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Jul 23, 2014
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Drink This Weekend Edition

Drink This Weekend Edition: Build-your-own mojito (a Boogaloo redux)

Friday, July 18th, 2014



It’s mid-afternoon on a Friday, I’m sitting in one of the swings tethered around the bar at Boogaloo, and I’ve got major déjà vu. A sudden memory of a slim little title called Jungle Safari enters my head, one of those books in the Choose Your Own Adventure young adult series pioneered by Ed Packard. Boogaloo’s new mojito menu, unveiled earlier this month, demands a similar degree of reader participation, and there’s a nagging sense that we’ve seen something like this before…

Assuming you follow our Drink This Weekend Edition column religiously (c’mon, admit it), you’ll remember that Boogaloo rolled out the novel “build-your-own Manhattan” menu late last fall. This summer, they’ve shifted focus to the mojito.

“We like to keep to a very classic mojito style,” said bar manager Justin Mills as he mixed one up for me. If you’re yenning for the purist’s version of the drink, you can find it here, or you can branch out as wildly as you desire. The menu format is exceedingly minimalist (reminiscent, say, of Web 2.0 platforms), easy to navigate and forgiving of experimentation. Allow us to walk you through the steps:

Step 1: Pick your rum.
The most exigent decision here, naturally. Eleven rums are laid out in order of price and quality, starting with the well ($7), all the way to the venerable-sounding Plantation 20th Anniversary ($15). Possessing a middling acumen for rum at best, I went with the Plantation Grenada 2004 for $10.

Step 2: Pick your flavor.
This is where things get interesting. Choose from six flavor modifiers, all of which are combined with lime and thrown into the mix. (The default “Traditional” option is lime and lime.) Admittedly not a fan of cucumbers, I took a gamble on cucumber-lime for that refreshing botanical effect. Other options include ginger, orange, cherry and lemon.

Step 3: Pick your sugar.
Personal preference here: choose either granulated, raw cane or agave nectar as a sweetener, or a combination of all three, as Mills advised me.

Step 4: Pick your herb.
An aromatic garnish goes a long way, and the options are plentiful; the menu offers mint, chocolate mint, lemon balm, purple basil and pineapple sage. The purple basil, which Mills slipped into my finished glass, offered a lovely flash of deep violet for visual and gustatory appeal.

If my mojito safari were in choose-your-own-adventure format, I’ve ducked the crocodiles, tiger traps and headhunters and plumbed the inner sanctum of the mojito gods’ temple. Those notes of cucumber and basil are nasal, light and pleasingly brisk, even for someone who shies away from botanical flavors. Here’s a cocktail I could make short work of all summer.

True, not much can go wrong here – you’re combining sugar, lime, the burnt-molasses flavor of rum and fragrant herbs, all of which make delicious ingredients. Still, it’s fun to mix and match to your heart’s content, or, having quenched your mojito wanderlust, return again to the original recipe. And unlike those adventure books, no mistakes can be made, nor are fate or consequence any concern. Of the 990 possible mojito permutations available to you at the bar, you’re on track to select a winner. Give yourself a pat on the back, sip and enjoy.



Drink This Weekend Edition: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rested Rye

Friday, July 11th, 2014



I recently had the chance to talk – and taste – Tennessee whiskey with Chris Fletcher, the first assistant master distiller for Jack Daniel’s. Fletcher has his own family history with the storied No. 7 brand (his grandfather was Jack Daniel’s master distiller for more than 30 years), but he also shared the history of Jack Daniel’s and its newest offering.

What makes Tennessee whiskey unique from its bourbon cousins is what is known as the Lincoln County Process. The whiskey is passed through charcoal filters, which results in pronounced fruit flavors and minimal graininess. Fletcher said Jack Daniel’s produces its own toasted, charred barrels in which to age its products, and it claims to be the only whiskey maker to control this aspect of the process.

Jack Daniel’s also has a long history in St. Louis, dating back to its first gold medal awarded in the 1904 World’s Fair. It’s even rumored that the iconic Old No. 7 on the label pays homage to the No. 7 train that transported Tennessee whiskey from St. Louis to the Western frontier.

Today, Jack Daniel’s offers several limited and special-edition products in addition to its original spirit, including its just-released Tennessee Rested Rye. After its charcoal filtering, the 70-percent rye rests in new white oak barrels for two years. The result is a solid rested whiskey that pulls strong banana flavors with hints of black pepper. While it can be sipped neat or on ice, it’s best appreciated in a classic rye cocktail like a Manhattan (recipe here) or a Sazerac (recipe here).

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rested Rye is available at Randall’s Wines & Spirits in St. Louis, North County and Fairview Heights, Illinois, locations.

