THE MEAL-IN-A-GLASS mishmash of ingredients in a Bloody Mary is important for a truly successful hair-of-the-dog hangover cure, because if we're being honest, the dog that bit us is rarely a purebred. After years of more than occasional utility, the Bloody Mary has grown on me as a cocktail, not just a hangover cure. Some bartenders and drinkers pooh-pooh the drink—it's basically food with a shot of liquor in it, after all—but in the right hands, it can be a godsend.
Recently however, I've been tempted by a similar drink, albeit one slightly less foody: the michelada. Often featuring a similar saucy, spicy composition, the michelada is like a Bloody Mary but with beer instead of liquor and usually sans tomato. In some ways, it's a better hangover cure: The bubbles of the beer even have a stimulating effervescence that massages the tongue—the muscle you most abused the night before.
But which is the better drink? Frankly, I still don’t know. But the following are a sampling of the some of the best Portland has to offer in each category.
THE BLOODY MARY
Tasty n Sons, 3808 N Williams
With four variations on the theme—two with vodka, one aquavit, and one tequila (all $9)—and the option to add beef jerky or even a beer back, Tasty n Sons puts the Bloody Mary front and center for brunch. The Tasty Mary, a straightforward horseradish/Worcestershire Mary with a sriracha kick, has that clean, fresh feeling—like brushing your teeth with vodka. (Don’t do that.)
Americano, 2605 E Burnside
A newer addition to the weekday brunch scene is Americano, in the Burnside 26 apartment building. Americano’s upscale, coffee- and cocktail-inspired brunch fare should be accompanied by a Bitter Bloody ($10), which features vodka but stars Campari, the Italian bitter liqueur. Still a thick, tomatoey juice bucket, this Bitter Bloody has the lightness that only a bitter like Campari can bring.
Fish Sauce, 407 NW 17th
One of the most strangely satisfying Bloody Marys in Portland isn’t even available until 11:30 am. The sweet, salty funk of the restaurant’s namesake ingredient gives the Fish Sauce Mary a round, soft belly ($9)—it’s not refreshing or rejuvenating, and I don’t think it would cure a hangover, but I’d be more than happy to earn one with a few of these at the end of the night.
Holman’s, 15 SE 28th
Don’t trust some fancy-pants “mixologist” to curate your cure? Holman’s weekend Bloody Mary Bar has you covered (price varies by spirit). Pick your poison—infused vodkas, tequila, gin if you’re insane—and then pick your antidote at the wall of mixes, spices, and garnishes. If you’ve got that kind of agency the day after a big night, more power to you.
P’s & Q’s Market, 1301 NE Dekum
Up in the Woodlawn neighborhood, at this neighborhood favorite sandwich shop and corner store, the city’s finest michelada is served ($4.50-5). Negra Modelo gives it a bit of depth, and while the spice level is completely unpredictable day to day, there’s always enough acid to balance the heat and make it a worthy companion to anything on P’s & Q’s menu.
Mi Mero Mole, 32 NW 5th & 5026 SE Division
The wall of mezcal and cheap happy hour margaritas at Mi Mero Mole can distract from what is a true gem of a refresher in the michelada here ($5). With spice, habaneros, Swiss (who knew?) seasoning sauce Maggi, and the option of Tecate or Negra Modelo, it’s the kind of michelada you’ll want to order by the pitcher. Luckily, you can ($20).
Teote, 1615 SE 12th
You can’t get a pitcher of micheladas at Teote, but they’re cheap as hell individually ($3.25), especially at happy hour when they’re under three bucks. Drinkable as all get-out—especially on Teote’s secret garden-style patio—these let a mild base of draft Tecate get out of the way to show off the Worcestershire and a sinus- and conscience-clearing house hot sauce.
Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, 1015 NW Everett
This is a little bit of a cheat, but Teardrop currently features a drink called a Bloody Michelada, basically a michelada fortified with sotol, a Mexican spirit similar to mezcal (gotta justify the $11 price tag). Made with roasted tomatillos and orange juice and bound with some herbal magic from epazote, it’s not quite a fit in either category, but I’m counting it as a michelada win.