• Discovering the Perfect Bloody Mary at Lake Tahoe

    POSTED May 5, 2015

I’m a wine and beer drinker who can’t resist the occasional Bloody Mary, especially at brunch or on a ski day. But I’m also very picky: I like spice, I like complex, blended-from-scratch flavors—and I also like enough garnish to keep me happily munching for as long as it takes to linger over the glass.

A couple of years ago I discovered what for me is the most perfectly concocted Bloody Mary in existence. It’s called the Mountain Mary, and it’s served only at Heavenly Mountain Resort’s mid-mountain Tamarack Lodge, an architectural gem open in summer as well as during the ski season.

What makes it special? Well, as the saying goes, everything’s better with bacon. And at this altitude (the lodge sits above Lake Tahoe’s south shore at 10,067 feet elevation), it also delivers quite a kick.

Bob Offerle, general manager for mountain dining at Heavenly and creator of the drink, considers himself a connoisseur of the tomato-based libation genre. “Whenever I find myself in a new bar, I always inquire about the Bloody Mary,” he says. “My first question to the bartender is whether or not they make theirs from scratch. If the answer is ‘yes,’ I’m in to give it a try. I’ve had my fair share of awesome Bloody Marys, so when I had the opportunity to create my own, I wanted to make sure it was the best of the best.”

Offerle and team worked first to perfect the mix, but needed a way to elevate it above the rest. “We tried several different garnishments, all good, but hadn’t found that unique element that was going to take it to the next level for us. On a trip to New Orleans, I was drinking a Bloody Mary while eating bacon pralines, and it hit me: ‘What if I make a spicy, praline-candied piece of bacon to complete our Mountain Mary?’”

It was a no-brainer for Offerle, who hails from Mississippi and grew up making pralines with his parents. “After a few tries,” he says, “the recipe was perfected to this iniquitous indulgence. This is now our most popular drink at Tamarack Lodge, available winter and summer.”

Meeting planners headed for Tahoe might want to check out the many new recreational opportunities offered this summer at the top of the Heavenly Gondola, which unloads passengers just steps from Tamarack Lodge. There’s lots to do up here in thin air. A four-line Hot Shot Zip Line is new this year and making its debut on Memorial Day Weekend. The resort’s Discovery Forest and Boulder Cove ropes courses, new as of last year, will also open then, along with mid-mountain hiking trails. June 26 is opening day for other attractions including the Blue Streak Zip Line, Black Bear Ropes Course and summer tubing hill.

Tamarack is available for meetings and gatherings, as well as for dining this summer. Whether you go on your own or take a group, be sure to try the Mountain Mary! And if you want to try it at home, here’s the (labor-intensive) recipe:


Fill a salt-rimmed pint glass with ice, 2 ounces of premium vodka and Mountain Mary mix. Garnish with a slice of spicy praline bacon and a skewer of green olive, cocktail onion, pickled green bean, lemon and lime wedges and pepperocini.

Tamarack Mountain Mary Mix

* 2T dill
* 1T Old Bay
* 1T onion powder
* 1T celery salt
* 10 dashes Cholula hot sauce
* 1/2 C Worchestershire sauce
* 1/2 C pepperocini juice
* Juice of four lemons
* 1T pepper
* 1T granulated garlic
* 2T horseradish
* 2 cans V8

Blend and let it “Mary” overnight

Spicy Praline Bacon

1 lb thick-cut bacon
* 4T corn syrup
* 3/4 C brown sugar
* 3/4 C candied pecans
* 2T red pepper flakes
* 3T Cajun seasoning
* 1T cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place wire rack on a sheet tray. Lay bacon slices side by side on the rack and place in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until bacon is sizzling and starting to brown around the edges. The object is for the bacon to cook about 3/4 of the way through before adding the topping.

While bacon is cooking, mix brown sugar, pecans, Cajun seasoning, red and cayenne pepper in a food processor; pulse until nuts are coarsely chopped.

Pull from oven and push the partially cooked bacon slices as close together as possible on the rack. Brush with corn syrup; this will give the topping something to grab onto. Cover generously with topping. Place back in the oven for about 10 minutes or until topping is bubbly and bacon is good and brown. Let cool.

Heavenly Mountain Resort
South Lake Tahoe

Green salad, chicken, two veggies and a starch—that might have been a reasonable meal to serve group attendees in the last century, but it won’t cut it in 2020. Today, guests expect that a growing range of dietary needs will be accommodated, whether they’re eating keto, vegan, paleo, gluten free or some combination of all four. And, in a time when tech employees enjoy gourmet in-house commissaries on the job, it takes some serious culinary pyrotechnics to impress them.


Lots of folks claim to be adventurous eaters, but are the epicureans in your group ready for … toasted grasshoppers? If they are, send them to Cultura Comidas y Bebida, a year-old Carmel restaurant specializing in light, inventive and almost-too-pretty-to-eat traditional Mexican dishes tweaked to appeal to a California palate. Chapulines, a common bar snack in Mexico City and the southern state of Oaxaca, from where they’re imported, are salty/spicy/crunchy and taste a lot better than they sound.


An acclaimed chef is cooking at a new indoor-outdoor spot.