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Apr 28, 2015
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Drink This Weekend Edition

Drink This Weekend Edition: A cocktail crush at Sasha’s on Shaw

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Red or white? Neither. The newly introduced cocktail menu at Sasha’s on Shaw gives spirit lovers at least eight different ways to kick back at the wine bar. Developed by local barman Joel Clark, this selection of boozy elixirs keeps in the theme of the wine bar by utilizing grape-derived ingredients including sherry, pisco and even a vodka distilled from the fruit of the vine.




Clark described the Reverse Absinthe Old-Fashioned as an “absinthe slap in the face,” and he wasn’t lying. But the licorice flavor pairs well with the Camus Cognac and Angostura bitters and finishes mildly sweet thanks to dissolved sugar cubes. It’s a very accessible slap in the face, so turn the other cheek and take another sip.




For a more whimsical drink, try the Night Flight to Peru, a pisco-based cocktail that is a little sweet and a little tart when combined with Luxardo Maraschino, lemon juice and violet liqueur.




If you’re a whiskey fan like me, sip on the Fleur de Rieger, a floral and savory whiskey concoction that marries J. Rieger Kansas City Whiskey, Pimm’s No. 1 and Crème Yvette.

Peruse all the new offerings on Sasha’s new interactive menus on iPad minis. Select your category – trust me, start with Spirits – select your drink, and save it to a short list and even email the recipe to yourself.



Drink This Weekend Edition: 4 Hands Send Help

Friday, April 17th, 2015




When Send Help skateboards jumped on board (see what I did there?) for a collaboration with 4 Hands Brewing Co., the perfect summer beer was born. Send Help, a crushable, dry-hopped blonde ale, is light enough to satisfy in summer heat and hoppy enough to pacify the biggest hopheads.

This beer takes a grain bill similar to 4 Hands Single Speed and ramps it up with Amarillo, Simcoe and El Dorado hops to lend a crisp bitterness and abundant aroma reminiscent of citrus and fresh-cut grass. At 4.5 percent, Send Help is light on ABV but big on flavor. Pour it in a glass or drink it straight from the can this weekend, then head to the official launch party at Flamingo Bowl Tuesday, April 21 at 9 p.m. for a round with the 4 Hands brewers.

Send Help is a can-only release for now, with draft available at the brewery. You can find it through July all over the Metro area at bottle shops and grocery stores. An early frontrunner for beer of the summer, Send Help is sure to quench a lot of people’s thirst, so whether you’re a veteran on your skateboard or a poser looking for a refreshing brew, stock up on this one.




Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 grapes you’ve probably never heard of – and why you should try them

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015



I’m constantly looking for the most exciting wines available in St. Louis. Here, three obscure grapes you’ve probably never heard of but should definitely seek out. Try one – or all three – this weekend.

1. Picpoul: This grape is originally from the Languedoc area of southern France. “Picpoul” is an Occitan word meaning “mouth bitter” or “lip stinger” – how cool is that? This brilliant, clean wine tastes of citrus with perfect dryness and acidity. If you enjoy New Zealand sauvignon blanc, give this wonderful wine a try.
Buy this: Domaine La Croix Gratiot Picpoul de Pinet. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton, $10.

2. Bracetto: This wild grape, one of the rarest in Italy’s Piedmont region, is usually made into sweet wine. However, the dry version is quite amazing with brilliant raspberry tones and intense minerality. This versatile wine pairs with anything from dark chocolate to smoked fish or balsamic vinegar.
Buy this: Matteo Correggia Anthos Vino da Tavola. Available Parker’s Table, $20.

3. Nero di Troia: Italy’s Puglia region doesn’t produce a lot of wine, but the obscure varieties created from its Nero di Troia grape are fantastic, holding notes of olives and citrus fruit. This is a rich, wild red wine perfect with a grilled meats or brisket. My pick from the great Michele Biancardi is one of the best single-varietal Italian wines with flavors of wild fruit, complex oak notes and just a hint of pepper and straw.
Buy this: Anima di Nero. Available at The Wine Merchant in Clayton, $19.

Ben Wood has more than 10 years experience in the wine industry. He currently works as a sales representative for St. Louis-based wine importer Terra Firma.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Malt-tease-Fashioned

Thursday, March 26th, 2015



Combine your love for beer and the harder stuff by using homemade beer syrup in a cocktail recipe. Use a big-flavored, hoppy beer, such as an ESB or IPA, to maximize flavor. The syrup complements a galaxy of cocktails, like the Tom Collins, Sazerac, pisco sour and Old-Fashioned, including the reimagined one here.

Beer Syrup
6 ounces

12 oz. hoppy beer, such as an ESB or IPA
6 oz. sugar

• In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer the beer until reduced by half.
• Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Syrup will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 month.


