close button

The Bloody Marys of Auckland

A round-up of the best the city has to offer.

The Bloody Marys of Auckland

Aug 25, 2023 Cafes

“In my end is my beginning,” said Mary, Queen of Scots. A woman of conviction. I seek solace in this wisdom when I wake, punished, Old Testament style, on a Sunday afternoon. No one does sin and redemption better than we Catholics; and the Marys of the 16th century came especially tough. Fascinatingly, hangover’s ultimate salve, the Bloody Mary, is named after another queen, a cousin of Mary of Scots: Bloody Mary Tudor of England. It’s quite a moniker. Like that Queen Mary, I also do not have an heir. I too am an Aquarius. And I can handle a bit of bloodiness. The tonic Mary Tudor inspired is not without controversy, like the woman herself. Very much ‘you would die for thee, or rather die’. 

Unlike Mary, I quite enjoy it when people disagree with me, so I hereby present this helpful missal of the best Bloody Marys in town. I decree these beverages so transcendental they will convert heretics and shame naysayers into oblivion.


A memorable Bloody Mary is no different from a memorable personality: it pays to distinguish yourself with a flourish entirely your own. Williams Eatery stands out here; their version is not only garnished with “aromatic dill” (their words), not only flanked by a stack of Monocle magazines — airfreight be damned — but also served with an ice cube generous enough to vindicate your worries about the glaciers. 

Fun fact: death at the stake was shrewdly designed to give heretics a taste of hellfire, offering one final chance to repent and save their souls. Spice is a valiant choice; that’s all there is to it. Have you ever met a memorable individual who can’t hack flavour? 

But parochial claustrophobia suffocates the world enough, so I will reach across enemy lines to give an honourable mention to Olive in Wellington. The word ‘genius’ is overused, but these people add olive tapenade. The Mensa of flourishes. Spicy, textural, viscous, inspired. Metro’s best interloper. Genius.

The base criterion for judging an outfit’s Bloody Marys is its proclivity to proffer them in the first place. I have a pretty amiable nature, but if there’s one thing I do not like it’s when a waiter gets into a fluster about whether they have any tomato juice. Stocking tomato juice should be a prerequisite to obtaining a liquor licence. End of. On this, Ozone is the place to bring your Silicon Valley guests. Prepare to genuflect at the altar of mind-altering spice. The tingly audacity will usher you from the purgatory of the morning to the heavenly promise of a tipsy afternoon. What’s more, a person in search of a Bloody Mary is a person in search of More™. We’ll take what we can get, but we do prefer a capacious glass. Ozone nails all of the above.

For the ultimate meta experience, I suggest Odettes. I venture that there is no flourish I wouldn’t embrace. Lime, anchovy, coriander, clam juice, celery salt, people who hide things under staircases … The quirkier, the better. Unfortunately, the world is not ruled by Aquarians or we’d all be poor, lawless and, if Mary Tudor had her way, headless. My Aquarius award for most innovative flourish goes to Odettes with their addition of berbere, the Ethiopian spice you’ll crave five weeks after the fact.

In the course of field research, I was forced to schlep it over St Heliers Bay Bistro, where I requested a Bloody Mary “spicy enough to knock my sparkly socks off”. I am still recovering, and this is the kind of death-defying experience I seek. (Not that we Catholics die.) Ten points. Furthermore, I was dining with a person incubating an heir. It struck me at this moment a virgin Bloody Mary should in fact be named after Elizabeth I, the best king in history, but I suppose not everyone gets off on Tudor politics when getting tipsy solo.

There are those who regard Bloody Marys as vegetable purée thinned with ethanol. Such Protestants are no fun. If you are a Bloody Mary detractor, you best be a witty one. Take inspiration from my friend Martine, who disdainfully declared, “Bloody Marys are just a big glass of economy class.” At least they make you fly, Martine, at least they make you fly. I do love to levitate, and where better at any time of day than Amano , an establishment which subscribes to my philosophy that the best things in life are invisible. Here, you will need to tune into your telepathic powers and request a Bloody Mary off-menu. They won’t look at you like you’re a witch, which is a shame. The best Bloody Mary is the Bloody Mary of now. The second best is the fourth one, served without judgement, and for this, we have a winner. Spicy, savoury, sploshy with the vodka. Crucially, too, creativity does not preclude dexterity and you won’t find yourself nose-diving into the garnish, which in some places is more of an inner-city allotment. 

We live in a world where appearance is not allowed to mean anything, let alone everything. The great thing about Fabric is this conceit does not apply. Beautiful people in a waterfront setting, where you can exercise through osmosis as you observe those who so pompously undertake weekend watersports. Literacy is to the 16th century as opinions are to the 21st, which is to say an indulgence to be used sparingly. Here we have a case of form honouring function; the Bloody Mary is zippy enough to make you concentrate, yet neutral enough to prompt contemplation. On such weighty questions as: in the age where we know the name of an oat’s second cousin, why is no institution squeezing their own tomato juice?

Part of our Best Cafes 2023 feature (thanks to Karma Drinks!).
This story was published in Metro N°439.
Available here.


Latest issue shadow

Metro N°443 is Out Now.

Welcome to the new issue of Metro! Our annual Auckland Schools report card! Twenty-four great Aucklanders on how to fix greater Auckland! The best sweet treats in Tāmaki! The best (and worst) tasting toothpastes! A history of the Waitangi Tribunal! The troubling state of our public toilets! The return of the NZIFF! Derek Jarman comes to town! Our favourite designers' favourite designers! Out the back in the new Gow Langsford! Satellites! Milli Jannides' studio! Lauren Gunn's clothes! @chamfy's polls! And more, much more!

Cover by Maria Skog

Buy the latest issue