Review: Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge in St. Louis

What’s novel about Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge is not its trendy walk-in ice chamber. It’s not the overwhelming selection of more than 150 premium vodkas and 25 sparkling wines. Face it, it’s been done before. What does stand out at Washington Avenue’s newest late-night hangout is the fast-paced bottle-tossing, glass-spinning, drink-pouring action behind the bar. No joke, once these bartenders get going it’s like a scene out of Cocktail.

The bottle-tossing show alone is worth the price of admission. But even better, there is no price of admission. In a bold move to set the bar apart from nearby downtown competitors, Shiver’s management refuses to have a cover charge (even on a performance/DJ night – I’m hoping this trend will take root elsewhere). Styling itself much more a lounge than a club, Shiver’s relatively small interior is dressed with ice chandeliers and blue lights that illuminate row upon row of vodka bottles behind a massive main bar, across from which a half-dozen or so oversized booths are reserved for the bottle-service crowd. Past the bar, a bouncer watches the door to The Shiver Experience, the aforementioned ice chamber with custom-carved solid-ice furniture and an ice bar kept at a perpetual 15 degrees. There, for $20 each, patrons can chill out for half an hour or so in parkas and gloves while sipping on their choice of two vodka drinks. Those not willing to pay the entry fee can gawk through the floor-to-ceiling freezer window for free.

When Shiver’s customers aren’t drinking in a converted meat locker, they’re lined up at the main bar, where the black-clad staff slings Martinis, vodka tonics and Champagne cocktails like they’re going out of style. The drink menu is decently sized and well-stocked with standards as well as fun originals like the Igloo, Sex is Sweet, Caramel Kisses, Marilyntini and the Chocolate Monkey for around $9 each. The Champagne Mojito, a gorgeous-looking and not-too-sweet-tasting green number made with Martini and Rossi Asti, Bacardi Limon Rum, sour, soda and muddled fresh mint and lime, seems quite a hit; ladies seemed to be sipping these from tall flute glasses all night long. On the stronger side, you’d do well to consider the Dirty Original, an old-school Martini made with Grey Goose and an ample dose of olive juice that’s best described as a smooth, enjoyable slap in the face. Beer is available, but stick with vodka – the pours are generous and they give you ice-shaped cups to sip from.

Though a relatively laid-back environment during the week, on weekend nights Shiver literally rolls out the red carpet for a steady stream of 20- and 30-something Wash. Ave. club-hoppers and social climbers dressed to impress and eager to push their way up to the bar. Meanwhile, the Friday and Saturday night DJ pumps out a mix of not-unenjoyable ’90s tunes. Those planning on having a conversation are advised to avoid Shiver when a DJ is in session – it can and will get obnoxiously loud. Very attractive crowd though.

It’s hard not to like a place that makes a Martini as good as the staff at Shiver does. As such, I give the place my hearty approval. Hopefully, it’ll do better than the two restaurants that previously called the space home. If not, well, hey, at least they got some extra mileage charging admission to the freezer.

Check it: The Shiver Experience ice chamber
Hipster or Hoosier: Ed Hardy and his pals might feel at home here, but so would vodka-drinkers, preppies, guys who drive Hummers and the girls who chase after guys who drive Hummers.
Suds or ’Tinis: The Martini trend may be passé, but thankfully nobody told this bar staff. Order one, they’re phenomenal.
Where: Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge,
1130 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.3900
When: Tue. to Sat. – 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Tags : Cocktails, Places, Reviews, Bars