St. Louis’ New Haven For Cocktail Enthusiasts
The newly unveiled Chase Club in the lobby of St. Louis’ Chase Park Plaza is a richly colorful space where beverage manager Josh Johnson is constantly trying to push the limits, as he says. Part of Johnson’s rallying cry leading up to the venue’s first week in business was for his bartenders to, “Get out there and geek out.” He’s justifiably proud of the results so far—and the same goes for the 18 beers on tap and 20-plus beers in cans, mostly from local craft breweries.
If the St. Louis Cardinals opening-weekend crowd overlooked Johnson’s carefully constructed cocktail menu, it’s only because the Cardinals were playing the Cubs and the St. Louis Blues were wrapping up their season on the way to the playoffs. With 75-inch televisions and plush seating for watching the games, the Chase Club incorporates a nod to passionate sports fans. The updated look of the space is inspired by the bold designs of the 1920s and ’30s. “Extravagant, but with a modern twist” comes to mind. “It’s a great space,” Johnson says. “The Chase has a lot to offer for the food and beverage scene, either for date night or an evening out to catch the latest Blues or Cardinals game.”
“I have a lot of things up my sleeve,” says Johnson, laughing. Originally from San Diego, he has thoroughly embraced St. Louis during his five years here, and developed a love of local craft beers. 4 Hands, Urban Chestnut and Modern Brewery all make it on to Johnson’s list of favorites, and the Chase Club also plans to team up with Modern Brewery to create their own special brew. Johnson and the rest of the Chase Club team also draw inspiration from The Preston, a restaurant serving contemporary American dishes that re-opened last summer, and the Tenderloin Room, a classic steakhouse. That’s the kind of synergy that develops when an innovative venue calls The Chase Park Plaza home, a 338-room luxury hotel that houses like-minded chefs and bartenders.
Johnson tells me that he also started a barrel program at The Preston, offering a barrel of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon to spirits enthusiasts while supplies last at The Preston’s bar. He also hand-selected the barrel’s flavor profile, which can be modified based on how “juicy” it is from the bourbon, how much it is charred, and the aging of the wood, among other factors.
Then, Johnson put the barrel on loan to Modern Brewery to age a porter-style beer, which won’t be ready until October. “I have tasted it, and it’s already coming along very nicely,” he said. “After two and a half months you can already taste the barrel’s sweetness. It’s a fun project, to see the interplay between the beer and bourbon.”
Johnson is also working on an innovative pairing with spirits giant Maker’s Mark for the Chase Club. The company has a unique barrel-selection program in which the customer not only chooses the barrel for aging, but the individual staves used to make it and how heat is applied, for a full customization of the flavor profile. Come fall, customers will be able to taste the results of Johnson’s labor. “It’s a first in Missouri,” he says.
A self-described “nerd when it comes to cocktails,” Johnson also plans to introduce carbonated cocktails, putting them in old Champagne bottles and capping them off to preserve the bubbles. “We’re playing around with everything from a French 75 to dirty martinis.”
The Chase Club’s cocktail and beer menus are a chance to introduce travelers to St. Louis’ culinary talent. “The hospitality business—and it’s one thing I love about our industry—is one big community. If I have an idea about something, I’ll always go to my friends who are bartenders,” he says, listing a number of St. Louis bartending greats. “I don’t see it as a competition. Each bar has its own identity.”
Chase Club at The Chase Park Plaza
212 N. Kingshighway
Mon.-Sat. 11am-1:30am, Sun. 11am-midnight
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