Bloody Marys are the flagship drink of a sometimes-overlooked category of booze known as the "hair of the dog," which is actually a reference to eating dog hair. (A clipped version of the archaic "the hair of the dog that bit you," a bit of folk medicine that suggested the best antidote for rabies was a potion brewed with hair from the particular rabid dog that gave you the rabies in the first place). Sunday morning cocktails like the Bloody Mary are reputed to take the edge off lingering hangovers, giving you a free head start on your next one. The medicinal science that backs this claim up is a bit lacking, but there's no doubt that tomato juice and fresh fruits and veggies that mark traditional Mary mixes will clear your head up a bit, and ward off scurvy as an added bonus.
Chicago's tie to the Bloody Mary is a strong one; most versions of the drink's history peg its birthplace as Chicago's sadly defunct Bucket of Blood Club. Or rather, the Bucket of Blood was what inspired barman Fernand Petiot to invent the drink years later in Paris. Obviously, this all seems like solid historical fact and not apocryphal in the slightest.
While Chicago's Bloody Mary bars do offer up as many as 100 distinct ingredients for your enjoyment, not a single one offers rabid dog hair, as far as our investigation turned up. So bring your own hair, if that's your taste, and otherwise relax with Centerstage's guide to Chicago's best Sunday morning DIY boozefests.
While most Bloody Mary bars cater to a slightly posh crowd, River West mainstay Twisted Spoke dishes up a slightly thugged-out variation called the Road Rash Mary, featuring more meat than you'd expect. The Road Rash is loaded with veggies, hot peppers, a touch of Guinness (for color, and more alcohol, presumably) and a meat garnish, and served with a beer back, should it prove a bit too road rashy for ya. It runs $6.75 and is available all week long, but is most prevalent during the bar's popular weekend brunch, as well as during the surprisingly popular late-night porn screening/breakfast on Saturday ("Smut and Eggs"!). The timid can also check out Twisted Spoke's tamer Lakeview location.
Joe's Be-Bop Cafe & Jazz Emporium
Although dedicated city dwellers may sneer at the idea of um, actually going to Navy Pier, Joe's Bebop Cafe & Jazz Emporium (not an emporium in the traditional sense, or any sense, really) does offer up a snazzy Bloody Mary bar from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, with the requisite assortment of fresh ingredients and an affordable all-you-can-drink option. Pair with Southern eats that trawl the gumbo-ribs-country fried steak line. One of the few places at which you could conceivably expense-account your Bloody Mary binge, along with live, cover-free music in the bargain.
The usual drill: a help-yourself bar with close to 100 ingredients, with the added bonus of all-you-can-drink for a tidy $7.50. For those not looking to overdo it, a single Bloody Mary costs only $3.50. The Mary bar is only a part of an extensive brunch offering, and the Rail's plethora of TVs make it a perfect spot for setting up shop for Sunday sports-viewing. Pair with hearty offerings, like The Rail Special (two pancakes, two eggs, two slices of bacon and two links of sausage), Banana Griddle Cakes or the Monte Cristo (Texas toast topped with ham and swiss), at the pleasantly non-hearty price of $3.50-$7.75. The Bloody Mary bar runs from opening bell to 3 p.m.
Cans Bar and Canteen
Cans, whose philosophy appears to be "Any special your bar can think of, we can claim to do it better," offers up a make-your-own bar on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Wicker Park hot spot will invariably be crowded with both patrons and employees trying to take pictures of patrons, but the bar answers the call of duty with a good selection of ingredients and affordable prices. Added bonus: Domestic beers are only $2 on Sunday (domestic cans, of course).
Charlie's Ale House
While Charlie's two Chicago locations are a bit family-centric for serious drinkers, both locations serve up a 100+ ingredient Mary bar on Saturdays and Sundays, in what is becoming a familiar refrain to this guide. Charlie's Navy Pier location clearly makes the sometimes-maligned Pier the unquestioned place to be for Bloody Mary bars, and the Andersonville installment provides a slightly more grown-up rendition. Both Charlie's feature old-time decor out the ears and a full menu of eats like Cajun Tilapia Caesar salads, homestyle pot roast and the PLT (that's "plenty of pork," in the form of country ham, Cajun andouille sausage and bacon with the requisite lettuce and tomato).
Avondale's Irish bar-grill combo has a family bent to it, but its $5 Mary bar (opens at 10 a.m. on Sundays for the early birds) is formidable. Chief O'Neill's features live Irish music sessions every Sunday and a touch more authenticity, at least as it relates to Irish-ness, than most Chicago bars. Its Sunday morning Mary bar offers a chance to take in some serious Irish music and a traditional breakfast of eggs, rashers, sausages, black and white pudding, grilled tomato, mushrooms, hash browns and toast. (There are plenty of omelets and French toast for those fearful of the mysterious "rashers.") It's almost worth having kids, just so you can feed them the Blarney the Irish Dinosaur children's breakfast. Extra: Guinness pulls are a mere $3 all day Sunday.