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Dark and Stormy 

Barcelona, 34 North Central Avenue, Clayton; 314-863-9909

It is a dark and stormy night, in fact, the first in a couple of months. Deep inside downtown Clayton, Latin house and salsa percussions spill into the streets from a tapas joint. The heat wave has taken its toll, on both the psyche and the soul. The rain falls in misty sheets, like a breeze through a threadbare curtain. Steam rises from the asphalt.

Inside Barcelona, the room glows a deep red, an ember storing the heat of a dying flame. The ice cubes in the Dark and Stormy are melting fast, so we're gulping it. Then again, how could you not? It's ginger beer, after all, and dark rum. On the boob tube, baseball tackles theology as the Cardinals out-sermonize the Padres.

Barcelona (officially BARcelona, but we reFUSE to play capitalization games) has weathered the storm. The place, which opened in 2000, is always lively. Where John P. Field's and Kilkenny's Pub summon the white-collared, Barcelona draws younger and sexier specimens. And they sit here this night, drinking a little more and lingering a little later. The drought has given way to a brief respite, but August looms before us like an airborne hand grenade.

The Dark and Stormy is the classic Caribbean drink. The standard recipe calls for Gosling's Black Seal Rum and Barritts Ginger Beer. Now, here's where it gets confusing: Barcelona's menu says they use Gosling's, but in fact it's not currently distributed in Missouri, so they use the ubiquitous Myers Original Dark Rum. This is no big deal, but it does change things. We've enjoyed Myers, but we were looking for something different.

Truth is, ginger beer's the star of the show, as it should be. Barcelona uses Old Jamaican-brand ginger beer, a somewhat mild and smooth variation on the Caribbean staple. We prefer ours with more kick: Reed's makes a mean Jamaican-style brew with a shocking ginger-spice bite. But no matter: The ginger-and-molasses combo is idiot-proof. Served in a rocks glass, with lots of ice and a lemon wedge, the drink hits sweet and peppery. Unlike a Cuba Libre (rum, cola, lime), which merges sweet, sweet and citrus, the Dark and Stormy combines sweet, spice and citrus. The spice adds depth and texture.

Outside, the rain is washing away the filth. The ground and the creatures that stomp aimlessly upon it are breathing a collective sigh of relief that sounds like the valve popping on a pressure cooker. One more Dark and Stormy, for the harder heat is still to come.

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