tasted. I like my Marys with a serious horseradishy kick, not too peppery and definitely not too tomatoey. Hawksmoor’s offering delivers on all levels, spicier than a classic, but not so spicy that I’m reaching for the antacids immediately (turning 30, heartburn is now my friend). Since 2012, I’ve been back frequently to taste this Drink of the Gods, each time living up to my (admittedly high) expectations.
5 | For a Mary with a View: The Barge House, Haggerston
Warning: once visiting The Barge House in Haggerston, you will wonder why you do not live on a Riveria, slowly sipping Bloody Marys and watching the world go by. This canalside restaurant/brunch spot is a local favourite, with tables stretched out to the water making it the weekend brunch destination. Like HotBox above, they are great for variety (cucumber, chilli or rosemary options), and somehow, drinking a Bloody Mary on the water makes it taste that much better, that much more refreshing, and makes you enjoy it that much more slowly. Welcome to your new life.
Where is your favourite Bloody Mary in London? Do you agree with my picks above? Let me know!