Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Monica Schepis of the the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton. Below is a Q&A with Schepis, followed by her own recipe for a Gooey Butter Cake Martini.
The Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton (100 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; 314-863-6300) is more than just a bar in a hotel lobby. It's a destination in itself.
A recent $1 million renovation has the lobby looking better than ever -- and guests are noticing the improvement. According to Elaine Gamer, director of sales and marketing, the theme for the lobby lounge was "martinis and rhythm."
The "rhythm" part of that notion is expressed through the bright, dynamic artwork that has taken the place of the stuffy oil paintings that once hung in the lobby. The old carpeting was torn out and replaced with a lush blue-and-gold patterned carpet, and the ceilings were paneled with gold fabric to add a lightness to the area. The stiff, maroon, faux leather chairs are gone, and swanky velvet seats now give a club-like atmosphere to the lobby.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, a jazz band plays in an alcove in the lobby lounge, and visitors are encouraged to hit the dance floor to show off some moves. And after downing a few of the Ritz's 200-plus martinis, guests are more than eager to oblige.
That ample martini list is where bartender Monica Schepis comes in.
Schepis started her bartending career at a small neighborhood bar frequented by regulars looking for a cold beer and a friendly face. Eventually, she says, she decided to get a "big-girl job," but it turns out that wasn't for her. She went back to bartending, and she's now been at the Ritz-Carlton for more than seven years.
She's sweet and outgoing, but attentive to the rules that come with working for a corporate entity like the Ritz-Carlton. Behind that modest exterior, though, is a master mixologist. Schepis' claim to fame at the lobby lounge is her Gooey Butter Cake Martini, a drink she spent weeks perfecting.
"We're not allowed to drink on the job," says Schepis, "so I had to find hotel guests who were familiar with St. Louis and get them to taste it. Finally, people agreed it tasted like gooey butter cake."
No, seriously. It really does.
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