Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.
Gumbo on the menu. Shrimp and grits, too. The Meters on the radio. A pecan liqueur, praline, behind the bar.
The influence of the Big Easy is strong at Monarch (7401 Manchester Road, Maplewood;314-644-3995). Shortly after last year's shift toward New Orleans cuisine, bartender Tyler Burns created a drink called the Spicy Nutcracker.
"It's kind of a takeoff on a Sazerac," says Burns, referencing the Nawlins-born liquid legend that has experienced a major resurgence in recent years.
Whereas the original requires an absinthe- or anise-flavored component, Burns takes a festive detour while remaining true to the drink's roots by adding the praline liqueur. The result is the perfect holiday cocktail to take the edge off of a St. Louis chill.
Burns begins with Old Overholt rye whiskey and then adds the praline and a couple of dashes of old fashioned bitters. After vigorous shaking to chill the mixture, he strains it into a highball glass and garnishes it with a lemon twist.
"It has that holiday spice," explains Burns. "It warms the belly."
Indeed, it does.
The Spicy Nutcracker
2.5 ounces Old Overholt rye whiskey
0.5 ounces praline pecan liqueur
2 dashes old fashioned bitters
Shake vigorously with ice, strain and serve in highball glass.