Algoma saloon’s bloody mary voted best in statewide festival, beats out Milwaukee, Madison competition
ALGOMA – The staff at Smashed on the Rocks Saloon always figured it made one of the best bloody marys in the state. Now it has the award to prove it.
The Algoma bar's version of their weekend brunch/morning-after eye-opener won a People's Choice first-place award at The Bloody Mary Festival held Aug. 21 on the plaza of Fiserv Forum — the NBA Milwaukee Bucks' Deer District — in downtown Milwaukee.
"It was huge, a huge win for our team," said Rana Ninneman, owner and manager of Smashed on the Rocks. "It gave us validation that we really do make a great bloody mary. It makes it all worth it when you win an award like that."
For the festival, mixologists from about a dozen establishments from across the state put together sample-size servings of their best bloody mary recipes for judges and the 900 or so people on hand to try, with four makers of bottled mixes also competing. The judges select first- and second-place winners in the categories of original recipe, traditional recipe, best garnish and bottled mixes, and Smashed on the Rocks won two second-place judges' awards for its original recipe and garnish.
The People's Choice award is generally is considered the top award, and Ninneman agreed. To vote, attendees get one chip and place it in a cup on the display where their favorite bloody mary was made.
"The People's Choice, in our opinion, was the highest honor you could get," Ninneman said. "There were about 900 people there. We thought it was special for them to try our bloody mary, go check out other bloody marys, then come back to give us their chip."
Not just any bar can compete in the festival. They can nominate themselves, but Ninneman said judges go around the state to try the drinks ahead of time, then decide which ones are worthy of taking part and send out invitations. For the Milwaukee festival, all but three participating bars were from Milwaukee or Madison.
The festival is part of a series of bloody mary festivals held in larger cities across the country, from New York to San Francisco. 2021 marks the eighth year of the festival series, with stops coming in Denver, St. Paul and Austin, Texas.
"It was pretty special for little, tiny Algoma to be invited," Ninneman said.
Smashed on the Rocks had five people working their stand at the festival. Along with Ninneman was her mother; her boyfriend, Nate Borerman; and bartenders Raena Schucka and Vinny Swiatnicki. Even so, Ninneman said they were extremely busy making bloody marys for a line of people that stretched almost out of their sight.
"We just kept making them and setting them out," she said. "We had a line … and a ton of good response. We were surprised. About halfway through, people were coming through and just throwing their chips into the cup."
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If there was a downside to the saloon winning the festival title, it's that it wasn't able to serve its signature loaded bloody marys back in Algoma the Saturday of the event. Smashed on the Rocks serves its regular versions every day it's open, but only does the loaded ones Saturdays and Sundays until 2 p.m.
And they are loaded, enough to be served in a beer mug instead of a cocktail glass. Among the items Ninneman said are used for garnish are Bavarian pretzels, bratwurst, cheeseburger sliders, waffles, fried cheese curds and mozzarella sticks from Ron's Wisconsin Cheese in Luxemburg, doughnuts from North Water Bakery in Algoma, corn on the cob, fruit and pickled eggs and veggies.
With contest entries being served in sample-size cups, Smashed on the Rocks wasn't making its loaded bloodys for the contest, although Ninneman said their stand had a loaded one on display. She said the bar serves about 200 to 250 loaded drinks a weekend, compared to two to three times that many regulars. In all, the bar goes through 25 to 30 gallons of their bloody mary mix each weekend.
Asked what makes their bloody marys so tasty and award-winning, Ninneman wouldn't reveal the secret ingredients that go into their mix, although she said they play part of a role.
"I definitely think it's our ingredients," she said. "It's also attention to detail, and we make (the mix) in small batches."
Smashed on the Rocks is at 70 Church St., Algoma. It is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays, 3 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through the end of October, reopening for the season in May. The loaded bloody marys are available Saturdays and Sundays until 2 p.m. through Sept. 29.
For more information, visit the "Smashed on the Rocks Saloon" Facebook page or call 920-487-8202.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Algoma saloon's bloody mary voted best in statewide festival, beats out Milwaukee, Madison competition