Tom Collins

The Lawyers Club, 720 Olive Street, 30th floor, 314-421-4134.

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Everybody's had a Tom Collins at some point. Either that's the name of a faraway uncle, or you've drunk that drink. Your familiarity with either gentleman is cursory, though. As in -- quick -- what's in a Tom Collins? Didn't think you knew. A refresher, then, is in order, so that you may become reacquainted with this classic quencher of heat-soaked seasons.

While there are varying accounts as to how the Tom Collins came into being, most agree that it was birthed in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, either in a British hotel bar called Limmer's or by a New York City garment-district bartender who shares the cocktail's name. At minimum, a Tom Collins contains a shot of gin, sour mix, soda water and cherry and orange-slice garnishes. At its finest, though, the cocktail benefits greatly from the savvy bartender's use of fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of sugar. In other words, the best Tom Collins is a fizzy lemonade, with gin.

Like many a civilian, Sean Clinton of the Lawyers Club, a quasi-private restaurant atop the Laclede Gas Building downtown, was stumped when a Tom Collins was summoned by a table near the window that overlooks Busch Stadium and the mighty Mississippi. So Clinton coolly busted out his black booze binder behind the bar. He didn't employ fresh lemonade, but the result was a more than serviceable Tom Collins that washed away the summer heat and opened the mind to an afternoon filled with lucid creativity.

A little more about the Lawyers Club: Operated for forty years as the Media Club, eighteen months ago the establishment fell under the jurisdiction of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, providing its membership with exquisite, catered (by Windows Off Washington) all-you-can-eat buffet lunches for the Red Lobster-esque price of $9.95. Laclede Gas Building tenants are also officially permitted to dine atop 720 Olive, but provided you look presentable and can foot the bill, bar association member services director Arlene Cerbie says you won't get tossed out on your ass.

"We're happy to see them," Cerbie says of fresh faces. So too are we happy to see a dining institution able to deliver an age-old lemony concoction that's equal parts familiar and obscure, just like Uncle Tom.

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