by Sarah Baraba
Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Sarah Baraba profiles Café Ventana's Lucas Prize. Below is a Q&A with Prize, followed by the recipe for a Spanish Coffee.
OK, so we cheated a smidge. Lucas Prize isn't "technically" a bartender, but he's a darn good barista at Café Ventana (3919 West Pine Boulevard; 314-531-7500) who can whip you up a good, delicious buzz with one of the Midtown café's spirited coffees or News Orleans-inspired cocktails. Today, Prize's lattes run with the best, but he says it wasn't always that way. Café Ventana was his first barista job.
"I made a lot of terrible drinks at first," he laughed. "I didn't know a lot about coffee, but I knew I liked it a lot."
Prize served Gut Check a Spanish Coffee, perfect for sipping by the café's fireplace or on the heated patio on crisp fall evenings soon to come. Be sure not to space out behind the espresso machine after ordering one of these. The preparation of the drink is almost as explosive as the flavor. Prize gives the glass the flambé treatment, caramelizing the drink's signature lime-sugar rim with flaming Bacardi 151. (Showing off for Gut Check, he threw in a pinch of cinnamon that tossed off sparks.) It's worth the work. The rim puts a tang in each sip that makes the drink somewhat addicting and before you know it, you've downed the entire silky coffee-cocktail and you're not sure whether it's the caffeine or the alcohol that's got you've buzzed. Can we get another one of those, please?
Describe your bartending, or barista, style in three words: Efficient, entertaining, friendly.
Girl walks into a bar and orders a _______. She has just earned your undying admiration. Absinthe Drip, because of the history. It was used for inspiration by Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent Van Gogh, so it's kind of got its cool literary history. Also, it supposedly makes you see a green fairy. It's pretty trippy.
The most dumbass/ bizarre drink anyone has ever asked for? Well, anything decaf.
Other than your own place, where do you go to get a good drink and what do you get? Atomic Cowboy, Sunday night, 50 cent Stag.
What's something most people don't realize about serving up drinks? There are actually a lot of dos and don'ts people overlook. I was actually one of those people. Now that I've tasted the difference and seen the end results, I know there is a right and a wrong way to make a drink.
Your bar is the only place in St. Louis where you can... Feel legitimately comfortable. We get people who kick off their shoes on these leather couches. People forget it's a café and we serve food. You can actually get a lot of studying done, too. We have an annex now, as of last year. It's like a haven for Wash. U and SLU students, they kind of flock to the space.
Coffee, be it spirited or non-spirited, goes well with a treat. What would you pair with the Spanish Coffee? We do a Mexican hot chocolate here, and it gets served with a beignet, but it's different because rather than beignet being topped with traditional powdered sugar, it's topped with honey and cinnamon. You'd have to know to ask for it.
2 dashes Bacardi 151
1 oz. E & J Brandy
1 oz. Kahlúa
freshly brewed coffee (Café Ventana currently uses Northwest Coffee Roast Co.'s Organic Guatemalan)
Wet the rim of a glass with lime and coat with sugar. Add Bacardi 151, carefully ignite and swirl around glass to caramelize sugar. Extinguish flame. Add brandy and Kalúha. Top off with coffee. Garnish with whipped cream and cinnamon.