Paddling To The Arch With A Growler Of Whiskey: St. Louis Debuts On “Booze Traveler” Episode
St. Louisans will get a unique perspective on their city Monday, Jan. 23, when the Travel Channel’s “Booze Traveler” airs an episode about three stops along the Mississippi River: St. Louis, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Baton Rouge. Host Jack Maxell’s quest for the “world’s most interesting cocktails” takes him globetrotting from Iceland to Turkey to Peru—putting our River City in exotic company.
The travel featured here is a nine-mile paddling excursion from Riverview (near the Chain of Rocks Bridge) to the Arch. The film crew teamed up with a local professional guiding company, Big Muddy Adventures, whose general manager, Roo Yawitz, also owns The Gramophone, a sandwich pub in The Grove. And, more importantly, the booze featured is The Mark Twain, a concoction of Scotch, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters and crushed sugar prepared by a bartender from The Gramophone.
The episode filmed on a wintry day last February. The fleet—with almost two dozen people in two 29-foot and one 24-foot voyager canoes—paddled to an uninhabited island for lunch (sandwiches from the Gramophone) washed down by Mark Twains. The cocktail apparently made for early-day drinking even back in its namesake’s day. In a 1874 letter to his wife during a stay in England, the author wrote that he enjoyed it before breakfast, at dinner and just before bed.
After exploring the island, the six cast and crew members and 15 locals piled back into the boats for the voyage to the Arch grounds. Yawitz and Mike “Big Muddy” Clark, the guide company’s founder, “decided one of us would host Jack and the other would be the guide.” Yawitz jokes that he drew the lucky straw and got to sit up in front of the boat, drinking Mark Twains from a growler and goofing around with the “Booze Traveler” host. “He’s a really funny guy who was riffing on us being river nerds,” Yawitz says. But Maxwell also knew his history. “He truly is interested in Mark Twain.”
Yawitz is a native St. Louisan whose fascination with the river didn’t start until the night he opened The Gramophone in 2008. Clark came in, fresh off the river, and the two struck up a conversation. Soon Yawitz was hooked paddling the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and he joined the company a couple of years ago.
“The rivers are these great natural resources running through our city,” he says. “The way we experience them isn’t something people get to do every day.” Big Muddy’s trips range from tours of the confluence of the two rivers to full-moon nighttime picnics on uninhabited islands. “People go through a whole progression,” Yawitz says, “from ‘I didn’t know you could do this—or would want to do this’—to by the end of the day saying ‘I can’t believe everyone doesn’t know you can do this!’”
After the “Booze Traveler” party landed at the Arch, the revelers met up again later in the day at Lovett’s Snoots, Fish, Chicken and More in Alton, Ill. At the family-owned soul food and barbecue restaurant, they introduced Maxwell to snoots and fried Kool-Aid, two of its specialties.
Yawitz isn’t sure exactly which shots made the final cut for television, but he says the fog coming up off the river the day of the excursion made for great visuals. Likewise, he’s not sure who will appear in the scenes, but don’t be surprised to see a cameo by local chef and restaurateur Gerard Craft, who is a paddling enthusiast on the side, as it turns out.
The episode airs Monday, Jan. 23, at 9pm Central time on the Travel Channel.
Photos Courtesy of Big Muddy Adventures.