Coffee with Starbucks Coffee Liqueur, Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur and butterscotch schnapps

Barrister's, 15 North Meramec Avenue, Clayton; 314-726-5007.

Jan 4, 2006 at 4:00 am
Winter didn't officially start until December 21 — long after the ice scraper's inaugural appearance and the first oh-shit fishtail into oncoming traffic. But that's how the calendar flips. Try buying sunglasses in September or gloves in March, and you'll find it's damn near impossible; the stores turn their backs on the now season to make way for soon season. So it's nice to have finally earned the title of winter, the name of the season at last matching words like "antifreeze" and "wind chill" that have been blowing around for almost two months now.

Likewise, every December the media begins musing on the year gone by, when the year technically hasn't even lapsed yet. There's year-end wrap-ups and countdown specials weeks before its final minute has ticked away. Things still happen in December, you know (ahem, 2004's tsunami). But it seems the month is often assigned to the following year, as it's spent reflecting on "the year that was" even though it is still, well, the year that is.

That's why we had the gall to walk into Barrister's and just order "something wintry." To make it official. After a few contemplative seconds, the bartender interpreted winter this way: coffee, Starbucks Coffee Liqueur (the label reads: "flavorful Starbucks coffee beans roasted to perfection, blended with finest spirits." And it's 20 percent alcohol — yesss!), Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur and a splash of butterscotch schnapps. Were it a liquid op-ed piece, it would be Pulitzer material. It's an off-menu, grown-up hot chocolate served in a pint glass but without all that pesky, non-alcoholic whipped cream. It's an innocuous-looking bugger that has the potential to make you fall down, like a most ungraceful snowflake that lands with a thud on the bar's floor.

And from where we lie down here, we're feeling happy and warm, grateful to have happened upon this regular-folks retreat in the middle of Clayton's swanky-stuffy suit district. Heck, the bartender even gave us a complimentary basket of Barrister's homemade salt-and-vinegar potato chips. The menu says that in 2004 they won best side dish at the Clayton Art Fair, and we're in no position to disagree. These aren't thin, transparent grease traps — they give an audible, satisfying crunch, and we eat the entire basket of 'em. Welcome winter and the new year, indeed.

This week, the world will scratch out dates on checks and diary entries as we begin to retrain our stubborn fingers to write the half-Pisces shape of the six instead of the five's profile of a fat man wearing a fedora. But besides that, the turning of the year is but a twist in a Mobius strip, a continuation along the same path. And this coffee-hour-meets-happy-hour drink is one you should have on the way: perfect at the beginning of the day or the end, at the close of one year or the opening of a new one.