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The Story Behind The Best Bloody Mary in Clearwater Beach

With ingredients like balsamic vinegar, freshly grated horseradish, grey Celtic sea salt and spices — and garnished with pepper jack cheese — Sandbar’s house specialty cocktail is an unusual creation being served up at Opal Sands Resort. But it’s a seriously delicious one at that. So, what’s the story behind this playful libation? We’ve tapped into Sandbar’s mixologist for some background on Beachside Mary, arguably the best Bloody Mary in Clearwater Beach. But first? A little history on this 100-year-old cocktail.


THE HISTORY BEHIND THE BLOODY MARY

Some say the murderous 16th-century princess Mary Tudor of England gave the Bloody Mary its name. Others believe it was the film star Mary Pickford. There’s also a legend that the drink was christened by a random barfly who witnessed its spontaneous creation in a Paris bar and was reminded of the Bucket of Blood Club back in Chicago, and an old girlfriend he’d met there. 

The inventor of the classic combo is also in dispute: American bartender Fernand Petiot claimed he first mixed equal parts vodka and tomato juice in 1921 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and then refined the recipe a decade later with the addition of black pepper, salt, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, and a dash of lemon juice. But the Blood Mary has also been credited to Henry Zbikiewicz, a bartender at New York’s 21 Club in the 1930s, and to comedian George Jessel, a regular there. 

Whatever its origins, the cocktail remains a perennial favorite, coming in most recently at number 15 on Drinks International’s list of 2021’s 50 most popular cocktails around the world. Adding to its timeless flavors is its reputation as the perfect morning-after concoction — able to wash away hangovers with its optimal proportions of vegetables to settle the stomach, salt to replenish lost electrolytes, and alcohol to complete the “hair of the dog” cure. 

However, nothing is so perfect that it can’t be tinkered with, and plenty of ambitious barkeeps have experimented with the foundational ingredients, giving birth to the Bloody Maria (swap out the vodka for tequila); the Montana Mary, flavored with beef broth and liquid smoke; the Bloody Caesar, which uses Clamato juice in place of tomato juice; and the michelada, a mashup of a Bloody Mary and a margarita, made with Mexican beer, tomato juice, lime juice, and hot sauce.

THE MAKING OF ‘BEACHSIDE MARY’

Given all the possible variations, what should an oceanfront version of the standard include? When the mixologists at Sandbar, located at the Opal Sands Resort, set out to stake their claim on the classic, they knew it had to be fresh and tangy, with a buttery mouthful of seafood on the side. 

“We played around in the kitchen with a bunch of ingredients until we found the perfect recipe,” says Justin Burk, Sandbar’s Food and Beverage Director. “Then we garnished it with artisan cheese, shrimp, and fresh vegetables, and gave it an Old Bay rim for a little extra kick.” With juice made from imported San Marzano tomatoes, a splash of balsamic vinegar, freshly grated horseradish, and Celtic sea salt, the Beachside Mary is now one of Sandbar’s most-ordered house specialties. 

How to Make the Best Bloody Mary at Home

Here’s how to recreate the tangy ocean flavor of Sandbar’s Beachside Mary at home.

  1. Mix 1.5 oz. Tito’s vodka with 4–5 oz. RIPE Bloody Mary mix
  2. Pour into a glass rimmed with Old Bay seasoning. 
  3. Garnish with a celery stick and a skewer with cubes of pepper jack cheese, a chilled colossal shrimp, and piri-piri pepper–stuffed olives. Makes one Beachside Mary.
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