DAYTON EATS: Bloody Mary challenge to crown new champ

Who makes Dayton’s best Bloody Mary?

That question will be answered Sunday, Feb. 5 at Top of the Market on Webster Street.

This is the seventh edition of the Bloody Mary Showdown to take place crowning the best Bloody Mary the region has to offer.

“At the very first Showdown, MacKenzie Manley took the title, just before opening Mack’s Tavern. She described her winning cocktail as Mack’s BBQ Burger Mary — a smokey, hearty, beefed up BBQ bloody mary that has a spicy sriracha salted rim and garnished with a sweet lil’ smokey wrapped in yummy caramelized bacon slice. The next year MacKenzie tied with Scott Conrad, from The Vue Ultra Lounge. In year three Scott took the undisputed top prize. Since then Conrad has gone on to launch a commercial business selling his award winning RADS Bloody Mary Mix,” said Lisa Grigsby, Co-founder Planned2Give. “In 2019 bartender Jenn Elsass from TJ Chumps in Miamisburg took home top prize.”

The 2020 Bloody Mary Showdown was held in February just before the shutdown took place with the COVID-19 pandemic. Papi Joe’s Tennessee Pepper Sauce took home first place prize after placing second in 2019 and third in 2018. Dewberry 1850 took home second place and Chappys Social House took home third place. Grigsby said she estimates 3,500 bloody Mary’s were served at the event with around 400 guests.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

For anyone who has attended this event over the years, it’s clear that Dayton has plenty of creative juices flowing when it comes to making a twist on these classic cocktails that can sometimes be an appetizer served with vodka in a glass depending on the size and ingredients of the garnish.

I remember being smitten with the bloody mary from Elsass in 2019. Her bloody mary, served with a shot of beer back, a delicious candied jalapeño bacon deviled egg and a traditional bloody mary garnished with a large shrimp drew massive interest from the beginning of the event with people standing in a long line throughout to see what the buzz was about. It deserved the attention.



“I absolutely love what I do for a living. My philosophy is to make a great drink that people keep coming back for more,” said Elsass at the time. “I also love to make people feel welcome when they sit down at my bar. The people that come in are not just customers but some of my best friends. I love to make people smile even if they’ve never been in before. I want them to love their cocktails, but also enjoy the time they spent with me at the bar.”

The enthusiasm and passion from the restaurants and bartenders at these events is always wonderful to see.

Grigsby expects to have at least a dozen participating bartenders this year slinging drinks.

“It’s been a challenge this year, with so many restaurants still not fully staffed, it’s hard for them to pull staff off a shift to man this special event,” said Grigsby.

Participating restaurants for this year’s Bloody Mary showdown include: W. Social Tap House, Wheat Penny, RedBERRY, The Brightside Music and Event Venue, Brixx, The Last Queen, Loose Ends Brewery, Blox Spiked Ice, Fifth Street Brewpub and Jaquas at the Greene.



Some of the featured bloody Mary’s include a Bloody Bayou Bloody inspired by Mardi Gras, a Bloody Maria with Mezcal and a Bacon Dill Mary.

“After a couple of years on our couches, people seem to be ready to get out in public and have fun. Dayton likes to eat and drink, so why not give them what they want and allow these events to help our community?,” said Grigsby. “People all have their own opinion on what makes a great bloody mary — and the range of recipes and garnishes makes this a fun drink to put a signature spin on.”

VIP ticket holders will get a dozen tastes while general ticket holders will get eight tasting tickets. The event ends with awards given by attendees voting for best bloody mary, best garnish and best table decor.

“This is truly a people’s choice award. All ticketed attendees get to vote and the bloody mary with the most votes will get bragging rights and five hundred dollars,” said Grigsby.

Ticket holders can feel good knowing their money will help a good cause. The charity beneficiary for the event is The Castle, a center for adults with mental disorders in Centerville.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

How to go

What: Bloody Mary Showdown

Where: Top of the Market on Webster Street

When: Noon-2 p.m., VIP ticket holders can arrive an hour earlier at 11 a.m.

Cost: $30 for general admission tasting tickets which includes 8 tastings from Noon-2 p.m. A designated driver ticket is $20. VIP tasting tickets are $75 each, which include 12 tastes and a buffet breakfast made by Top of the Market featuring eggs, bacon and sausage, and toast with an exclusive VIP hour from 11a.m. to Noon. Bloody Mary sampling tickets and judging credentials for $75. All guests must be 21 or older to attend and this ticket is a final sale.

More information:

Other upcoming Planned2Give events

Planned2Give is a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits with fundraising events. Formed by Lisa Grigsby and Jeff Jackson, they contract with local nonprofits to produce events like the Dayton Walk of Fame luncheon with Wright Dunbar, The Widow’s Home 150th anniversary luncheon, the Glo Gala for the Epilepsy Foundation, Artini for Cultureworks and Remember Matilda-Queen of the Gypsies for Woodland Cemetery.

Grigsby and Jackson have also have created signature events for Planned2Give and chose different nonprofits as beneficiaries each year, like the upcoming DonutFest, which will benefit Hannah’s Treasure Chest, GarlicFest and The Chef Showdown and the Oregon District Holiday Pub Crawl. Planned2Give partnered with Miami Valley Meals last year for the excellent DICED in Dayton Chefs Challenge and will be bringing that back on Sept. 23.

Their popular Dayton Donut tour will return on Feb. 10-20. Ticket buyers get a booklet of coupons for participating donut shops and can turn in their coupon for two donuts at each shop, during their normal operating hours. Visit for more information.

Dayton Eats covers the region’s food and restaurant news for Dayton Daily News and Alexis Larsen at with information about dining specials, new chefs, menu changes and other culinary adventures and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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