Algoma bar’s bloody mary wins three first places at statewide festival in Milwaukee
ALGOMA – Last year's win may have been big for Smashed on the Rocks Saloon, but this year, they tripled their fun.
The Algoma lakeside bar swept all three first-place awards for which it was eligible in The Bloody Mary Festival held Saturday in downtown Milwaukee. Its version of a bloody mary successfully defended last year's People's Choice win and added wins in the Best Original Recipe and Best Garnish categories, both of which they placed second in 2021.
"It was awesome," said Rana Ninneman, owner and manager of Smashed on the Rocks, about the triple wins. "We went into it knowing the competition was tough. We didn't know if we could win again, and here we win three times, so that was exciting."
The annual festival and contest this year featured 13 bars and restaurants from across the state and Menominee, Michigan, that served sample-sized cups of their bloody marys on the plaza of Fiserv Forum, aka the NBA Milwaukee Bucks' Deer District, to judges selected from around the country and about 800 members of the public.
The judges select first- and second-place winners for original recipe, traditional recipe and best garnish, and everyone who attends gets a vote for People's Choice, which the festival organizers seem to consider the top award. Four makers of bottled bloody mary mixes from Wisconsin and the Twin Cities also competed in their own category.
In winning the judges' Best Original Recipe award, Smashed on the Rocks beat out runner-up Matty's Bar & Grille, one of eight bars or restaurants competing from the metro Milwaukee area and winner of Milwaukee's Best Bloody Mary three years running from 2019-21.
To win the garnish prize, Ninneman said they made what were essentially smaller versions of the garnish the saloon builds for its uber-popular loaded bloody mary, of which it serves about 200 to 250 a weekend. The loaded drinks are 18 ounces and carry a garnish with 31 toppings that include meats, onion rings, corn dogs, corn on the cob, fruit, pickled veggies and a few fried foods.
That might be a bit top-heavy for the 5-ounce bloody marys samples served at the festival, so Ninneman and her crew instead created a smaller garnish that remained somewhat loaded nonetheless, carrying bacon, chicken wings, pretzel bites, a cheese-and-sausage stick, lemon wedge, celery, pickle, olive, mushroom and asparagus, among other goodies. Ninneman said she and her staff spent quite a bit of time the week before the festival preparing them.
"We added hot food this year," Ninneman said about the difference between last year's second-place garnish and this year's winner. "A lot more prep work went into it."
Not just any bar can compete in the festival. Nominations can be submitted to the festival organizers, but judges go around the state to try bloody marys, then decide which ones are worthy of taking part and send out invitations. Organizers hold a series of bloody mary festivals in larger cities across the country, with five this year including stops in Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; the Twin Cities; and Denver. 2022 marks the ninth year of the series.
Ninneman said she and her crew — seven people, including her, and she said she easily could've used a couple more — didn't get a chance to check out their competition during the festival because they were so busy. But she said the people who stopped to try their bloody marys loved not only the beverages but also the presentation based on Smashed on the Rocks' tropical bar vibe.
"We had the best compliments and feedback," she said. "People loved our booth, loved our tropical theme. We had a couple people in costume giving out beer chasers. They loved the mix."
Smashed on the Rocks is at 70 Church St., Algoma. It is open at 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays during the season; the loaded bloody marys are available Saturdays and Sundays until 2 p.m. 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]
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This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Algoma bar's bloody mary wins three first places at statewide festival in Milwaukee