1 serving

2 oz. Spirits of St. Louis Regatta Bay hopped gin
½ oz. beer syrup
4 dashes Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
2 grapefruit twists

• Combine the gin, beer syrup and bitters in a stirring glass with ice. Squeeze 1 grapefruit twist over the glass to release the oils, then drop it into the glass. Stir and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with the remaining grapefruit twist.


-photo by Carmen Troesser

Drink This Weekend Edition: Schlafly AIPA

Friday, March 20th, 2015



Despite a seeming proliferation of hop haters, IPAs are consistently the top-selling craft beer style in the U.S. An India Pale Ale is generally brewed with pale malts and has a strong hop presence. A few years ago, Schlafly decided to showcase the different IPA styles in a series of special release beers, beginning with its AIPA. This year’s version has recently hit shelves in all its hoppy glory.

American IPAs are generally drier and are brewed with more intense, American-grown hops that offer more floral, piney, citrus-y or tropical characteristics than their English-style counterparts. Schlafly AIPA fits the bill with a bombardment of Amarillo, Centennial and Simcoe hops from the Pacific Northwest that give pleasant citrus bitterness, while its grapefruit aroma is reminiscent of many West Coast IPAs. Though hop-forward, the malt bill stands up nicely to balance out the bitterness, making it a perfect pairing for a spicy curry or a juicy burger.

When Schlafly first introduced AIPA, it was draft only. After the masses clamored for more, it was bottled in limited supply. Thankfully today, Schlafly AIPA is pretty easy to find on draft and in bottles at better beer stores, grocery stores and beer bars until August. Get out and see what all of the hoppy buzz is about.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Square One’s Social Devyat

Friday, March 13th, 2015



I was three sips in to my inaugural glass of Square One Brewery’s Social Devyat, a complex Russian Imperial stout, before the man who brewed it told me he was drinking it for the first time, too. I shot him an incredulous look.

“I’m surprised that there’s this interesting smokiness to it,” said Square One’s brewmaster John Witte, sounding like someone tasting someone else’s beer. The barrel had been tapped a mere 20 minutes before.

What made Witte’s revelation so startling was that Square One’s ninth anniversary party, which took place Feb. 25, was already well underway. The Devyat (Russian for “nine”) and a single keg of barrel-aged barley wine, held in reserve from last year’s shindig, were being poured and passed around the tables in the already full bar room. Now that’s confidence.

In our moment of high-concept beers (peanut butter-chocolate milk stout!), it seems risky to expend the malt and barrel space on high-gravity, unsessionable styles like barley wine and Imperial stouts. But wait until you take a sip. Aged in Square One’s J.J. Neukomm’s whiskey barrels, the Social Devyat begins with a rush of deep malt that gives way to the oakiness imparted by the cooperage. Stormy, even king-like in character, it’s not surprising this style is ascribed monarchical qualities – Russia’s Catherine the Great was such a fan she special ordered it from Britain throughout her reign.

“It’s like marrying a stout and a barley wine together,” he said. “You pick up flavors that have been impregnated into the wood.”

The more fruit-forward but slightly less distinctive barrel-aged barley wine is, at 11.2-percent ABV, the stronger beer. It’s also a collaboration between homebrewer Troy Woodburn and Witte, who called it a “pro-am beer.”

Well, perhaps I should say “was.” With such a strong turnout to raise a glass to another year of Square One’s fine brewing efforts, there isn’t likely to be much of the barley wine left. The Devyat, however, awaits you in all its fine Imperial glory. Na zdorovie.

Drink This Weekend Edition: 4 steps to ordering the perfect glass of wine

Friday, March 6th, 2015



Everyone should be able to peruse a restaurant wine list with confidence. Personally, I love when someone hands me a heavy leather-bound wine bible, but I realize that even a simple one-page list can be daunting for some. Here, how to order your perfect glass of wine in four simple steps:

Step 1: Order a glass of bubbly. Look for something from one of the traditional European sparkling wine regions: Spanish cava, Italian prosecco and French Champagne. The crisp, dry flavors in a sparkling wine whet your appetite, and bubbles always make the evening a celebration. Choosing one will be easy, as most wine lists only include one or two options. The budget-conscious can sip a cava or a fruity prosecco, while those looking to indulge can try a slightly more expensive glass of Champagne.

Step 2: Now that those bubbles have boosted your confidence a bit, turn your attention to the rest of the list and decide how much you are willing to spend on a glass (or bottle). Don’t be swayed by the first bottle of cabernet sauvignon you see; they can often be pricier, while more unfamiliar wines are often better values.

Step 3: Go outside your comfort zone. Order something outside of your usual repertoire. If you’re enjoying a steak, skip the cabernet or Bordeaux and instead try a red from South American or France’s Cahors region. The more obscure picks are often gems on wine lists, with a little more age and a much better quality for the price ratio.

