Bastante Gin and Tonic

Bastante, 3315 Watson Road, 314-783-4000

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Granted, it's considered a summer drink, but who decides such things? Miss Manners? Judge Judy? Of course not. Some sort of half-assed logic -- er, "tradition" -- dictates that a gin and tonic be enjoyed only in the summer months, that it should be closeted after Labor Day.

Gin's primary flavoring ingredient, recall, is a shrub berry, and what's more wintry than a shrub? Said shrub is, of course, the juniper bush, the juicy buds of which are plucked by plump pixies and dropped wholesale into the magic berry bucket to be used in the creation of the piney, earthy extract known as gin. "It's nice, crispy-like," explains a very intelligent downtown lawyer who is absolutely no authority on gin, when asked her opinion on drinking a winter gin and tonic. "There's something sort of brisk about a gin and tonic, and something brisk about January, too."

So: Gin is legal in the winter months. Litigation dodged, we can now make a beeline for Bastante, a Watson Road semi-sorta tapas place that absolutely deserves a spot on your restaurant checklist; they got good grub. Bastante has the gall/confidence to create a namesake G&T, the success of which turns solely on the inclusion of Hendrick's gin, handcrafted by a Scottish concern that has helped transform the oft-dismissed spirit into an exquisite destination. If tequila spin-doctors can transform cactus juice into snob central, why not gin? Both make people crazy when consumed in large amounts. (True story from our youth: We once hallucinated on gin when we chased it with LSD.) Both are oft-dismissed by professional drinkers as vulgar and one-dimensional. Both rule any drink into which they are poured.

Still not convinced that gin has potential? Check this: Hendrick's gin is made with not only juniper berries, but also with coriander and citrus peel. Then -- get this -- they summon the flabby pixies, who travel to warmer climes, where they descend upon a field of rose bushes in full bloom and get to work plucking petals from the buds, shoving them into their cute little canvas rucksacks, and head back to Scotland, where they twinkle and sparkle and giggle as they drop the petals, one by one, into the brew, adding a floral nose to the once-plebian spirit. Yes, it's true: This gin contains cucumbers and rose petals. A lot of italics in one sentence, to be sure, but each one deserved.

Bartender Steve Green adds the tonic and two cucumber slices to the drink, which is served in an iced snifter, and which, once delivered, silences the skeptic with its subtlety, its depth, its unadulterated joy. Whiff the snifter and smell a hint of rose; sip and get a soft suggestion of cucumber.

It's also important to note that the Hendrick's bottle is really cool; it's brown and cylindrical, designed to mimic an old apothecary container -- the suggestion being that gin is not only high-class, but highly good for you.

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