Rob Roy

The Mahogany Grille & Lounge at the Omni Majestic Hotel, 1019 Pine Street, 314-436-2355

The wind-chill factor's threatening zero, the weekend's two short hours 'til close, and there's a small fly in my Rob Roy. Such a fiendish circumstantial hat trick might cause some serious consternation in most instances, but not this Sunday. Grateful are we that our bartender, Jeff, even agreed to re-open his Mahogany Grille & Lounge on this off-night when, by Jeff's count, the charming hostelry above is boarding only half a dozen guests.

Yes, there's a fly in the Rob Roy, a simple, strong concoction of Scotch and sweet vermouth, occasionally referred to as a Scotch manhattan. But flies are everywhere, and who can blame our little black friend for wanting a jolt of booze on the chilliest night of the year? He's alone in this world, and, worse yet, he's alone as the holiday season recedes, seeking both anonymity and a bond with the similarly anonymous.

In this quest, the barfly has hit pay dirt by descending upon a freshly poured cocktail in a hotel bar. Jeff tells us that the Mahogany is abuzz with local business types most Tuesday nights. But on nights like this, nights when the little Omni Majestic is mostly vacant, it tends to be just him, the fly and the painted faces adorning the African-American jazz mural above the classy room's pool table and flat-screen television. Far from sterile, the lounge -- not to mention Jeff -- emanates warmth, as does the Rob Roy.

Chest hair's great and all, but Scotch and vermouth are two liquors usually eschewed 'round these parts. And yet, somehow, the Rob Roy works, making it to cocktails what the gravelly Cocker/ Warnes vocal combo is to the cinematic power ballad, lifting us up where we belong, against all odds. And on Sunday in St. Louis, the odds of finding an open cocktail dispensary east of Tucker are slim to none, which brings us back to the eternal benefits of the hotel bar. Hotels and their bars, you see, are beholden by trade to cater to the world traveler. It doesn't matter if they're in Paris, St. Louis or Sioux Falls, the transient's schedule is the bar's schedule -- even if it beckons the Mahogany to stay open past suppertime on the Sabbath to cater to two frostbitten, road-weary lovers and the fly in their drink.

 
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