Sundays at The Cup

December 14, 2012 |

The Cup Café is the place to be in Tucson on Sunday mornings, and there is, accordingly, a substantial wait time for a table. In Hotel Congress’s own words, however, “The build-your-own Bloody Mary bar helps pass the time quickly.” Indeed, this creatively-designed bar, situated in the lobby of Hotel Congress and open exclusively on Sunday mornings from 10- 2, is even a destination in and of itself. Explains Matthew “Cheeks” Talavera, one of the bartenders you’ll regularly find at Hotel Congress at the Sunday bloody bar: “It’s not just about wasting time before you get a table at the Cup.”

Time might not be wasted at the Bloody Mary bar, but you might very well end up that way if one delicious morning libation happens to lead to another (and maybe another). Part of the fun is the set-up: there’s a cup on the bar full of slips of paper. Grab one, and in the style of a sandwich shop you get to circle your preferred ingredients: salt or not; your choice of vodka, gin, or tequila; level of spiciness; number of shots; and garnishes. Some of the garnishes, like pickles, are classic. Others are more unexpected: avocado, artichokes, and three different types of cheese are all options.

My companions and I took our made-to-order Bloody Marys out to Congress’s front patio—we can be counted among the Bloody bar clientele who were not simply passing time before breakfast at the Cup—and began a share-and-compare session. My brother and our friend both had delicious drinks, but—luckily for me—my own Bloody Mary was my favorite. I chose the classic vodka Bloody, chose “hot” as my desired level of spiciness, and garnished the drink with cilantro, capers, cucumber, and goat cheese, plus the requisite celery. (I was hesitant to add cheese to my Bloody, but I can’t really even resist goat cheese, even when it seems like a bad idea (which is rarely, to be honest). I’m glad I added it. The creaminess of the cheese helped to offset the spiciness of the drink.

Because be forewarned: concerning the “hot” Bloody Marys, Cheeks tells me (and I can corroborate), “You asked for it hot—it’ll be hot!” Indeed, both my brother’s and my Bloodys were exceptionally spicy. Even the mild Bloody has a bit of a kick to it: the Bloody mix at Congress, made in-house, contains Mexican chili, a Tucson-made green poblano sauce, and Tobasco.

The staff wasn’t too knowledgeable about the origin of the Bloody Mary bar, which was too bad because it would have been nice to hear the story of how it came to be. Apparently it’s been around for four or five years and “you don’t want to know why it’s called Bloody,” according to Andres “Andy” Parada, a Cup server and sometimes-Bloody Mary bartender. The Bloody Mary bar doesn’t need myth and notoriety to be a success, though (Hotel Congress has enough ghosts already, anyway). What it needs are good Bloody Marys—and that’s already covered.


Category: FOOD & DRINK, Zocalo Hannah