Raising the Bar

A week of the drink

Budweiser is boring, Bud Light is for girlies, Michelob Ultra is for ladies who lunch. And Busch is for wussies (kidding!!). And yet, a very informal poll at the House of Rock revealed on a Thursday at midnight that nearly 98 percent of the crowd -- 150 strong -- were drinking one of those four beers.

Wanting to fit in, you do a shot of Jägermeister, then another, then down a big glass of water, and then another. (Psst: the secret is in the water; drink a lot of it, and you'll avoid a hangover.) Pounding one is akin to getting shot in a bulletproof vest, and for that reason this German liqueur has pole-vaulted into America's consciousness as the shot of record when you're out partying hard. Of the 57 different nettles and berries and herbs that give Jäger its flavor, a very prominent one is anise, which puts it in the same company as both ouzo and chartreuse, both crazy-good liqueurs that, if you're not careful, will gradually drive you and your liver to the grave. The band kicks into "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."

Slo Tom's, 6728 South Broadway, South City

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?"
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?"

The GTO is the house specialty at Slo Tom's on South Broadway, a few miles shy of Lemay, a town all abuzz with talk of the new Pinnacle casino development. This is the rough-and-tumble bar celebrated by the Bottle Rockets in their song "Slo Tom's"; the bar's even pictured on the back of their CD 24 Hours a Day. Yes, thatkind of bar.

The GTO comes in two sizes -- huge and super huge. Without even specifying, Donna, who's an angel straight from heaven, fixes up a Super Huge GTO, about the size of a tennis ball canister and, at 2:52 p.m. on a Friday, places it in front of you. It costs $11, but it's about eight times the size of J. Bucks' $11 sunrise. She declines to reveal its ingredients: "It's a secret [and] native to Slo Tom's." Your expert buds, however, reveal that it's sweet, orangey, rummy and Southern Comfortable.

There are five people in the bar on a Friday afternoon: Donna, Clay, some dude, some other dude and the obvious outsider, you, who's a big hit. Clay keeps bellowing, "You are all right! I like you!" He's pretty long gone, a point he emphasizes during one glorious outburst. "I like to get trashed. And I like Donna! I come here for Donna. She's great. You're all right,Mr. Riverfront Timesman!" Clay is drinking a greyhound -- vodka and grapefruit juice -- out of a glass that's shaped like a cowboy boot.

He and some dude are talking about vegetarian hamburgers. "The only vegetarian burger I know of is between the legs," says Clay. Great. The talk switches to the pros and cons of menthol cigarettes, and from there to Johnny Cash's version of "A Boy Named Sue." Clay sings along even though he doesn't know many of the words. The result is one long, drunken mumble that merges every so often with the melody.

"I've got a rock & roll heart!" Clay shouts out of nowhere. Unconditionally, you believe him. He is drinking vodka-grapefruits out of a cowboy boot at 3 p.m. on a Friday. That's pretty rock & roll. "You think I talk bullshit, Riverfront Times man, but I've been playing rock & roll for twenty years."

Donna hates Mardi Gras, which is tomorrow. It irritates her, these people getting drunk for pleasure, not out of necessity. "I don't party with them," she explains. "They're amateurs." A moment of reverent silence, then the talk turns to the new casino. "It'll work out well for us and our customers," says Donna. "They won't have to drive far to get drunk after they lose all their money."

"And they won't have to drive far to jump off a bridge," adds the other dude.

Mangia Italiano, 3145 South Grand Boulevard, South City

If you're looking for the center of South Grand nightlife circa 2004, look no further than Mangia Italiano, a totally excellent bar and restaurant that draws a fantastic mix of locals who congregate on a Friday night to eat and drink and listen to live jazz by the always amazing saxophonist David Stone, who should be famous. They sell this Belgian ale called Delirium Tremens that will set your head a-spinnin', especially after spending happy hour enjoying doppelbock at the Schlafly Tap Room. Mangia sells pints of it, and they sell big bottles. You should have one of each, if only to celebrate Delirium's 350th anniversary, which is this year. Plus, it's Friday night.

Delirium is a beer so strong (8.5 percent alcohol to Budweiser's 5 percent) and beautiful and sweet that you just want to kiss it. A beer within a bottle, one of the most visually pleasing bottles that can be had: beige bottle, blue label featuring dancing elephants, strutting alligators and some sort of catfish dragon balancing on top of a ball. Tonight, you are that strutting alligator. You have teeth, and you have pride, and you have been drinking for seven hours straight.

What maybe you didn't know is that Delirium Tremens is also known as D.T., as in the DTs, the medical term describing the severe mental changes, you know, like the psychosis, the brain warps that drunks get when deprived of their alcohol. Lots of fast heart thumps, googly eyes, sweat, red-faced insanity. You seem to remember a story your bar mate told you in the later stages of the D.T. at Mangia on Friday night. It was about an evil villain who roamed from city to city stealing people's noses. He was a bad man who left people without the pleasure of smell and, as a result, the pleasure of taste, just like when you have a nasty cold. This evil villain had a dastardly plan: He was stealing noses for their snot. He stored all these noses in his secret hideout, and he vowed to keep stealing noses until he had enough of them to cover the entire world with snot. He had to be stopped.

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