Sot in the City: It's time to hit the bottle — not the beach!


When the temperature spikes, a maddening thirst develops inside us all, and water, the most logical liquid to quell this thirst, goes by the wayside. At least it does for the city's true boozehounds.

Indeed, the days will soon turn too damn hot for sobriety, so come with us and journey through St. Louis' three layers of Hell (known to its survivors as June, July and August) and discover the perfect, pain-easing alcoholic beverages that are best suited for the benders along the way.

For most of the Redbird-cheering population, June must commence with a cold one poured into a plastic vessel by a kind, portly Busch Stadium (700 Clark Street; 314-345-9000) vendor. While the price (around $8) might set you back a few, it's well worth it when that frosty Bud Light hits your insides and the cooldown begins.

It is important to rid the mind of the harsh truth that our humid-heavy weather would be more tolerable if it were paired with sandy beaches, a cooling wind and crashing waves. Go for the next best thing: rum-based fruit cocktails. Called everything from rum punches to boat drinks, these heavenly thirst-quenchers are essential for any outdoor excursion.

The drink that will certainly bring sexy back — despite this month's inevitable pit stains and uneven tan lines — is a Justin Timberlake ($7). Found at the Corner Pub & Grill (13645 Big Bend Road, Valley Park; 636-225-1300), this mixture of Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay, pineapple juice, orange juice and a splash of grenadine is described by a busty bartender as "a little, but not too gay." Just one sip of the nectarous concoction will be enough to send your mind sailing to the same place you'd expect to find Jimmy Buffett and a half-eaten cheeseburger.

But if you'd prefer to sail within the city limits, go for an over-the-top mai tai ($6) at the Way Out Club (2525 South Jefferson Avenue; 314-664-7638); it's served up island-style — ceramic coconut-shaped cup and all.

But of course, you'll grow tired of rum by that apex of summertime excitement and shirtless, pro-America riverfront festivities, the Fourth of July. This is the time you might think about slamming a Bomb Pop martini ($8.50). Offered at both Moxy and its dark, quiet upstairs M Lounge (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-4848), this patriotic drink (it really is red, white and blue!) includes Bacardi Razz, DeKuyper Island Blue Pucker, sweet and sour mix, Sprite and grenadine. The ingenuity alone is enough to make our Founding Fathers proud.

For another midsummer night's martini, head to south county's newest upscale destination, the Glass Olive (6348 Telegraph Road; 314-293-2393). The $8 French Kiss (Absolut Apeach, Chateau Monet, pineapple and orange and cranberry juices with a sugar-coated rim) is guaranteed to get a drinker tipsy enough to rekindle piano-playing aspirations on the bar's baby grand.

Alas, eventually martinis become akin to rubbing alcohol. That's when the drink of a true Southern gentleman, the mint julep, comes in handy. Whiskey, sugar, water and fresh mint were first fused together in this country during colonial times owing to the poor quality of imported spirits. The julep is traditionally served in a silver cup to keep it chilled. "It's kind of funny to think they were using bourbon as a summer cooler," muses Ted Kilgore, Monarch's (7401 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-644-3995) bar manager and mixology master.

In early May, Kilgore introduced a Summer Julep ($10) to Monarch's drink menu. For this original creation, he uses black tea steeped in twelve-year-old Elijah Craig whiskey, muddling it with fresh mint and sugar, and garnishing it with fresh, seasonal fruit. It's the first time he's offered this unique mix, so bear in mind he can always whip up a traditional version, too (the cost varies depending on the whiskey).

The minty concoction can be found in a variety of venues, including the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis (100 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; 314-863-6300), the Royale Food & Spirits (3132 South Kingshighway; 314-772-3600) or, if you happen to score an invite from a member, St. Louis Country Club (400 Barnes Road, Ladue; 314-994-0011).

If you'd rather be metro than prim and proper, try the mint julep's sought-after sister — the mojito. Initially mixed on hot Havana nights, this Cuban favorite is loaded with just enough mint and other citrusy delights to disguise that tiresome rum. And with its recent surge in popularity, every bar in town has its own take.

Brian Hornbeck, manager at Araka (131 Carondelet Plaza, Clayon; 314-725-6777), serves it straight up because "if you mess with [the mojito] too much, it starts to taste strange." Araka also offers a Mediterranean Mojito ($8). Instead of traditional white rum, Hornbeck takes Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, fresh mint and lime, muddles it all with simple syrup and pours it over ice. With drink in hand, schmooze your way over to the bar's expansive patio — it's a shoo-in for Clayton's newest, hottest summer spot.

For a twist, sip flavored mojitos at Urban Cocktail Lounge (3216 South Grand Boulevard; 314-772-3308); they come in coconut, lychee and lemongrass varieties ($7). Brandt's Café (6525 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-3663) has blueberry, raspberry and strawberry versions ($7.50), and Atomic Cowboy (4140 Manchester Avenue; 314-775-0775) offers a special blackberry mix ($8).

When mid-August arrives, not even the fruity and minty can save you anymore. Hallucinations have already settled in ("The Cards won the World Series again!?"), which means you've already downed some absinthe. The enigmatic elixir that once rivaled wine as France's most popular drink was banned in the United States for nearly 100 years. Now the marquee outside Flamingo Bowl (1117 Washington Avenue; 314-436-6666) proclaims in neon-green flashing letters: "Absinthe Is Back." And how!

There, this choice drink of legendary writers and artists is $9 a shot. Bartender Lindsay Patan serves it Frenchy-style by pouring Lucid Absinthe Supérieure into a handblown glass and allowing ice water to drip over a sugar cube that's propped over the spirit with a slotted silver spoon. This creates the cloudy and potent potion famous for tasting like crap — unless black licorice is your thing. A palatable variant can be found at Hammerstone's (2028 South Ninth Street; 314-773-5565), where absinthe is simple syrup, water and ice combined for a sinfully sweeter sip into oblivion ($9).

Upon realizing that absinthe no longer causes hallucinations, change things up by ordering a savory, salty margarita. Its sunshine color will help you relive Cinco de Mayo's tepid weather and free tortilla chips. So will recent Washington Avenue addition Beso (1130 Washington Avenue; 314-588-7864). The festive, south-of-the-border atmosphere is where you can find $3 margaritas all day, every day. Not good enough? The eatery's margarita menu features fifteen others (including the $25 Millionaire Margarita) along with a build-your-own section.

Continue the marg madness at Agave (4198 Manchester Avenue; 314-652-4283) with the Agave Margarita ($9) made with El Mayor, Gran Gala, Cointreau, freshly squeezed lime juice and agave organic nectar. Or get one arriba-style in a 16-ounce Styrofoam cup at Nachomama's (9643 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-961-9110) drive-through window. 

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