Purple Rain

Urban, 3216 South Grand Boulevard, 314-772-3308


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A night out drinking has nearly vanished in the rearview mirror. The next morning, the experience is barely visible against the rising sun. Last night we went to Urban and sampled some drinks. And despite the blur of the evening, owner Nhat Nguyen's creations still stand like billboards before us. In fact, although the funky lounge has only existed for a month, a few of the drinks have already taken on a mythical status.

Urban's got a drink called Opium, and it will floor you: bourbon, Frangelico and Jamaican ginger soda. The three ingredients, each robust on its own, combine to create a magnetic fourth flavor; it doesn't taste like opium, but it's equally alluring. Another, the Coco Haze, contains fresh coconut juice, vodka and cinnamon. And, get this, the Demure contains crushed strawberries, Absolut Kurant, sour mix — and balsamic vinegar.

The Purple Rain is every bit as amazing as its namesake Prince song. Nguyen, who has tended bar at Mirasol and Modai, crushes fresh blackberries and lime, then adds Absolut Kurant. The drink is a funky flavor explosion, and we don't use those words lightly.

Urban occupies the space that Lemongrass abandoned to move down the street. The room is electric-blue, and the walls are empty, save a gold-framed mirror behind the bar and a row of sconces that light the place.

There, last night, Urban's blue walls glowed, and drum 'n' bass played on the system. The subject of Sly Stone and his shocking Grammy appearance came up. Sly's out of the fame game, and he hadn't made a public appearance in thirteen years. Soon, we moved to another topic.

But this morning, we can't stop thinking about Sly. Between 1968 and 1974, he was the funkiest man alive. Prince wouldn't exist — and, by extension, neither would the Purple Rain — without Sly's countless designs: "Family Affair," "Everyday People," "Stand." Now Sly's a shut-in. Decades of drug use have ravaged his creativity, but there he was onscreen, a broken man with a blond Mohawk and a bandaged hand.

In 1991 Bob Dylan stood on the same stage to accept a lifetime achievement award. Although his speech didn't seem to match the moment, fifteen years later, watching Sly Stone, his words seem prophetic. Speaking of advice his father once gave him, Dylan said, "It's possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you, and if that happens, God will always believe in your ability to mend your ways.'"

What happened to "You Can Make It If You Try," Sly? Where did the funk go? Maybe some of it's seeped into the oxygen of Urban, where some truly great cocktails have been created and are available at only seven dollars apiece. The Purple Rain is worth at least twice as much for the taste alone. Such inspiration doesn't come cheap.

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