Step 4: Still confused? Ask for help. Servers at quality establishments are trained to guide you toward a great wine pick. Ask for something special and out of the ordinary, then enjoy what comes.

Put your newfound skills to the test this weekend at Bar Italia in Central West End or Truffles in Ladue; both establishments have amazing by the glass and full wine lists – and attentive staff in case you get stuck. Choosing a wine should be fun; don’t let it stress you out.


Ben Wood has more than 10 years experience in the wine industry. He currently works as a sales representative for St. Louis-based wine importer Terra Firma.

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Will

Friday, February 27th, 2015



Every year, I struggle with the same concept: the winter cocktail. There are plenty of drinks that feature egg whites and cream, but they can end up with a thin texture or a chalky mouth feel. And what about that pesky leftover yolk? This decadent tipple delivers creaminess and punch, while also using up all those egg yolks I inevitably collect over time.

The Will
1 serving

1½ oz. Blanton’s bourbon
¾ oz. rich Demerara syrup (a 2:1 ratio)
½ oz. lemon juice
1 egg yolk
Cinnamon for garnish

• Combine the bourbon, Demerara syrup, lemon juice and egg yolk in a cocktail shaker and dry shake 15 seconds. Fill the shaker with ice and shake another 30 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with cinnamon.


Ben Bauer is a member of USBG St. Louis and a bartender at The Libertine.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Heavy Riff and Excel Brewing’s Two Frenchmen

Thursday, February 19th, 2015



Even a brew-savvy city like St. Louis can overlook a beer style every now and then. Heavy Riff Brewing Co. in Dogtown and Illinois-based Excel Brewing set out to change that with their bière de mars Two Frenchmen, debuting Saturday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m.

Bière de mars, or “March beer,” is related to the more common saison and bière de garde. This classic French style is often floral, slightly fruity and was traditionally made in late winter or early spring for quick consumption. Two Frenchmen is brewed with orange peel and a touch of elderflower for added complexity. This amber beer is mildly malty with a slightly dry finish. The French farmhouse ale yeast strain gives the beer an added spicy character. The restrained hop character puts the focus on the fermentation characteristics and the subtle spice additions.

If you haven’t been to Heavy Riff lately, this is a perfect opportunity for a visit. The brewery, which celebrated its first anniversary last fall, now regularly has eight to 10 of its beers on tap. In addition to the bière de mars, Heavy Riff will also feature a cask of its new IPA Left Coast Envy and its Dark Days American rye stout. Excel is bringing its new double IPA, Plague Bringer.

If you miss the party, you’re in luck – Two Frenchmen will soon be on tap at better craft beer establishments around town.

Eric Hildebrandt is the moderator and ambassador for STL Hops. Find him on Twitter at @EricSTL6.


Drink This Weekend Edition: Sipping sake and Japanese whiskey at Baiku Sushi Lounge

Thursday, February 12th, 2015


I’ve never particularly enjoyed sake. What some sip prodigiously with their sushi and miso always tasted to me like anemic milk or the dregs of undercooked rice, to put it rather uncharitably.

However, after editing Julie Cohen’s Asian spirits article for the February issue, a comprehensive ode to the Far East boozes now finding their way to St. Louis, I decided to recalibrate my Asian palate and give sake, shochu and the rest another go. It was time for a drink session at Baiku Sushi Lounge, which opened last October in the Hotel Ignacio in Midtown.

Baiku currently shares bar and drink menu acreage with adjoining restaurant Triumph (though its own bar will be ready by this summer). Nestled between craft beers and rum bottles is an impressive roster of Asian spirits, including a full sake menu, specialty liqueurs and Japanese single malt whiskey, which, as Cohen pointed out in her piece, is clinching best whiskey titles left and right lately.

“Primarily what we want to do is carry a nice array of Asian beer, Japanese single malt and sake,” said Sean Thomas, front-of-house manager at Baiku. “A lot of the Asian stuff seems to be trending again,” he said, noting that Kirin Ichiban beer slushies will be added to Baiku’s drink lineup this summer.

Three of Baiku’s six signature cocktails employ Asian spirits or sake, though the entire menu dons a quintessentially Asian flavor profile, making use of plum, pear, lychee, ginger and hibiscus. The drinks that really shine are the Oinari and Nashi-Wari, respectively tapping Tozai Snow Maiden sake and Suntory Hibiki 12-year single malt. Snow Maiden redeemed sake for me, its assertive melon nose and coconut-milk texture a pleasure to drink on its own, and equally satisfying when softened by St. Germain elderflower liqueur and grapefruit juice in the Oinari. The Nashi-Wari is less subtle – the combination of gentle single malt and local Big O ginger liqueur seems to transmogrify into a rum-and-Coke flavor, which doesn’t exactly seem Asian in character, but isn’t a bad thing either. If we can call cocktails “sessionable,” these drinks are it – balanced, delicious and eminently drinkable. Kanpai!

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