Raising the Bar

A week of the drink

The joint's a ramshackle clubhouse with a kajillion signs nailed to a wood wall. One suggests an act of kindliness: "Buy your friend a shot!" Another demands: "Stay out, 12-stepper. Your lies are not welcome here." Time for a kamikaze: here consisting of rail vodka and Rose's lime served in a rocks glass. It's your basic vodka gimlet. Good morning, St. Louis.

Soulard is atwitter. In three days, Mardi Gras will descend upon this district like an epidemic, arriving with a dump truck full of cash. It's crunch time, but for the locals who line the bar, Saturday is to be loathed. The weekend warriors are rude and can't hold their Hurricanes, which they puke or piss away in backyards and breezeways.

It's a good kamikaze, but it lacks flair. Oh well. In the a.m., flair takes a back seat to utility. So a kamikaze it is, and after that, another -- because today is a day to drink. "Drunk by Noon" loops in your head, occasionally interrupted by the loop of the car crash: "Sometimes I flap my arms like a hummingbird/Just to remind myself I'll never fly/ Sometimes I burn my arms with cigarettes/Just to pretend I won't scream when I die."

On Thursday nights at the House of Rock, a band 
called Joe Dirt plays all the KSHE classics -- perfect 
coupled with a shot of Jägermeister.
Jennifer Silverberg
On Thursday nights at the House of Rock, a band called Joe Dirt plays all the KSHE classics -- perfect coupled with a shot of Jägermeister.
At Slo Tom's, bartender Donna (right) hates Mardi 
Gras. It irritates her, these people getting drunk for 
pleasure, not out of necessity.
Jennifer Silverberg
At Slo Tom's, bartender Donna (right) hates Mardi Gras. It irritates her, these people getting drunk for pleasure, not out of necessity.

Pin-Up Bowl, 6191 Delmar Boulevard, the Loop

In Heaven, the beer won't bloat you, the dirt weed won't make you dumb. The rivers will flow wine, and those that don't will overflow with Orangina and tart cherries and break off into Lindemans framboise tributaries. Baileys will come via the bloated breasts of ripe waitresses, and all kisses will be wet kisses. In Heaven, baby-blue birdies will fly through a soft pink sky to tie your shoelaces, shave your legs, trim your handlebar mustache and pluck your wasp-nest eyebrows. Chipmunks will run wind sprints through your heart. As you pass the pearly gates, Saint Pete will hand you an iPod (white) programmed to play the first verse of "Heaven" by the Talking Heads: "Everyone is trying to get to the bar/The name of the bar, the bar is called Heaven/The band in Heaven, they play my favorite song/They play it once again, play it all night long."

And in Heaven, the bowling alley will resemble the Pin-Up Bowl, and, like Joe Edwards' new Loop alley, will run videos of "Hey Ya!", "Milkshake" and "Tipsy" and will show King of the Hill and Futurama reruns. Edwards, who also owns Blueberry Hill, the Pageant, the Tivoli Building and an excellent collection of Simpsons memorabilia, opened the Pin-Up a few months back, and it kicks royal ass. Eight black-light-lit lanes of bowling provide challenging distraction.

They serve this drink called the stiletto martini here, which is either a reference to the knife or the shoe. Did we mention that we love this drink, especially at 1:31 a.m.? It's kind of odd, the stiletto. First, there's Glacier potato vodka. Most vodkas are made from grain; a teeny minority, however, are fermented and distilled from potatoes, which makes the finished product more distinctive; you can pick the potato vodka out of a lineup. Next, there's a splash of the French aperitif Lillet Blonde, a blend of white wine, brandy, fruits and herbs. Finally, the dash of olive brine, which adds the dirt, twang and salt.

Bowling and drinking: such a heavenly match. Roll a ball, return to your seat and drink. Then again, and again. You can't simultaneously drink and play football. Too much action; hard tackling tends to break longnecks; not enough downtime. Drinks tend to get spilled. Baseball -- same deal. With bowling, most of the time you're sitting, contemplating the space between the ball and the pins while watching the big booties shake-it-like-a-Polaroid-picture on the flat screens.

The drink menu, too, is out of this world. Cocktail heads will be giddy -- four whole categories of drinks: Signature Cocktails, Classic Cocktails, Modern Cocktails, Martinis. Among them: Dutch harvest, kaffir limedrop, red sangria, Algonquin, El Floridita, maiden's prayer, antifreeze, orange Creamsicle. Huzzah!

House of Rock, 5 Ronnie's Plaza, South County

On your way from Tejas, a new Clayton Tex-Mex place where you loved their mango margarita, to the House of Rock, a south-county rock club, J-Kwon's hit "Tipsy" is booming out of the speakers. The desire to celebrate alcohol through song is universal: from Sammy Hagar's "Cruisin' and Boozin'" to John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" to Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine" to Hank Williams' "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" -- to this, St. Louis' newest superstar bellowing, "Urrrbody in da club get tipsy," we all want to sing about getting drunk.

"Tipsy" is a good song about celebrating via booze if you ignore the words about the girl getting her tubes tied at 21, but it doesn't rock the way, say, Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain" does, and you are now headed south on the near side of midnight, to south county, to the heart of the mullet, where the mustaches are well coifed and the Wranglers too tight.

Ah, the House of Rock, a joint with perhaps the most obvious and unoriginal moniker in the history of nightclubs. On Thursday nights, a band called Joe Dirt plays all the KSHE classics. The band wears wigs, however, which is just silly. If you really want to rock, you have to mean it. And you can't mean it if, when the gig's over, the hair gets tossed in the corner and Joe Dirt turns back into Joe Blow.

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