Hotel Bars

Drink of the Week: A downtown highlight reel

This weekend, we will celebrate. We will let loose, will roar our way to the Final Four. We are young. We are away from home, unattended, and we will take advantage. We will lob impossible one-liners like half-court shots. We will be cock-blocked, and we will block cock. We will flamboyantly dunk Cuervo shots, will be baptized by the Bud tsunami. We will celebrate. We will howl. We might even weep. In any event, we will get drunk.

We will do so at the spiked-punch-bowl of the Big Dance: the hotel bar. Downtown's dozen-odd hotel bars range from stinky to swanky, from outrageously expensive to dirt-cheap. What they have in common is their mission this weekend: to be ground zero.

Of course, hotel bars aren't the only game in town. There are are dozens of drinkeries within a ten-minute walk of the Dome. The locals will be hanging at the Cabin Inn at the City Museum (701 North 15th Street; 314-231-2489), where there's usually a bonfire burning and a string band moaning. Or they'll be at Red Moon (1500 St. Charles Street; 314-436-9700), which has an ace wine list and cocktail menu. For dancing, you gotta hit Velvet (1301 Washington Avenue; 314-241-8178) where on Saturday night Dave Audé spins house and on Monday Chingy hosts a championship party -- one of the hottest tickets downtown. (For more possibilities, look elsewhere in this guide, check the main edition of Riverfront Times, or go online to www.riverfronttimes.com.)

But if the plan is to crawl from the stool into the bed, here are a few of the better downtown hotel bars.

THE ATRIUM LOUNGE AT THE RADISSON HOTEL

Address: 200 North Fourth Street; 314-621-8200

Hours during tournament: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Appletini? Yes

Best tequila shot: Cuervo Gold

Draught beer: Bud Light, Miller Lite, Schlafly Pale, Samuel Adams White Ale

Cut to the chase: The Atrium Lounge has planned a huge weekend blowout replete with regulation-size hoops, a live band and free pint glasses that, presumably, will be hurled at the huge plate-glass windows by sore losers. The cavernous room holds a humongo-screen TV and a few small flat-screens, as well as a pool table and many comfy chairs in which to make -- or pass -- out.

Drawbacks: One recent visit saw the sound system unironically booming the Doobie Brothers' "China Grove." Speaking of vomiting, the restrooms are an escalator ride away.

PLAYERS AT THE ADAM'S MARK HOTEL

Address: 315 Chestnut Street; 314-241-7400

Hours during tournament: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Appletini? No

Best tequila shot: Cuervo Gold

Draught beer: Budweiser, Bud Light

Cut to the chase: Ben Affleck, Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore stayed at the Adam's Mark when the Sox cheated their way to a sweep of the Cards last fall. They didn't, however, drink at Players. A simple horseshoe bar seats a dozen; a few tables hold a dozen more. On the walls, ersatz LeRoy Neiman paintings and Bud bullcraphernalia. "We're a beer bar," the bartender says when quizzed about his martini offerings. "We don't really have a martini list."

Drawbacks: It's very small, and with A.J.'s dance club in the same complex, the loser-to-hunk ratio will probably be pretty high. By the same token, that probably makes it a good place to get blitzed and start shit with Illini fans.

THE CLARK STREET GRILL AT THE WESTIN HOTEL

Address: 811 Spruce Street; 314-621-2000

Hours during tournament: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Appletini? Yes

Best tequila shot: Patron Silver

Draught beer: Sundry A-B products, including the new Bare Knuckle Stout

Cut to the chase: The celebs and sportscasters will probably be staying here, so when looking to get impregnated by same, dress sharp and act fancy. Among the pros, Jordan, Barkley and Oakley have slept here, and Jerry Lewis once ate a mound of White Castles in his suite.

Bonus travel tip: Hop on westbound MetroLink and get off at Busch Stadium.

Drawbacks: The high-end tequila's a nice touch, but puking is frowned upon, as is chanting "Fuck the Tarheels!" No basketball hoops (not even Nerf). It's almost too clean; you might feel guilty if you torch a chair.

THE MAYFAIR BAR AND GRILL AT THE ROBERTS MAYFAIR HOTEL

Address: 806 St. Charles Street; 314-421-2500

Hours during tournament: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Appletini? No, but "I can make anything," says bartender Steve

Best tequila shot: Sauza Tres Generaciones

Draught beer: Anheuser-Busch Amber Bock, Anheuser-Busch World Select, Bud Light

Cut to the chase: A great hotel bar: Nice enough to sip in, loose enough to shout in, the Roberts Mayfair's bar is the perfect archetype. Steve the Bartender honed his trade at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. His specialty is Irish coffee -- the absolute best way to start a Final Four morning. "The secret's a sugar cube," he reveals.

Drawbacks: The free salty snacks don't have enough nuts in them.

THE GRAND ROOM AT THE RENAISSANCE GRAND HOTEL

Address: 800 Washington Avenue; 314-621-9600

Hours during tournament: 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Appletini? Yes

Best tequila shot: Patron Silver

Draught beer: Bass, Schlafly Hefeweizen, Foster's, Fat Tire, Bud Light

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