The Unpretentious Drink
No fuss, no muss. Just a bar and your choice drink.
THE RE-EMERGENCE of a serious culture of drink in recent years has been a blessing and a curse for those of us who enjoy a good tipple. On the plus side, many forgotten cocktail recipes have been rediscovered and introduced to a new generation of drinkers, and breweries and distilleries both old and new are putting out more high-quality beers and spirits than ever before. But this liquid revolution has also given rise to a bit of pomposity and faux grandeur on the part of some establishments, where indulging in your libation of choice can be as stuffy and formal as Sunday dinner with the in-laws. Luckily, there are still plenty of places around town where you can have a quality drink and kick back on your own terms. Here are a handful of places where a patron can belly up to the bar and enjoy a fine drink, sans attitude.
This South City favorite hearkens back to another era, from its Art Deco-inspired glass block windows and tin ceiling to the photos of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King above the back bar. There’s a lengthy list of classic and custom cocktails available—they make a mighty good rye Manhattan—and every Sunday, the bar hosts the Cocktail Museum, where forgotten drinks and ingredients are dusted off and offered up. Although the drink selection is uptown, the vibe is that of the classic corner bar. Truly a tavern for the 21st century.
THE SCOTTISH ARMS
All too often, good single-malt Scotches are the purview of the white-tablecloth world, a rarified indulgence reserved for the affluent. Not at the Arms, though. Recognized by Whisky Magazine as one of the “Great Whisky Bars of the World,” the bar features a host of the best whiskies Scotland has to offer, as well as a robust selection of beers and a creative cocktail list. It’s a right fine place to have a dram or a pint and watch the football match on the telly.
This U City landmark just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and though the rest of The Loop has become somewhat less funky than in years past, Blueberry Hill is still as rough around the edges as ever. Order one of 62 bottled or 18 draft beers, fire up some REO Speedwagon on the jukebox and check out the displays of vintage toys and photos of owner Joe Edwards with just about every celebrity imaginable. Gotta love a place where you request the Scotch list and the server gives it to you scribbled on a Post-It.
DANNO’S AMERICAN PUB
Danno’s is a combination of the very best qualities of the cocktail bar and the neighborhood joint. The latest cutting-edge craft brews are served up alongside favorite American lagers, and the back bar gives equal time to Italian amaros and flavored vodkas. Play some darts, bang on the pinball machine or just watch the game while sipping on a Negroni or a Long Island Iced Tea.
THE CROW’S NEST
This recent addition to the Maplewood scene has a wide selection of beer and some of my favorite ryes and bourbons on the back bar—making it the perfect spot to launch a search for the ultimate Boilermaker. Old movies and various sporting events are usually being projected on the wall, and the jukebox is always well-stocked, a definite requisite for a top-notch neighborhood watering hole.
Sherry Cobbler at The Royale’s Cocktail Museum
Photo credit: Matthew Strom