Spirit of St. Louis

Washington Avenue Bistro, 817 Washington Avenue, 314-418-5750

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No, it doesn't contain toasted ravioli purée, Provel cheese, Michelob Ultra or single-engine airplane fuel, so you're just going to have to keep searching. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to uncover exactly what is St. Louis about the Spirit of St. Louis, a citrus-based martini served at the Washington Avenue Bistro, part of the Renaissance Grand Hotel complex.

But that doesn't matter, because the Bistro is right next door to America's Center, and most of its conventioneer patrons probably don't know jack about St. Louis, nor do they care. For all they know, orange groves line the Arch grounds, we're fervent Buddhists and the city is integrated. Ha, silly foreigners, sipping a martini that has absolutely nothing in common with its homeland. The Spirit of St. Louis contains three very non-Midwestern ingredients: Hangar One "Buddha's Hand" citron vodka, Grand Marnier liqueur and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Welcome to St. Louis!

Our companion nailed the flavor, offering two choice comparisons: Tang, and orange Tic Tacs. She's right. This is orange, and it's delicious. It's delicious especially when you've got the entire dining room to yourself, your server -- and your companion -- are princesses and your boss is footing the bill for this per diem expenditure.

The ace in the hole, of course, is the "Buddha's Hand" citron vodka. The Hand in question is a citron fruit named so because it grows in bunches, and looks like the hand of a many, many-fingered divine being. Or like a bunch of carrots. (Six of one, half-dozen of the other....) Of course, the Hangar One gets lost within the orange juice, so despite its pedigree (a Cali handcrafted vodka), Buddha's Hand fades away. But the Buddha's fine with that; it's not a competition, after all. Mindfulness preaches acceptance, preaches tolerance, preaches peace. Qualities to strive for, definitely, and if St. Louis ain't exactly the tropics, at least the Bistro's spirit gives us something exquisite to meditate on.

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