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Wild Apple Martini 

12 North, 12 North Meramec, 314-721-7801

Oh, bless this cursed rollercoaster summer, in which the weather has been as fickle as an uncertain heart, in which afternoon rainstorms have arrived with nary a warning and internal tropical depressions have made both sleeping and waking hours restless and confusing. In this sort of season, it's important to pay attention to the itsy pleasures that often pass before your eyes unacknowledged. Like, say, an errant red balloon cascading through gusts like a pinball as it floats optimistically upward. Or watching in your rearview mirror a girl applying mascara in her rearview mirror. Or a ladybug crawling on a windshield. Or 12 North's wild apple martini.

They all share one essence: an ability to effortlessly conjure beauty and joy without needless explanation or examination. They are what they are, and language only taints them. Alas, we get paid for useless words, so we'll attempt to celebrate that last joy -- the martini -- without sullying its nature.

12 North is a white-linen, beige-walled Clayton eatery that serves contemporary American cuisine to handsome Caucasians. Enter the place and to your left is a comfortable bar, one that is nice and quiet on a Thursday dusk that brought a leftfield downpour and a consequent gentle breeze that hinted at a September on the horizon. And September means tiny immature apples, all gentle and beautiful but hard as stones and as sour as Dick Cheney. 12 North's apple martini isn't that sour, but it suggests pucker.

Bartender Joshua Keck makes it with four ingredients: a couple of ounces of Van Gogh Wild Appel vodka (imported from Holland) a splash of Pucker sour apple schnapps, a splash of vanilla-infused vodka. The final touch tempers the kick. "I find that most apple martinis are way too syrupy," says Keck, and he's right, "so I use vanilla to round it out." He then drops a maraschino cherry into the pale-green martini. The contrast between the subtle liquid and the fruit's glorious red suggests a marble at the bottom of a pond and reveals the truth that the more delicate the context, the more overwhelming the emotion within.

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