-Image courtesy of drinkspirits.com

Drink This Weekend Edition: Syrah and albariño from Bonny Doon albariño

Friday, July 4th, 2014



Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm is a man of terroir. When he speaks about the land in central California where his grapes grow, it’s as if he’s possessed by it. There’s reverence and reserve in his voice. He chuckles when he recalls starting out in the early 1980s, naively thinking he would produce pinot noir (or, as he refers to it, “the heartbreak grape” for its notably fickle nature) before deciding to run with Rhône varieties instead. It’s these wines that made Bonny Doon into the producer it is today and that earned him the nickname “Rhône Deranger.”

At a recent master class, Grahm explained that there are two types of wine: wines of terroir, which express their sense of place, and wines of effort, which express the whims of the winemaker. Bonny Doon’s wines are most definitely the former; Grahm focuses on the earth, the difficult climate and what the grapes and terroir are trying to express. His grapes speak loud and clear, conduits for the sun and soil where they thrived before becoming wine. Here, our two picks from Bonny Doon to drink this weekend:

Bonny Doon Le Pousseur 2012 Syrah
This medium- to full-bodied syrah possesses a smoky bouquet of mint, herb and dark black cherry. On the palate, you’ll find notes of fig and black plum, more mint and sandalwood. Le Pousseur has more vibrancy that often seen in New World syrahs, with a nice balance of fruit and earth. Enjoy with grilled game or braised pork. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Rock Hill.

Bonny Doon 2013 Albariño
This wine begins with lemon and sage on the nose and continues on the palate with lime, melon, herbs and lots of salinity. It’s a very dry white with precise acid. Drink this with light shellfish dishes or grilled chicken and summer vegetables. Available at Parker’s Table.




Drink This Weekend Edition: 8-Bit Pale Ale

Friday, June 27th, 2014



Great beer label design is its own art form today, meant to intrigue and entice you from shelves filled with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of brews. Some you just can’t ignore, like the pixelated, video game-style graphics on a bright orange can of 8-Bit Pale Ale from Kansas’ Tallgrass Brewing – and you shouldn’t ignore the brew inside, either.

Tallgrass bills 8-Bit as a “Hop Rocketed pale ale.”  This method sees brewers cycle a batch of beer through a stainless-steel vessel filled with their choice of hops just before canning to extract extra hop oils, which add to the aroma and flavor profiles. 8-Bit’s spin in the Hop Rocket with Galaxy hops creates a unique American Pale Ale with a tropical melon note. Pair that with a malty, almost honey-like body, and you have a truly balanced beer.

If pouring, 8-Bit is a slightly golden amber color with a thick, frothy white head; if no glass is allowed at your venue, 8-Bit is great straight from the can, too (See more great craft beers in cans here.). At 5.2 percent ABV, drink this one with a burger off the grill and prepare for a great night. 8-Bit is available at most craft beer shops and many grocery stores.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Emilia Spritz at Bar Italia

Friday, June 20th, 2014

St. Louis is in the heady grip of World Cup fever, but if you can unglue yourself from the tube for a spell, sneak a midafternoon, European-style repose on the patio at Bar Italia in the Central West End.

Bar Italia beverage director Brandon Kerne has a sound read on the fluctuating trends in the drinking world, particularly the latest backward glance at amaro and other herbal liqueurs. Returning to Bar Italia after directing the wine program at 33 Wine Shop & Bar – and, prior to that, working as a member of the beverage team at Elaia and Olio – Kerne has turned his sights to augmenting the puro Italiano choices on the restaurant’s already formidable wine, beer and cocktail menu, starting with the spritz.

A spritz is a classic northern Italian drink that combines amaro with prosecco. Assimilated by the Italians from occupying Hapsburg soldiers in the early 20th century, the historical spritz undercut the ABV of wine with soda water for a bracing tipple that wouldn’t send you three sheets to the wind. These days, most bars mix both amaro and prosecco for a boozier, but no less refreshing spritz.

Those just getting started on the botanical notes of aperitivos will find the new Emilia Spritz ($9) at Bar Italia a good introductory cocktail. Expect the forward-leaning flavors of strawberry and orange, and don’t forget to exhale contentedly after downing each and every sip of this bubbly, easygoing pick-me-up.

Once you’ve become a convert, come back in a month when Kerne rolls out “5 O’clock Spritz,” a happy hour featuring a build-your-own spritz menu. Unlike typical happy hours, “5 O’clock Spritz” drinks aren’t priced at a discount, but they do include complimentary plates of antipasti – bruschetta, olives and other small bites of Mediterranean fare.

Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 World Cup beers from St. Louis breweries

Friday, June 13th, 2014


{2nd Shift Brewing’s iBallz}

The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off yesterday, June 12, giving soccer-loving St. Louisans and even casual fans reason to celebrate. Our city’s passion for The Beautiful Game and our love of beer collide more than ever before this year; three local breweries have created beers specifically for the tournament. Whether you’re part of St. Louis’ “Soccer Mafia” or just along for the ride in Brazil, these beers are sure to have you raising a pint to your favorite national team.

The Civil Life Brewing Co.’s Goal!Den Ale: It’s fitting that our city’s first “soccer beer,” Goal!Den Ale, was first brewed for one of our city’s best soccer bars, Amsterdam Tavern in 2012. At 5 percent ABV, this easy-drinking golden ale is a perfect complement to the game. The light-bodied, straw-colored brew has nice bready malts, a touch of spicy hops and a fluffy head. Goal!Den Ale is available exclusively at Amsterdam Tavern and at The Civil Life.

4 Hands Brewery’s Nelson Sauvin APA: Every year, International Tap House embraces the homebrewing community by hosting a competition at its Chesterfield location. This year’s winner, Patrick Strohmayer, had the opportunity to collaborate with 4 Hands Brewery to brew a beer for iTap’s World Cup festivities. The result was Nelson Sauvin APA. The hops give the brew a tropical note – think grapefruit, passion fruit or tangerines.  But a nice malt characteristic gives this American pale ale balance and plenty of dimension. You can find this 5.2 percent ABV brew at all iTap locations, Amsterdam Tavern and at 4 Hands Brewery.

2nd Shift Brewing’s iBallz: If there’s one thing you need to know about 2nd Shift Brewing’s head brewer Steve Crider, it’s that he loves hops. But the folks over at iTap wanted something hoppy, yet sessionable, something hopheads could drink a few of while they enjoyed the game. Enter iBallz, what Crider calls a “bisected IPA.” At 4.3 percent ABV, this brew showcases hops in all of their glory. Unlike some session IPAs that lack body, iBallz, won’t leave you feeling as though you’re sipping hop water. Try this brew at any of iTap’s St. Louis locations.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Fox Run Riesling

Friday, June 6th, 2014


{Fox Run Vineyards in New York’s Finger Lakes region}


As more people come around to the wonder that is riesling, their gazes fall not just on Germany and Austria for drinking options, but also on the U.S. And though upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region might not first strike one as America’s Middle Mosel, both riesling neophytes and grizzled Pfalz fanatics do themselves a disservice if they ignore this region. Simply put, nowhere else in the U.S. produces better riesling than the Finger Lakes.

Scott and Ruth Osborne, owners of Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, recently paid a visit to St. Louis. After working at several winemaking facilities in California, including Byron in Santa Barbara, Scott Osborne found that his oenological dispositions skewed toward cool-climate wines, and he made the move east.

Fox Run produces six rieslings, two chardonnays, a cabernet Franc and a lemberger, all grapes that benefit from cool climate conditions at the Finger Lakes. Of all the wines we tasted, the Lake Dana Vineyard “12” 2010 Riesling (available at Vom Fass) stole the show. It displayed exceptional balance and proportion with notes of spiced pear and hard apple, as well as a whiff of vanilla custard. The finish was long, crisp and citrusy. For those familiar with German riesling, the “12” displayed the sweetness of a Kabinett, and the acidity kept it clean and fresh. We know some people run screaming from the notion of sweetness in wine; however, many big name California chardonnays have substantially more sweetness than this riesling.

While “12” was our favorite, each wine we tasted displayed balance and precision, as well as purity of fruit and minerality, particularly in the whites. All had moderate levels of alcohol. We recommend Fox Run wines across the board, but keep your eyes peeled for “12” and these two other rieslings, as well:

Fox Run 2013 Dry Riesling
Spicy white fruit on the nose plus some white flowers, peach and nectarine pit on the palate, and finishes with an impression of sappy extract. Available at Parker’s Table

Fox Run 2012 Semi-dry Riesling
Tart green apple and wet stone on the nose, firm but not overpowering acidity on the core-fruit and tangerine-driven palate, and finishes with more crushed stone tones and citrus hints. Available at Extra Virgin, an Olive Ovation

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Mission Paloma, featuring Stiegl Radler at Mission Taco Joint

Friday, May 30th, 2014



The first radler I ever drank was poured into a humongous one-liter glass and passed across the table to me at a biergarten in Bavaria by my late cousin Otto. He spoke sparse English and had cycled some 40 kilometers from Munich to sit with me in his Lycra jersey and graying, mussed-up helmet hair. I mention this last part because “radler” – a half-half mix of beer and German lemonade, not unlike a shandy – actually means “cyclist,” owing doubtlessly to the beer’s aptness as a thirst quencher after long rides. I was there on a get-to-know-the-family visit, exhibiting my clumsy German and trying to keep the conversation fluid. Mostly we just sipped in silence. But weltering there in the August heat, contending with the discomfort of all things lost in translation, there was no better refreshment for us.

