On Sunday, July 29, Celebrate Highwood held their 9th annual Bloody Mary Festival at Everts Park in Highwood, Illinois. This year included 19 Bloody Mary entries by mixologists, local restaurants, and even a pie and canning business. The fest was extra special because our very own Susan B. Noyes served as a judge!
Susan was joined on the judging panel by some of Chicago’s leading media personalities including:
- Lee A. Litas, Freelance Food and Features Writer for Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press
- Sherry Thomas, Group Media Editor of JWC Media, Sheridan Road, North Shore Weekend, and Daily North Shore
- Andrew Nicks, President at 22nd Century Media
- Monica Pedersen, HGTV television host and interior designer
- Eric Falberg, Highwood Alderman and founder of Bloody Mary Fest
The judges tested 19 unique Bloody Marys with impressive presentations and rated taste, garnish, texture, color, and spice for Best Bloody Mary and Best Garnish. The crowd also had an opportunity to vote for People’s Choice.
Here are this year’s winners:
- 1st Place: Valor and Culinary Gangster Food Truck of Glencoe
- 2nd Place: The Toadstool Pub of Highwood
- 3rd Place: Elsie Mae’s Canning & Pies of Kenosha, Wisconsin
- 1st Place: The Toadstool Pub of Highwood
- 2nd Place: 210 Live of Highwood
- 3rd Place: Miss Mary’s Bloody Mary Mix of Port Washington, Wisconsin
- Elsie Mae’s Canning & Pies of Kenosha, Wisconsin
You can view the full list of competitors and vendors online.
Straight from this year’s winners, we have some insider tips on how to create your best Bloody Mary and garnish at home:
Tom Garrity from The Toadstool Pub of Highwood shared a basic Bloody Mary recipe (because he can’t reveal his secrets!):
- 1.5 to 2 ounces vodka
- Shake of pepper
- Squeeze of lemon
- Splash of Worcestershire
- Hot sauce
Top with Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice
He recommends adding a splash of Guinness to finish and then garnishing with a slice of thick, caramelized bacon and a stuffed peppadew like The Toadstool does.
Rick Raschillo, owner of Culinary Gangster and Valor, Glencoe, recommends keeping your garnish simple so the Bloody Mary stays true to what the focus should be: a great blend of tomatoes and a nice vodka. His Heirloom Umami Bloody, created with his mixologist Matt Varchmin, packed a flavorful punch this year and featured local ingredients from within a 15-mile radius.
What were some of Susan’s standout favorites?
Susan thought the most refreshing was Alex’s Washington Gardens gazpacho soup-inspired Bloody Mary, served in a vintage Lake Geneva Playboy Mansion glass. The presentation by Gourmet Frog Bakery was also unique as it was served in a sweet pepper. She also loved the fun presentation in a cantaloupe by La Casa de Isaac.
More from Make It Better:
- 28 Best Spots for Late-Night Eats in Chicago
- The Best Plant-Based Dairy, Seafood and Meat Substitutes
- Will Travel for Food: 8 Food Festivals Worth the Flight to Visit
Macaire Douglas lives in Chicago with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Share Our Spare, a local nonprofit that collects goods for children in need.