Cheers, St. Louis
Why our citys drink culture is all thatand then some.
HERE’S TO DRINKING —St. Louis style. Because, no matter what outside naysayers say, this town can more than hold its own when it comes to quality tippling. Sure, we’ve been overlooked a time or two by big media and critics when it comes to our fine drinking scene, but they do so at their own peril. Some are even starting to turn around: We were ranked No. 7 on Livability’s recent list of top beer cities in the country, and Thrillist named St. Louis one of the most underrated cocktail cities in America. Since this issue is all about celebrating the best St. Louis has to offer, I’ve put together some examples of why those other places don’t have anything on good ol’ STL.
COCKTAILS Pound for pound, the cocktail scene here is as strong as anywhere in the country.
From solid classic cocktails to custom creations, there’s no shortage of places around town to get a good drink. Bars like Taste Bar, which got a James Beard Foundation nod last year; Planter’s House, one of Imbibe Magazine’s 75 To Watch in 2014; Water Street; Bar Les Freres; Blood & Sand and Sanctuaria, a nominee for Best Cocktail Menu at Tales of The Cocktail in 2011 ( just to name a few) have all helped bolster the drinking game in town with their delicious spirited offerings. Elevated libations are even becoming a thing in restaurants and bars that previously had never given cocktails a second thought. It’s becoming more and more common to see both classic drinks and innovations like barrel-aged cocktails—once the domain of the true aficionado—to show up on menus at places that don’t necessarily attract cocktail geeks.
CRAFT BEER St. Louis has always been a beer city thanks to its long history with Anheuser-Busch. Nowadays, the little guys are also doing their part to put the city on the beer map. Since Schlafly debuted in 1991, the craft beer scene here has grown by leaps and bounds, especially when a new crop of upstarts like Perennial Artisan Ales, The Civil Life Brewing Company, 4 Hands Brewing Co. and Urban Chestnut Brewing Company started the second big wave of craft brewing in STL. Many of these breweries also have first-class tasting rooms in which to sample their wares, and some have pretty great food to boot.
CRAFT SPIRITS On the heels of the craft beer movement, there’s been an influx of small distilleries that have cropped up either in town or within an easy drive of the city limits. Thanks to artisans crafting fine rye whiskey at StilL 630 Distillery; popular ginger liqueur at The Big O; a multitude of offerings, which run from whiskey to rum, at Square One Brewery & Distillery; white whiskey at Crown Valley in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri; and a variety of spirits (and the best tonic syrup around) at Pinckney Bend in New Haven, Missouri (among others), it won’t be long until St. Louis is as well-known for our spirits as we are for our beers.
WINE Our little slice of Missouri has a long history of wine and winemaking. Folks have been crushing grapes around here for centuries, and Augusta, Missouri, was the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) to be designated, back in 1980. Needless to say, there are a slew of fine wineries within a short drive outside the city limits. There’s also no shortage of bars and restaurants with top-notch wine offerings, like Robust Wine Bar and its easy-to-navigate pairings system; Olio’s monthly rotating wine list; 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar’s cozy vibe and stellar cellar; Bar Italia’s expansive selection of Italian vinos; The Dark Room’s wine and art ambiance; and Annie Gunn’s, which received a James Beard Foundation Award nomination this year for its wine program.
WHAT I’M DRINKING NOW: AMARO Lately I’ve been attempting to delve more into the magical world of amari, those delectably bitter apertifs and digestifs from Italy. The variety we now have available is mind-boggling.
Matt Sorrell has been a Dining and Spirits Contributing Editor for ALIVE for the past four years (and an ALIVE writer for seven).
He has worked at several bars around town and currently can be found behind the bar at Planter’s House in Lafayette Square.
A graduate of the BarSmarts Advanced course, he recently attended the BAR five-day course in NYC, where he achieved a BAR certified rating.
He and his wife, Beth, also own Cocktails Are Go!, which provides libation education and bartender services.
Illustration by Noah MacMillan