The Butler Miller

The Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, 100 Carondolet Plaza, Clayton; 314-863-6300.

May 17, 2006 at 4:00 am
When Butler Miller walks through the posh lounge at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, he does so with confidence. Cruising past diamond-encrusted heiresses sipping from Champagne flutes, Miller, dressed business-casually, takes a seat at a bar table with the knowledge that all the money in Clayton couldn't buy what he's got. He's in love, and in a few weeks he will be married. The newlyweds are looking to buy a new house. His family's in the barge business, which provides ample income. But that's all gravy.

A handsome server arrives and places little bowls of mixed nuts, wasabi peas and sweet potato chips on the table, then takes Miller's order:

"I'll have a Butler Miller, please," says Butler Miller.

"A Butler Miller?" responds the server.

"Yes," says Miller matter-of-factly, "it's a vodka gimlet with Chambord. A Butler Miller."

The server repeats the order and walks away.

It's an exclusive club, those who have drinks named after them: Harvey Wallbanger. Shirley Temple. Arnold Palmer. Suzy Wong. Brandy. Tom Collins. Bloody Mary. Butler Miller.

One night in New Orleans a few years ago, Miller was having dinner at Jacques-Imo's Café with business companions. Miller had been drinking gimlets, and started fiddling in his head with recipes. After dinner at the bar, a lightning bolt zapped out of a thundercloud: "I saw the Chambord and ordered what I called a ‘Chambord gimlet.' After experimenting a little bit, I decided to make it my own, and in my typical modest way, decided to name it after myself."

The Butler Miller can be prepared a few different ways. As a martini, combine vodka, lime juice (preferably fresh) and Chambord in a shaker and serve in a cocktail glass. The Royale in south city offers their Butler Miller on the rocks. "Pour the Chambord in first," explains Miller, "then rocks, then vodka, then lime juice." Miller says that twists are optional, "and not really necessary. Rail vodka is as good as brand. The Royale has fresh lime juice, rather than Rose's, and it makes the drink more tart, but still flavorful. The Ritz-Carlton gives you raspberry garnish, a nice touch."

Indeed, the Butler Miller that the server delivers is a winner. It glows purple. Chambord does that to everything it touches. The tart, shocking black-raspberry liqueur is a transformative ingredient and adds a measure of sophistication to the otherwise utilitarian gimlet. The berry blunts the lime's acidity and provides a tang that's perfect for spring.

"The Butler Miller can make you look a little frou-frou," acknowledges Miller, "but if you are not confident to drink the drink that you like, regardless of its looks, then maybe you are not enough like Butler Miller to enjoy a Butler Miller."

Miller and his betrothed, Megan Flaskamper, will be serving Butler Millers after their wedding, which will occur on May 27 at the historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard. They will be honeymooning in London, where they will enjoy theater. They already have tickets to see Hayfever, starring Dame Judi Dench. While inhaling the city, the Millers will no doubt waltz confidently into pubs across town and express shock and astonishment that London bartenders don't know how to make their favorite drink.