It's a tough job, but, somehow, we managed to try enough cocktails to pick out three of our favorite for 2013. It's been a banner year for fancy drinks in St. Louis -- just about every week a new whiskey or cocktail bar opened up. Mixologists are now veritable artists, crafting custom drinks and inventing crazy concoctions on the spot. Across the board, the bar has been raised -- and we couldn't be happier.
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Housed in an old 1930's Standard Oil filling station, Olio (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088) offers one of the most inspired and intellectually stimulating cocktail menus around. It makes sense that bar manager John Fausz is an English major, and an extremely friendly one at that. While making the "Emerson," he talks about the man behind the drink, and it's pretty fascinating.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a philosophic and literary giant in the early-19th century, and a key figure in the transcendental movement -- sort of a back-to-nature type of deal. But by the end of his life, Emerson was a shell of his former self. He suffered from aphasia, the loss of memory and the ability to speak, effectively robbing him of his greatness. And then his house burned down, which sucked. But hey, now we can drink in his honor, so at least there's that.
The "Emerson" is a blend of gin, lime, maraschino and sweet vermouth. Fausz describes it as a "bright drink, but with a nice fall flavor," and modestly explains how the lime juice works in conjunction with the sweet vermouth. The drink's warm orange glow is lit up beautifully by the big open windows, the maraschino and sweet vermouth add a great counterpunch to the gin, and the lime contributes some citrus as a reminder of summer.
• 3/4 oz. gin • 1/2 oz. lime juice • 1/4 oz. maraschino • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
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