Arnold Palmer Sr.

Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchester Avenue, 314-775-0775.

Atomic Cowboy

Vodka and iced tea, the secret weapon of many a stealth drunk. Vodka: odorless, colorless. Iced tea: strong enough to mask a little booze, and quickly consumed in case of emergency. Combined, this concoction has carried many a worker through the day.

We once worked for a guy who had an ongoing arrangement with a neighboring restaurant. He'd send an employee over for his morning iced tea with lemon, which the bartender had illicitly spiked with vodka. Over the course of the day, he'd send minions for "free refills," and by afternoon Mr. Boss would be Mr. Slobbery. Then he'd hit the links.

Arnold Palmer is many things, but perhaps none more important than the namesake of a non-alcoholic drink that's equal parts iced tea and lemonade. Order an Arnold Palmer at the country club, and the server will return a pale brown glass that tastes like a tea overdosing on lemon.

At the new, improved Atomic Cowboy on Manchester, bartender and co-owner Peter Venezia has devised a fantastic variation on the Arnold, which he has dubbed the Arnold Palmer Sr. It's a simple drink: iced tea, lemonade and Absolut Citron. Granted, it's more a summer than fall drink, but the dog days have passed, the humidity has lifted, and the morning dew makes the fairways twinkle. Sounds like golf weather to us.

The former Atomic Cowboy was an ace bar that played a key role in the revitalization of downtown Maplewood. The clean, well-lighted space was filled with vintage furniture, and some of the best artists in the city displayed their work on the walls. But it was an awkward room. When it got crowded, those not lucky enough to secure seating were left alone and forsaken. Thinking bigger, Venezia, one in a long line of St. Louis saloon owners, opted to go into the city.

The new Atomic Cowboy is located a block west of Vandeventer and is, by far, the nicest bar to open in St. Louis in the 21st century, a glorious space that harnesses Venezia's excellent design sense.

Seating capacity doubled without sacrificing atmosphere. It's a big bar that doesn't feel big. And then there's the back patio, which is nearly as spacious as the inside. It's got its own bar, plus a fire pit that seems tailor-made for autumn. On weekends the whole shebang is popping with a diverse crowd of heteros, gays and bis. It's our new favorite place, and we haven't even tried the Baja-style Mexican food yet.

DJ Flex Boogie is still programming the turntable talent -- a good thing, considering his tastes in hip-hop, house and dance music are unparalleled. Toss in a sound system that's crystal clear without being too loud, and you've got a compound that's perfect for both conversing and gyrating. Order an Arnold Sr. and drink it down. You'll feel citrusy-refreshed, and the caffeinated iced tea will keep you awake with way less sodium and bullshit than a vodka-Red Bull. You'll want to stay at the Cowboy as late as possible. It's that kind of place.

Have a drink suggestion? E-mail us!

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