Here in St. Louis, Stiegl’s Radler (Goldbrau and grapefruit soda) now has a tap handle at Mission Taco Joint on the Loop, and with a $5 price tag, is an easy way to squelch the impending oppression of summer. You might also try it in the Mission Paloma, one addition to the new summer cocktail menu the bar program is rolling out Tuesday, June 2. (A few change-ups to the food menu are also in store.)

Replacing pure grapefruit soda for sweet, citrus-inflected beer, Mission’s twist on the familiar cocktail is subtle, and a bit revelatory.  The recipe combines two ounces of Sauza Blue Reposado tequila and half-ounce of agave simple syrup over ice in a salt-rimmed pint glass, which is then filled with Stiegl Radler. The result is a pale yellow, frothy libation that begins with a trace of smoke and skims onward to its bright, citrusy denouement – a little like a margarita, only cheerier.

“This was almost a gimme from our distributor (of Stiegl),” said Jimmy Menousek, bar manager at Mission. “We heard ‘grapefruit’ and ‘beer’ and instantly thought, Paloma!

The Mission Paloma is quick to assemble and a worthy antidote to muggy afternoons in June, so don’t be shy about ordering a sneak peek for yourself this weekend, before the official unveiling. We’ve got it on good authority that the bartenders will happily oblige.

“Radler’s taking baby steps here (in St. Louis),” Menousek said. “But I’m confident once people start trying it, it will catch on.” I’ll raise my glass to that, and to Otto, peace be with him.



Drink This Weekend Edition: Local spirits shine at Three Flags Tavern

Friday, May 23rd, 2014



At newly-opened bar and restaurant Three Flags Tavern, located in the heart of Southwest Garden neighborhood, local spirits are taking center stage.

We recommend trying the whole cocktail menu, but if you must be responsible, start with the 314, an unaged Manhattan featuring Pinckney Bend white corn whiskey, Mad Buffalo Thunderbeast Storm Moonshine, Benedictine, Dolin Blanc and Boston Bittahs. Three Flags bar manager Nicholas Crow, creator of the 314, loves that Mad Buffalo Distillery, located in Union, Missouri, makes its own mash for its moonshine, which he thinks sets the liquor apart.

For your second drink, look no further than Chouteau’s Funeral. We loved this light but not too-sweet-whiskey drink so much that we begged Crow for his recipe.

Chouteau’s Funeral
Recipe courtesy of Three Flags Tavern’s Nicholas Crow
1 Serving

1¾ oz. Still 630 Rally Point Rye Whiskey
¾ oz. Yellow Chartreuse
¼ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. St. Elizabeth’s allspice dram
Luxardo cherry to garnish

• In a cocktail shaker, build the whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice and allspice dram over ice and shake 8 seconds. Fine strain into a coupe or fluted chalice, garnish with the cherry and serve.


Drink This Weekend Edition: Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.’s Bushelhead Cider

Friday, May 16th, 2014



We interrupt this regularly scheduled beer column to bring you something a little different. Cider is one of the fastest-growing segments of the beverage industry today, but it’s long been a part of American history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the drink of choice in the U.S. But like many other alcoholic beverages, Prohibition thwarted the cider industry. Couple this with an influx of German immigrants who brought their beer heritage with them, and cider, which was more expensive to produce, was slow to recover after Prohibition’s repeal.

However, cider is experiencing a renaissance today, and Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., has joined the fray, adding a year-round cider to its portfolio. Bushelhead bursts with apple goodness. While mass-produced ciders can sometimes come off cloyingly sweet, and while there is definitely a market for that, it’s not what I’m looking for.

Some ciders are very clear with little to no head, but Bushelhead pours a bright, light gold in color with just the right amount of carbonation. The initial aroma is that of tart sweet apples, but it’s the first sip that sets this one apart. Bushelhead comes off slightly drier, with real, fresh, crisp apple notes, a light body and a slightly dry, tart mouth feel. It’s as if you spent the day picking apples at a local orchard and grabbed a gallon of apple cider on your way out – only this one is 7.2 percent ABV.

Bushelhead can be found at the brewery’s Midtown and Grove locations and will be on tap at several bars around town, including Amsterdam Tavern, Bailey’s Range, Bridge, Dressel’s, iTap CWE, iTap Soulard, The Scottish Arms and Tripel.

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