Raising the Bar

A week of the drink

When we're parched, we drink. When we're quenched, we drink. When we feel ruined, we drink. When we ace the LSAT, we make a beeline for Remy's. When we want a hook-up, we put on our lipstick and our tightest T-shirt and head to T.G.I. Friday's for a bloody mary. When we ditch the dude, we do it over a daiquiri. We drink joyously, and recklessly.

After a long day, we meet at O'Connell's, where we hoist our mugs, crash them against one another and roar with glee. When we want to catch up with our best friends, we meet at the VFW. We drink to remember. We drink to forget. When we couldn't eat another bite, still we have a glass of port. On one knee, our heart ablaze, we propose and touch our tongues to tingly prosecco. When our brain is mush, our heart lost, and we're horny on a Sunday afternoon, we hit Roxy's and watch naked ladies shove their honey pots into faces of desperate men, buried in longing -- and drink.

We mix to survive the earthquake of dread that threatens day and night to collapse onto our homes. We mix so that we may float headfirst through the pleasure clouds. We concoct cocktails. Oh, the world is an amazing place, and the proof, if you pay attention and your heart is wide open, is in our recipes, our blueprints. It's in what the drunken southern writer William Faulkner called our "puny, inexhaustible voice," one that manifests itself as the signature drink, or recommended wine, or drink of the week.

Jennifer Silverberg
Ask Las Palmas server Humberto Casillo about 
tequila, and his eyes get all happy and he breaks out in 
a smile. "How do you like it, my friend? Strong? 
Jennifer Silverberg
Ask Las Palmas server Humberto Casillo about tequila, and his eyes get all happy and he breaks out in a smile. "How do you like it, my friend? Strong? Smooth?"

But some of us are runaway trains barreling down mountain tracks; we won't stop until we crash and burn. The stories abound of ruined men and women who cannot come to terms with their intake. Then again, who can blame them? Is there any better solace -- at least for a sinner -- than a neighborhood bar? When you're sick of reading, sick of pacing, sick of the sound of your own internal nagging, you can find comfort. Here, kindred strangers and a clean, well-lighted place; elsewhere, chatter.

If nothing else, retreating to a bar is itself an affirmation: Yes, I am alone, but not really. I am alone with others who, too, are alone. We can suffer this burden together. And when the burden lifts (usually between midnight and two) we will rejoice, together. And we rejoice, as well, when we are ordered to embark on a seven-day journey into the bliss-abyss we've dubbed Week of the Drink, a week in which we will drink and drink and drink (and get paid for it!).

King Louie's, 3800 Chouteau Avenue, Midtown

The quest for the perfect drink in its myriad combinations has driven genius barkeeps since the first dumb-as-a-rock caveman stumbled across the first puddle of fermented peaches, sniffed it, then shoved his grimy face deep within and started sucking. In the many millennia since, our species has created some masterful combos.

One example is offered at King Louie's, a fancy restaurant in midtown St. Louis; they offer the Louie's 75, a riff on the classic cocktail, the French 75. It is a great drink: Fresh lemon, pomegranate juice, Champagne and vodka. Perched atop one of the most inspired and expert spirits menus in the city, Louie's 75 arrives in a martini glass. In the soft light of Louie's bar, a palace of comfort, the drink is beige and beautiful, with a few lemon-pulp floaters swimming in the glass. Hanging in the middle, a curl of lemon zest; if you rub your eyes real hard then squint, it appears to be a yellow seahorse. It pirouettes, spinning zest into the liquid.

Pause. It is Monday, 8:17 p.m. Take a deep breath. Empty your mind. Lick your lips. Now tilt, and drink a little piece of heaven. The fizz hits your pillows and tickles them, and a billion bubbles burst. Hallelujah!

This is the start of something. Hold it in your mouth, but don't swish. This ain't mouthwash. Let it impress your buds before floating it down the back of your throat. Oh yizzle, fo' shizzle. Tangy, sweet and puckery with pomegranate and lemon, the depth of flavor explodes then expands like a Roman candle. Don't swig. It would be very sad, pathetic even, for you to dribble some down your chin. Spittle will come later in the week, but by then you'll be less concerned with appearances.

A drink like this deserves its own dessert, and the perfect dessert is a shot of Maker's Mark bourbon, which you enjoy at midnight at the Black Thorn at Lemmons, a way-south city pizza-and-rock-&-roll joint. This is going to be an interesting week.

Las Palmas, 10097 Page Avenue, Pagedale

Ask anyone about their first serious tequila experience and most will tell you about insane cackling, spiral eyes, the evil fun, and soon thereafter, the knees collapsing and the oceans of vomit. But until then, the thrill of discovering salt, then tequila, then lime, is pretty damned exciting.

Ask Las Palmas server Humberto Casillo about tequila, and his eyes get all happy and he breaks out in a smile. "How do you like it, my friend? Strong? Smooth?" Las Palmas, out on Page, serves some of the best Mexican food in St. Louis and stocks 50-odd different tequilas.

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