Well, the 2012 Tomato Romp came and went without much fanfare. In fact, I can’t believe I waited four whole days before even blogging about it. However, that does tell you something about my experience, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong—I think the event is very well-run and it’s a great concept—but I just didn’t have as much fun as I had the previous few years. I don’t know if it is because I have become somewhat of a Bloody Mary “snob” or what, but I kind of felt like my beloved drink was being bastardized.

There were large crowds of people, most of whom don’t share my extreme passion for the beverage; the price has risen significantly over the past few years; and bars  were trying so hard to be unique in the space of a couple of ounces that they ruined the taste altogether. I’m confident that if I returned to any of these bars and ordered their bloody, they would be drastically different. And I’m just going to put this out there: I haven’t come down to the East Side to get a full Bloody at any of these places based on my experience with the Romp. The small samples (where they may be trying too hard to stand out) really don’t sway my judgment overall.

I’m not saying all this will keep me away from the event in the future, only that I may need to change my expectations.

I will also tell you this, which might have had more to do with it: The morning of the Tomato Romp, I was at Miller Park by 6:30am to run in the Brewers Mini, a 13.1 mile race. I finished the race and had time to go home and shower before we left for the Romp. I was tired and sore, but I rallied. Missing this event was unfathomable for me.

It started at 11am, but we got there around Noon. We paid $20 each for a small sample of a bloody at 13 different bars. Most bars also gave you a small chaser of what we think was MKE Brewing’s Hop Happy. We only made it to 12 establishments (plus a couple of eateries), but here is my take on the ones that stood out.

The Hotch Spot

Cans  

Yield

Vintage: Vintage stood out by offering a fixin’s bar for the mini-Marys. I’m pretty sure that was against the rules, but I’m not complaining. This got them extra points in my mind because a large part of what I judge a good Bloody on is its fixin’s. I especially appreciated the beef jerky option. Nice work, Vintage.

Ian’s Pizza: Ian’s gets a shoutout for their “Bloody Mary Pizza” that they had during the Romp. Not sure what was all on it, but I do know the pickles were a nice tough. Yum!

Hooligan’s

Hotel Foster: Last year, I know that these were made with Mezcal and had a hint of cilantro. They tasted similar this year, but that could not be confirmed. This was neither a good nor bad thing, it was merely different and enough to make them stand out a bit.

BBC’s

Replay Sports Bar

Von Trier: These bloodies were by far the worst, in my opinion. Tasted like they had added some sort of cinnamon or nutmeg… Also? The waitstaff? Yeah, not very nice. Next year, if I return to the romp, I will be bypassing this place altogether. Not cool, VonTrier, not cool.

Rascal’s

Two Bucks

Vitucci’s: The best one I had all day. I watched as the bartenders made their mix from scratch. They clearly know how to make a good bloody. I’d love to return there and have a full one some day.

Melthouse Bistro: We capped the day off at this grilled cheese restaurant. Yes, that’s right. A place dedicated to the best sandwich ever invented. It was the perfect compliment to the tomato-y goodness of Bloody Marys…almost like a grilled cheese and tomato soup combo. I had the Athena sandwich and a cup of their tomato soup (couldn’t resist). Highly recommend it!

The tasting was capped off by a Tomato Fight. I wasn’t keen on this year’s location of the fight (kind of off the beaten path), but it was still fun to see.

Overall, we had a nice time, but I just felt like something was missing. Maybe it was a pickle, beefstick or chunk of cheese.

Note: Due to time constraints, we did not make it to Clutch. Hope to get there in the future!

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