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The Best Time to Order a Bloody Mary Is After Dinner

The morning-drinking staple is more versatile than you think


This post originally appeared in the April 22, 2019 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.

Bloody marys come with unfair associations — the lingering effects of the previous evening’s binge drinking; the stunt versions that come “garnished” with mini sliders or fried chicken wings; or the perhaps-questionable decision one makes to order a bloody during a 9 a.m. brunch, only to lose a weekend morning to an accidental nap. But remove the bloody from its pre-noon context, and it’s a pleasantly savory option for a post-dinner cocktail or as a nightcap: The move is, regardless of the time of day, to always order the bloody mary.

I’m not much of a dessert person. Usually, when I’m out to dinner and want to extend the evening past the final course, I skip the sweets. But at that point, another cocktail or glass of wine is usually a poor choice; coffee, even decaf, doesn’t sit well with me at night. So strangely, the bloody mary — with its splash of alcohol, tomato juice, pepper, and dashes of hot sauce and brine — has become the solve. Given its reliance on a full-flavored mixer, bloody marys can be less boozy than any other cocktail: It’s easy to ask the bartender for a “lighter” version containing less alcohol, more ice, or no alcohol at all. At night, the spiciness level of the average bloody sates the final traces of the lingering appetite like a reverse-action amuse bouche, while the accompanying pickle garnish finishes that post-dinner feeling off entirely.

It’s aggressively savory, a strategic palate killer. By design, the bloody’s ingredients make it a natural “final drink” of the night.

Of course, the same strategy could be applied to the bloody’s delightful beer-containing cousins, the michelada or the red beer, both of which also feature a pour of tomato-based mixer. They’re equally viable options. But I’ve found the michelada’s ease of drinking — especially when sitting outdoors, on a patio — to be a less-effective palate killer, which on more than one occasion has turned one michelada into a few more than intended.

The evening bloody mary, in other words, acts as a great exclamation point to a good meal. And if you go home and sleep it off, thank all the vitamin C in the tomato mixer for how you feel the next morning.

P.S. The bottomless bloody mary is a common brunch offering (in places where it’s legal, anyway), so how do restaurants manage to pour unlimited alcohol without customers drinking them out of business?