Favorite nightcap: A splash of chocolate for sweet dreams

Baileys' Chocolate Bar: three words that would bring a smile to my face, even if I didn't know whether the "Bar" referred to a form of chocolate or a drinking establishment.

"The whole idea of Chocolate Bar," owner David Bailey said, "was that we would have all those things that would make you happy, so we've got chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and sugar." It's difficult to imagine how those elements could lose, and no surprise that they're a winning combination for Sauce readers, who voted the Chocolate Bar their favorite place for a nightcap.

Its cocktails are perfectly decadent combinations of the above-mentioned ingredients. The drink menu starts off with chocolate martinis – of course! – including the popular and incredibly chocolaty Chocolate Bar Signature, which can be ordered hot or cold.

When listing the ingredients of the martinis, which aren't on the menu, servers at the Chocolate Bar may not name brands, but rest assured, the bartenders are using the best. They work with high-end liqueurs and vodkas, many of which people may not have heard of, such as Mozart chocolate liqueurs or Goldenbärr chocolate vodka. "They're more expensive than Godiva or Three Olives," Bailey said. "We use them because those products are made with real chocolate. Our chocolate liqueur has to be shaken every time we make a martini because it's literally made with chocolate and cream."

And if you can get past the chocolate, the rest of the menu offers many other mixed-drink pleasures, including the perfect summertime drink: the Strawberry Lemonade Liquid Dessert Martini.

This cooling concoction is made with strawberry sorbet, citrus vodka and limoncello, served in a martini glass with a powdered sugar rim and a strawberry. It's a much-better-than-average frozen drink: The flavors are balanced and not overly sweet. The consistency is right for sipping – no need for a straw.

The Strawberry Lemonade evolved from a Lemon Drop variation Bailey had created, which was a martini made with lemon sorbet. One of Baileys' servers suggested using strawberry sorbet instead. The result, which first ran as a summer special, was so popular that it found its way onto the menu. Listening to feedback, from employees as well as customers, is one of the factors to which Bailey attributes to his successful drinks.

While the liqueurs and vodkas are imported, the flavorful sorbets and ice creams used in the drinks are made by Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream in Webster Groves. Serendipity makes several proprietary flavors for Chocolate Bar, such as rose petal and grapefruit.

The Strawberry Lemonade recipe calls for Ketel One Citroen vodka, which is flavored with the essence of natural citrus. For the limoncello, a lemon-flavored liqueur, "you have to use a higher-end limoncello," Bailey said. "The cheap limoncellos have this weird metallic, salty taste to them." Luxardo, which is made in Italy from real lemon peels, is one brand used at the Chocolate Bar.

When creating the drink list, Bailey said he first listed martinis he'd like to have on the menu. Then he spent "many harrowing hours" tweaking recipes and finding the right liqueurs. One of Bailey's favorites is the Mexican, a tequila-based martini he describes as "a sort of spicy, rich chocolate, with a kick." So if sweet isn't your thing, there's no need to worry. The menu has choices for everyone.

Thanks to Bailey's hard work with the drink list, whatever hours we spend with his martinis are anything but harrowing. And that should bring a smile to the faces of late-night martini-lovers throughout St. Louis.